Zhytomyr Orphanage


Zhytomyr, Ukraine

The Zhytomyr orphanage is a regional children’s home for children-orphans and children who do not have adequate paternal care. Babies and children of up to 3-4 years of age are cared for and educated here.

At first glance, this looks like a regular kindergarten: a clean and cozy place, with neat looking, smiling kids. However, unlike in a normal kindergarten, where parents take their kids home in the evenings, these kids have no one to take them home. This is the place where the first years of their lives pass by. Although Zhytomyr Orphanage is classified as “standard”, these children learn to sit and speak much later then their peers and almost all of them suffer from psycho-neurological disorders.

Many of them arrive at the orphanage directly from the hospital, without spending a single day with their mothers. These children learn from infancy the meaning of hunger, pain and fear.

“The babies are often left right at the doorstep of the orphanage”, the chief doctor Svetlana Ursulenko said. The employees come up with first, middle and last name for the infants. “One girl we name Augustovskaya, because we found her in August, and when the cranes where leaving we got Zhuravleva (zhuravl’- crane rus. translation). And Uspenskaya was left on the bed of flowers in the middle of Zhytomir on the Orthodox Feast of the Assumption. (Uspenie – assumption rus. translation).

Svetlana Vladimirovna knows each child by name (and there are 130!) and can spend hours talking about each and every one of them. For these kids a minute spent interacting with you is happiness. They extend their arms, look into your eyes. Who can stay indifferent?

The mother of cute little Vanechka is a college student. Being unable to feed the boy, she temporarily gave him away to the orphanage home. She promised to take him back within three years but the staff say that she seldom visits him.

But the rosy-cheeked chubby little boy Lesha is even less fortunate. Due to his mother’s use of drugs during pregnancy, he has serious developmental delays and a complex mental illness. His mom was put in jail and deprived of her parental rights and Lesha was left all alone.

The opening of the Early Medical and Social Rehabilitation Center was a long-awaited and important event for the children at the Zhytomyr’s orphanage. “Many of the kids live with us from the time they are born till the age of 3 and suffer from severe mental disorders and developmental delays. I make it my responsibility to declare that every year the condition of our kids is getting worse,” says Svetlana Ursulenko. We have to not only feed them and dress them, but also help them become productive members of society. It is at an early age that we have an opportunity to fix the situation. Thanks to the Center our kids will get a chance to become healthy and find a family.”

Since February of 1997, this center has provided an effective system for the rehabilitation of children with neurological pathology, conducting medical rehabilitation and social and pedagogical diagnostics and providing treatment at an early age for children with psycho-neurological disorders and diseases.

A total of 175 people work in the children’s home, including 11 doctors, 22 preschool teachers, 64 middle medical workers, 52 junior medical personnel and 37 other staff. Equipped with 17 treatment and prophylactic rooms the two branches of the rehabilitation Center started their work. They include rooms with therapeutic massage, thermo-, electro- and ozone aromatherapy, inhalation and sensory integration rooms. Psychologists, speech pathologists and speech therapists work with children in the department of educational diagnosis and correction.

(Translated by Julia Shelemova and edited by Kat Dudina)

For more details, visit:
CNN photo report of Zhytomyr city