Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

ARF celebrates the New Year with children of project participants

On January 2, a Grandpa Frost and Snow Maiden from the Andrey Rylkov Foundation visited five children from four families of drug dependent people and celebrated the New Year with them. There were a few more children we couldn’t visit because they were at their grandparents’. But we will definitely find a way to give these children the gifts we have prepared for them. This was an amazing New Year experience that filled our hearts with warmth and holiday joy. That’s why we decided not to write upbeat reports but rather, to just publish the impressions of those who took part in this interesting activity. 

Max: Somewhat unexpectedly, our idea of Grandfather Frost and of celebrating the New Year with children of drug dependent people became reality.

At the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, we have long thought that it would be great and very important to celebrate the New Year with children of drug dependent people. These children often don’t get enough attention and care, and (here’s the most important thing) they need a bit of magic in their lives. For a few years I have admired the employees at the Timur Islamov Foundation in Naberezhnye Chelny – they have celebrated the New Year with Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden with these children in their city. But we weren’t able to do that in Moscow. We didn’t have a car to visit several places in different parts of our mega city, we didn’t have the costumes, we had no time, no money to buy gifts, etc. But maybe we didn’t have enough faith that this could happen. Who knows…

It all began with one of the female project participants calling us and thanking us for helping people like her, people who use drugs. And she asked if it was possible to celebrate the New Year with her little son and to buy him a small gift. And then it all started happening – we found a car, we found the costumes, the people, the time and money to buy gifts.

Until the last moment I didn’t think it was really happening. I negotiated, I received the costumes, read emails from my colleagues (how they were choosing and buying gifts, calling the mothers and agreeing on a time to visit). I realized it only when I knocked on a shabby door, wearing the Grandfather Frost costume with the Snow Maiden standing behind me. A happy boy, Nikita, run towards us shouting, “I was waiting for you!” and “I love you so much!” I had tears in my eyes and I realized: it’s really great that we did it.

A few unexpected situations occurred during our New Year trip. I grew up in the Soviet Union and I have always thought that all children love Grandfather Frost and that he is the quintessence of all things happy and good. But the children reacted in different ways and one girl, for example, was so afraid of me that she turned away and could communicate only after her mother spent 30 minutes encouraging her. Another kid paid no attention to Grandfather Frost and ignored the “grandfather” who came from the North Pole with his reindeer.

I don’t know why it went that way. Maybe these children didn’t have enough experience of confronting something new and magical; maybe their parents don’t talk to them enough about Grandfather Frost and the holidays. But maybe it’s about our times, maybe not all children value Grandfather Frost and maybe they’re interested in other characters. But all the children enjoyed the gifts. And I believe that during the next New Year celebrations these children will have a bit more faith in the magic of the New Year and will not be afraid of a bearded old man bringing them gifts.

Asya: For me, participating in the New Year celebrations was above all about trust. People whose homes we visited trusted us, trusted the ARF team. And we really worked as a team to prepare and organize this activity: Ezhi, Lena and Zhenya compiled a list of people who have children; Lema was in touch with those people we were about to visit, she was the navigator and she took pictures; Max played the role of Grandfather Frost, I played the Snow Maiden, and everyone else gave financial and moral support.

I’m grateful to the project participants who trusted us with the most intimate thing – allowed us to celebrate with their families. This experience inspires us to continue, to think about something fun, not to wait for the next New Year celebration but to do something in the coming spring or summer. We’d be grateful for idea suggestions:).

Lema: My task in this project was to bring Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden to various addresses to see children – I was like a reindeer but I used a car actually. And I was happy to help make this happen.

The most memorable moments included the reincarnation of Max and Asya into fairytale characters, Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden, and also how people (from children to stern looking men) would smile upon seeing them enter their building. Then there were the children; they are all different, like everyone else, and they had different reactions to the old man from a fairytale who suddenly came to see them. There was this boy, Nikita, who hugged Grandfather Frost and said he’d missed him and really didn’t want Grandfather to leave. I also remember the children who were afraid of the tall old man with a long beard. This was a difficult task for Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden, and for the parents. Once it became possible to do something about this, when a little girl eased up a bit and burst out laughing. And probably the most amazing thing was that all these kids who were afraid initially, when we asked them in the end, “Will you be waiting for Grandfather Frost next year?” they quietly said yes. This tells me that even though they were scared they were also curious, interested, and they would like something like this to happen again in their lives. I think everyone had fun, even those who were afraid, who were silent. They were curious to see Grandfather Frost, the Snow Maiden, and the gifts. It’s great that something remained with them after we left. I think it was a kind of magic for them, a piece of something really good, a piece of childhood.

I also remember a mother who was talking to me on the phone and crying because she wasn’t able to buy a gift for her kid, and Grandfather Frost couldn’t come to them because her kid wasn’t in Moscow. I told her that it was okay, that we’d bring the gift anyway and she’d be able to give it to her kid. That made her very happy and she calmed down. This means it’s important for that mother to do something good for her child. Drug users may not have enough money to buy gifts for their children, and that makes them unhappy. I think the celebrations with Grandfather Frost could have given the mothers and fathers a feeling that they are not so bad as parents (because they often hear that they aren’t good enough to raise their children). It’s also important for them to make their kids happy on New Year’s Eve. And it’s not about the gifts but also about the attention, the holiday. I think it’s important that they chose the day, that they were home and able to receive guests. This says a lot about them trying to make that happen.

Also for me this event was about teamwork, about being able to find consensus between ourselves, about being able to do more together than separately. Overall I love this work, and this New Year celebration made me understand even better that this work is for me.

I’m really inspired by our plans for the spring and summer, the plans to do something for children or families together with our participants.

Anya Ezhi: It’s great that we could organize this event this year, and I hope this will become regular practice for our Foundation, involving as many people as possible, because that would be a great miracle for all the participants on both sides.

It’s hard to express the emotions we felt that evening which really became a magical moment  thanks to the efforts of our Grandfather Frost (Max) and the Snow Maiden (Asya) and their sincere desire to make a fairy tale come alive and to offer some happy moments to the kids and their parents. It was evident how excited Max and Asya were, which was really touching, and we (me and Yarik) were waiting for Grandfather Frost along with Vasilisa, as if having  revisited our childhood))) an undescribable shot of positive emotions!  At first, Vasya was afraid of the Grandfather, but then she thawed, and now she’s waiting for Grandfather Frost’s appearance next year. She says he’s kind and she’s not afraid of him anymore, and recently she saw him in a dream))) As for the Snow Maiden, she didn’t want to let her go, and we had similar feelings.

Thanks to everyone who took part in preparing and implementing the operation Outreach by Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden – on behalf of our whole family! I am proud of my participation in ARF’s work even more than I usually am)))

Finally, we would like to offer feedback from some of the parents visited by Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden:

- It was great. Andrey was scared but still he was happy. I heard him tell someone that he’d been visited by Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden. He never doubted this was the real Grandfather Frost. In fact, this Grandfather Frost was a bit thin but he looked real. And the sweets were really great. And as for Andrey being scared, we shouldn’t have forced him to come out, he would’ve anyway. 

- Everything went really well. The child was happy, and this made me and his grandmother very glad. The celebration gave Nikita happiness and vitality. I was happy to watch my child having fun. That makes you realize: here is the meaning of life.

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