Moscow, Russia (CNN) — Though Oksana is 4 years old, she is much shorter than other children who are a year younger. She barely talks, and yet doesn’t hesitate to climb up in her puffy dress to sit next to a visitor on a couch, after flashing an impish smile.
Administrators at Children’s Home Number 59 in Moscow say Oksana was found by police, after apparently being abandoned. She was then delivered to a hospital and eventually ended up at this orphanage.
Of the more than 83 children registered here, Oksana stands the best chance of being adopted — simply because she is one of the youngest children here.
Darya Tatarenko is a young child psychologist who works at Children’s Home Number 59. The 22-year-old graduate of Moscow State University has a deep personal interest in adoption: one of her sisters was adopted.
During the last week of my stay in Moscow this past May, I decided to head out to Kitezh where a friend of mine was living for the summer. I caught a ride with an 18-yr old kid who was making money off bussing people out to Kaluga in his dad’s minivan. He made the three-hour drive in two, and dropped me off at the bus station where I waited for a minibus to take me another two hours to Baryatino. From there it was a taxi ride out to the tiny, isolated village of Kitezh.
Kitezh is the name of a magical town in Russian folklore and the village that has adopted its name is itself a surreal experience. A tiny communal group created specifically to foster orphaned children, they are almost entirely self-sustaining and are raising these children in a very healthy, familial environment. The entire village is involved in the education and social development of the children, they eat all their meals together, are involved in building, farming, etc. They put me to work as soon as I got there and I loved every minute of it. It turned out to be a very educational and eye-opening experience for me on alternative solutions to the issue of orphans in Russia.