Today was a great day! We took a large van and a truck and headed to Kliechev to see Rita and Sergei Koontikova. Rita & Sergei had 4 children of their own and then started adopting, the current count is 31 children! When asked how many were hers, she replied “they are all mine”! This is an amazing family.
The drive from Chausy is a little over two hours and on the way I snapped this picture. It is not unusual at all to see people driving into town with a horse and wagon.
We arrived just before noon and the family streamed out of the house to greet us.
We were no sooner in the door than Pat Yuille was giving out toys and candies to the children, and he had something for everyone.
Some took a little longer than others to warm up to him, but this tennis ball really helped him break the barrier with little Katya.
Money had been raised in Canada to purchase 10 beds as many of theirs were in very bad shape or little more than a mattress. First some of the kids helped remove some of the old beds.
Then we brought in the new beds.
Of course we had plenty of help from the older children.
Here is a picture of our Neil Matheson with Rita and our interpreter Nina.
Here little Asha tests the mattresses using the old “Princess and the Pea” method.
A group in London, Ontario supplied all of the bedding with hand made custom fitted sheets (flannel) with matching pillow cases and a stuffed toy. Here one of the girls has picked out her bedding.
They also provided quilts, blankets and pillows. Here one of the girls poses with her newly installed bed and linen.
We also delivered boxes of food, clothing and toys provided by people from Quebec and Ontario. Once everything was unloaded we were invited for a wonderful lunch where we learned a lot more about how this family came to be and how they get along as such a large family. All of the children have responsibilities and chores are shared and exchanged. Older children help with the younger ones and if they consider adding another child there is always a family meeting to discuss it. We ate in a dining room with many flowers in the windows and Rita told us that all of the children enjoy gardening and they grow both flowers and vegetables. Here is a picture of a beautiful Orchid that was growing in the window.
Afterwards the children came in from a game of football (soccer) and we had a mini concert. They sang a couple of songs for us and the Canadians and our driver Andre sang a few for them. Here some of the children are laughing at one of Andre’s songs.
Of the 31 children, 21 are currently living at home full time and 24 on weekends. There are also 2 dogs and 3 cats, apparently the children have found them as strays and brought them home. I can’t imagine where they would get an idea like that living in this home! The 7 children living on their own are all teachers which makes a lot of sense when you see how the children interact. If a child excels at a subject, then they become a tutor for any younger child having difficulties. Books are everywhere in this house and during the summer the children must read for 2 hours everyday. After reading they are required to relate what they have read to Rita.
In this home, “blackberry” has a different relationship with electronics than in North America. When the children decided they wanted to have a computer in the house they went to the woods and collected wild blackberries and sold them to a wholesaler until they had raised enough to buy one.
Here is a picture of Rita and 14 of the children available for the picture. There are presently 3 children aged 2 years!
As we were leaving the children went back to their football game. It appeared to me that 2 boys were taking on all of the girls.
It is hard to convey in pictures, but I have never been in a home where the love and respect was more obvious. Here are a few more of the beautiful faces that fill this home.