Tolik and Sergey Part 2

This is a continuation of the story of Tolik and Sergey, two orphan graduates I met while visiting the Vladimir Dacha. You can read Part 1 of the story here if you have not yet.

He found himself alone and scared, in another unfamiliar place, a feeling that had become all too familiar throughout his life. Tolik had recently graduated from the orphanage and was now moving on to a secondary school, with no friends or family to support him and no home to speak of. This may have been a common scenario in Tolik's young life, but little did he realize that this story would have a different ending.

At the same school, Sergey had already made a new friend. With a personality that always leads him to think of others before himself, Sergey had been volunteering to help a former headmaster of his orphanage with yard work and chores around her house. It was here he met Masha, a graduate from the same orphanage (though quite a few years ahead of Sergey) and a student at the same tech school. Masha would also come around to help out their former headmaster. She told Sergey of another place she was helping out at, the Vladimir Dacha, which is a refuge for orphan grads to get away from their daily lives for a weekend, work, have fun, learn, and relax. Sergey knew of the ministry center in Vladimir, but he lived in a village too far away to allow him to visit often The dacha offered a much closer place that would be easier for him to visit. Intrigued, Sergey accepted Masha's invitation.

Sergey quickly began to relish every opportunity to visit the dacha. He said Andrey and Masha, the staff and leaders of the dacha, have been fantastic about teaching him responsibilities and a good work ethic, and they have helped him face many challenges in his life. Sergey enjoys riding bikes at the dacha and relishes the opportunities to visit the forest, which he describes as one of his favorite places, to pick mushrooms. When the snows come he also likes to go cross country skiing. Sergey enthusiastically helps tend the dacha's garden and spent the clear chilly mornings of my visit harvesting potatoes with the other residents of the dacha.

The dacha wasn't the only way Sergey's new friends helped him, though. Sergey suffered from a treatable eye condition severely affecting his vision and needed a surgery that he could not afford. Masha, who has the same eye condition and had the same surgery performed, helped Sergey find the necessary funds through the Ministry Center to pay for his surgery.

It was as he began to frequent the dacha that Sergey also met Tolik at their secondary school. Sergey saw that Tolik had no friends at the school and invited Tolik to visit the dacha as well. I doubt either of them could have known at the time how important that invitation would be to Tolik.

Tolik described the dacha as being an “island of salvation” for him. For the first time in his life he met real friends and really felt loved and supported. Within the dacha's garden, Tolik has discovered a passion for working with plants and now hopes to attend a tech school for botany or agriculture. He also loves to build things, prepare food and help those in the community in whatever ways he can. Tolik smiled proudly as he told me how he learned to ride a bike while visiting the dacha and how they prepared hay for the goats of an elderly, needy neighbor of the dacha. He now visits the dacha every weekend.

“I don't like to be alone and like to be around the people in the dacha,” Tolik said.

While spending time at the dacha I learned that Tolik was filing paperwork to stay at a state run hospital, but he had recently lost his home and had nowhere to live while he awaited approval to stay at the facility. Tolik stayed at the dacha for the summer months, but come fall he had nowhere to go.