About 10 thousand people live in psycho-neurological boarding schools in Moscow, many of whom got there from orphanages, where they were diagnosed with mental retardation. True, such a diagnosis is often very inaccurate and does not take into account the imperfection of pedagogical and educational practices in orphanages.
PNI remain closed to institutions from the rest of the world: despite the fact that in theory their inhabitants have the right to move freely around the city, in fact, strict access regimes operate in institutions. Activist and artist Katrin Nenasheva went to a party that volunteers of charity organizations held for residents of one of Moscow PNI, and told
Life around what she saw.
Text and photos
"Do you think it will rain? Or maybe it will stop raining? Well, don’t sugar, we won’t melt," Misha walks back and forth across the empty guest room of a neuropsychiatric boarding school. Soon volunteers will gather here to prepare a Sunday picnic. Something like this rarely happens in a boarding school: a party needs a reason, but there is no reason. All days are the same, without dates or marks.
More than 30 or 40, or maybe somewhere in the middle - it does not matter.
He’s been in a psycho-neurological boarding school for seven years: "About seven, maybe more. Less can be, but in general - the same, the same."
In the evenings, Misha watches TV, sways on the bed and, when the weather permits, goes for a walk in the yard. Here everyone does it if they can walk.
It seems to me that I’ve already seen Misha somewhere: a smiling uncle in a gray T-shirt, likes to talk and sometimes jokes, his voice is slightly smoky, his gestures are harsh, an electronic watch on his wrist. When you come to an adult boarding school, at first it always seems that you must have heard, remembered, met many of these people: the faces and habits of typical residents of cities and megalopolises automatically mount frames. It’s like I’ve already seen Misha somewhere — I went with him in a trolleybus last Friday or stood in line for cigarettes in Pyaterochka. It was he, exactly the same, only at large - in the zone of "normality".
- Misha, I'm sorry. Pleased to meet you. Sorry, Misha, but how can I ask about your diagnosis?
“They don’t tell us, we usually don’t know him,” Misha answers, “but I know mine.”
The door creaks. An employee of a boarding school passes by us. Her white robe with a red stripe makes me terribly sad, and her eye drowns for several seconds in the deepening of the yellow, ragged wall.
“And I know mine,” Misha repeats loudly and looks into my eyes. - Average, I have average! I’m quick-tempered, but I’m not.
- That is, temper - your diagnosis?
- Yes Yes. But soon they will let me out for a short time, and I will go to Crimea on vacation with my mother, I grew up there.
Somewhere outside the walls, spoons and voices ring: perhaps someone is laughing.
- And how do you perceive the history of Crimea?
- Disgusting. It is good that he was annexed to Russia, because in Ukraine the war is constant, they show it on TV. Somehow I also do not want war. So I'm glad. We will go on vacation, and they will finally give me my passport in a boarding school. How is life without a passport suddenly needed?
- Can I sing, do you mind? I love to sing, - a tall blue-eyed guy of about thirty enters the room, he stands in the middle of the room and draws in: “Sea-sea - the world is bottomless, foamy rustle ...” Like? My name is Grisha, and you, too, Marina?
Grisha does not smile, his gaze is rather focused, sometimes sharp.
He answers the outstretched hand with a touch on the shoulder. Grisha is a schizophrenic, he calls himself that. He knows several languages, reads a lot. When he sings, he puts a clenched fist to his mouth - like a microphone.
“Not so loud, have you forgotten?” Quiet hour yet, ”an employee of the boarding school pulls over Grisha from behind. According to the schedule, after lunch at PNI, it’s a real quiet hour: adults and often physically active people need to be put out somewhere, and two nurses in each department rarely manage to keep track of everything, what can they say about some activities. Therefore, in the daytime, people here simply sit on their beds, watch TV, sleep. And they repeat these actions one by one in an infinite degree of repetition.
- When I studied abroad, I worked in fast food, it’s something like McDonald’s. Now I’ll teach you all how to make the right cheeseburgers, ”volunteer psychologist Alena lays greens and sesame buns on a wide table in a boarding house. - What do you think is a part of a cheeseburger?
“Cheese, meat, sausage,” Misha immediately responds.
- And what else?
- I don’t know, I don’t understand all this and I don’t know how.
According to volunteers, the phrase "I do not know how" residents of the boarding school often pronounce.
In fact, many of them draw, embroider, knit - they simply learn this themselves and do not take their skills seriously. In a situation of isolation and lack of self-realization, it is much easier to accept one’s imposed learning disability and lack of talent — otherwise it is completely unbearable.
Nurses take turns wards to the gazebo. Not everyone can cook. Styopa and his friend Vitalik have the most freedom today: they live in a different boarding school, and they managed to get a free exit. Styopa is soon 30, and he spent his whole life in various institutions - this is his main diagnosis. First, the Children's Home, then DDI (orphanage), then Styopa was deprived of legal capacity and sent to life-time - to a neuropsychiatric.
At the same time, Styopa spent a long time working in the kitchen in the boarding school, received a thousand rubles, passed medical commissions more than once, but, according to the staff of the boarding school, Styopa demonstrated his lack of independence by buying a TV in his room - "to watch football." He still can not completely get rid of the institution, but the opportunity to go to the city is considered a great success.
- You should probably move closer?
- And we will not bother you?
Sveta and Inna are brought into the arbor. Inna moves in a wheelchair, lives in the department of mercy and actively uses social networks. She had a mother, but her husband broke up with her mother, and her mother broke up with Inna, sending her to a neuropsychiatric boarding school.
Inna has a spinal hernia - it happened at birth. Inna does not crawl out of her colorful grandmother’s robes, because they don’t give out other clothes in the boarding school, and her mother rarely visits. Only Inna can tell how to properly care for Sveta. They are girlfriends, both do not move on their own - try not to make friends here. Sveta 22, she doesn’t speak - she only nods and pulls her hands curled. Sveta has cerebral palsy, she is an orphan. According to the volunteers, once a sister spotted Sveta - "she came, cried, and no one else ever saw her."
Sveta smiles a lot and utters a single word: "Narmana." A Panama hat is constantly pulled over the Light, which now and then falls over the face and as if serves as a reminder that there is Light and you need to approach the Light - correct the panama, bring it out of the dark, because she herself can not ask for it in any way. Sveta, like many in the boarding school, has rotted teeth - the nurse forgot about basic hygienic procedures: such as Sveta, lying and non-speaking, there were dozens in the ward, again, there was not enough time for each hand.
Inna and Sveta are sitting at the edge of the table - Inna smiles and carefully watches the preparation of cheeseburgers, and Sveta blinks her eyes, reclining in a chair.
- Here, I can, you just look, - Sasha cuts cucumbers into even circles. - See how?
Sasha is already over 30, growing from a 15-year-old teenager. He has a rich vocabulary, good manners and mental retardation: many, many years ago, in an orphanage, he did not answer any questions about cubes and colors or behaved too "violently" (this is standard for children in orphanages when diagnosed "mental retardation"), for which he still pays.
- It’s impossible, Sasha can’t, take the knife from him, let him stand and watch! Let ... let him fold the rolls, - another employee with a red stripe on a white coat meets in the arbor. - And put these on benches, let them wait.
Next to the arbor there is a group of men and women wrapped in pajama robes. Whoever just turned 18, some already with gray temples, some smiling, some tired, some indifferent, some tense, you cannot distinguish between a diagnosis or an exact age. Exactly next, the girls and grandfathers sit on benches around the gazebo - they are forbidden to enter it. It remains only to look at each other and catch the camera flashes. Some here react to attention to themselves instantly, because they are rarely removed, and someone has not seen their photos for a couple of years.
- Anna Mikhailovna, nice, - I shake the warm, strong hand of a black-haired woman of about 55. It seems again that we saw each other somewhere - remember, when you met by chance at the market, you and my grandmother discussed another trick of the neighbors from above, and then, a month later , you came to the graduation party with a huge bouquet of smelly lilies to your grandson - he and I graduated together from school. You will cut the greens?
- I'll cut it, of course. And give me your things, otherwise you will throw it wherever you get, then you will not find it, and what will you do? Mindfulness is the main thing: to yourself and to those who are close by. Anything can soak.
- Wait, wait! We are not eating yet! Just a little bit left!
At the tables around the gazebo gathered dozens of boarding students. Hands reach for sandwiches, salad, glasses with cola. According to residents of several Moscow boarding schools at once, in theory they are fed about 150 rubles a day, but in reality something like 70 comes out: "recipients of social services" - which is exactly what the residents of PNI are officially called - often eat cereals and rolls for breakfast , dinner and supper.
- Wedding! - shouts one of the newcomers named Anton. - Bitter!
- Why is the wedding something?
- Well, it seems. And what other holidays are there? Wedding and New Year. It’s also like a holiday here.
- This is a restaurant! We are in a restaurant, honestly! Great, great restaurant! - laughs one of the girls-grandfathers.
Finally, the table is set. Everyone is actively mistaken for cheeseburgers and salads.
- The party has begun, hooray! - Anton says loudly, washing down a tomato with Coke.
- Guys, take a look here! A smile, well! - screams employee boarding, waving the phone. - I am photographing you!
Sitting at the table at the same time turn and wave to the employee.
- Do you know what is most important? You now know how to cook like in McDonald's! - says the volunteer Alena, sitting down at the table.
- Is it true? Just like them? - Vitalik responds vividly.
According to former boarding students, many wards want and can work - some like Styopa, and they do this, helping nurses, cooks, cleaners. True, instead of the prescribed four to five hours, they work more than eight and earn 1,000-1,500 rubles, giving the institution a percentage of the salary for living (plus percent of the pension). Work in the city could be a real chance for today's boarding school students to have healthy socialization and regain their legal capacity, but programs for the accompanied employment of wards of PNI have not yet been promoted.
“That's who has a holiday today, it's Alice,” the volunteer Lyuba whispers, nodding to the short girl in a long blue sundress. “She was released to the city for the first time today, imagine.”
Alice has running eyes, porcelain skin, Down syndrome and "something else" - what exactly, only doctors know and are unlikely to ever tell anyone. Alice cannot speak: she only mumbles and points, purses her lips and often changes her expression.
- In general, boarding schools should not have a rigid access system; recipients of services can go outside the institution. But in reality, everything turns out differently, and many here do not have the opportunity to go out of the gate. Why is this done? Most likely, those who live here do not tell too much, do not take any stories outside the boarding school, ”says the volunteer Alena.
- Well, have you eaten? The party is ending, let's slowly get ready, ”one of the employees in a white coat with a red stripe commands.
- And maybe, let's sing for the last? How not to sing? - the voice in the far corner of the table responds. - Ra-a-a-curly maple green, carved leaf ...
The song languidly pulls up a few flimsy voices, which echoes the rustle of disposable tableware.
“When we sing, it’s as if silence says, and you don’t hear anything anyway,” one of the girls-grandfathers waves and leaves the table.