‘While I lived in the orphanage I went to a mental hospital a few times. I wanted to kill myself. I tried strangling myself with a lace. I was 14 back then and I’d already spent four years at the orphanage but I just couldn’t get over the fact that my mum had died. I still can’t say I’m fully recovered, sometimes it hits me and I can’t stop thinking about it.’
Slava lived at Nochlezhka’s shelter for a few months. He was brought up in an orphanage and he lost his flat through a fraudulent transaction. During these months we managed to get his documents re-issued. Slava found a job at a large company and we started working together with the Raul foundation which helps people from orphanages. We arranged with a social hostel for minors that they let Slava live there despite his age (he was 24 while the hostel is designated for teenagers), so he can live with his peers.
Yelena Kondrakhina, social worker
There were three of us living together, my mum, granny and I. Dad came to visit us once: he gave my mum a bar of chocolate, glanced at me and that was it.
Mum worked as a graphic designer at a military school, she would paint these massive posters. She would take me to work in the morning, I was still very little, and worked until late. She would get awfully tired. Maybe, that’s why she drank, she was an artistic person after all.
Mum died when I was ten, God rest her soul. My dad is still alive but he has his own life. I lost my granny when I was 14, she had a stroke. So I was taken by social services.
While I lived in the orphanage I went to a mental hospital a few times. Once for an examination and the second time for depression. I wanted to kill myself. I tried strangling myself with a lace. I was 14 back then and I’d already spent four years at the orphanage but I just couldn’t get over the fact that my mum had died. I still can’t say I’m fully recovered, sometimes it hits me again and I can’t stop thinking about it.
They said I’d be there for a month but I ended up spending four months there. No injections of course, those are only for totally insane patients, I was just given pills.
When I left the orphanage, in 2013, the first thing I did was to order a stone for my mum, I withdrew some money from my savings’ account, about 30 000 roubles. I was worried that the grave would fall through. When graves aren’t looked after, they fall through, I’ve seen it happen. They are both buried there, granny in a coffin and mum was cremated. We had no money for her funeral, so she was cremated and her ashes were buried at the school’s expense.
I inherited my granny’s property. Two-roomed flat in the south of the city. In 2013 I wanted to let one room, since I was short of money. I let a friend live with me, he was a classmate of mine from the orphanage. I got him a TV set, a bicycle. He recommended a tenant, he said it was a decent guy and he would rent the other room. But actually I think, they had their sights set on my flat already.
These guys, Roman Yunin and Vasily Parshuk, call themselves brokers. They are fraudsters. They beat me up several times and threatened to kill me. Once they caught me on the way to a shop, they were with a car and started demanding the keys for my flat.
Then I was taken out of the city, to a place near Gatchina. There’s a village there called Marienburg, with lots of gypsies and Moldovans. It’s awful there, very dangerous. Everyone who falls victim to such fraudsters is taken there. When they had a look at my passport and registration at the social service, they said I was lucky to stay alive, that they could have killed me. They know that people get temporary registration at the same house and then they’re killed or just go missing.
From there I was taken to Veliky Novgorod. They said I would stay there a bit while things calm down. They were afraid that the police would come to Marienburg. Then the police found me and took me to the social services. There was a good man there, Vitaly, who told me, ‘Don’t worry, everything will work out fine, I can tell you are a clever guy, an educated one, everything will be all right’. He got me a coach ticket and I came to St. Petersburg.
First I spent two nights in a tent. And then I realised I was homeless and was left with nothing.
Then I remembered about Nochlezhka.
I had come here six years previously with the Orthodox child mission. I came here with the orphanage. I remember giving out tea in this very room where I have found myself now.
My aunt and all the other relatives didn’t want to hear about me when they found out I was here. ‘We have our own problems’, Mum’s sister told me. She would sometimes visit me at the orphanage but very rarely. And this time she said ‘I have my own grown-up son’.
I like it here, of course, but I felt better at the orphanage to be honest. Of course it was better. There were teachers there, they understood me. There were other teenagers just like me there. And here people are way older than me, by 10-20 years, and I find it really hard.
Then people at Nochlezhka suggested that I contact Raul. It’s a foundation which helps people brought up in orphanages and people with special needs. So a social worker helped to arrange it, and I moved there. They helped me find a job.
This is my third job so I have some work record. I am going to be cleaning the area from 8 till 5. The environment is all right, the people are understanding. It’s like when I worked for the tram depo. There are lockers, too, even a sauna and showers, so one can wash there, too. It’s not too hard, just some sweeping. I like physical labour.
I worked as a labourer during the summer: carried down 25 kg bags of bricks from the fifth or fourth floor. That was tiring of course. I worked there for almost three months. And I wasn’t paid. I thought they’d pay me. I got that job through someone I know, too, just like with the flat, and again – I was fooled. I am trying to be cautious about people I know, especially the ones from the orphanage. I no longer listen to what people tell me. I don’t want to get into more trouble.
When I do something nice, like treat someone or tidy up and clean, I feel good. I have been doing shifts on the Night Bus since November, we drive around, feed the homeless and help them. That makes me feel good.
I haven’t felt happy though.
When I use the underground, people look at me. Girls, I mean. They must like me or something. I think I’m quite attractive, not handsome, but attractive.
I have never spoken to anyone, I’ve always been reserved. I used to think that I didn’t need a woman and I’d live just fine without one. And then a teacher at the orphanage said, ‘You’re a handsome and clever guy, Slava. Either way, you won’t be alone’. So I’m waiting for a woman who would understand me. Who would understand my suffering and my kindness.
I was in love with a girl when I was at the vocational school. A tall, beautiful dark-haired girl. But she was quite harsh by nature. A bit like my mum, strong-willed. Everyone says I need a strong-willed woman, who would keep an eye on me. I agree, I can be a bit lazy sometimes. I can do anything, but I feel lazy sometimes. A friend told me I need a Tartar girl. He says they’re the right kind, strong-willed.
I haven’t got a best friend. I have a mate, Yasha, and a classmate, Sasha, but not someone I could trust and rely on, who wouldn’t let me down. I don’t even know how to trust now. One can only trust oneself.
I’ll start studying in September, once I turn 24. I’ve been told I should study IT. There’s an elderly man here and he says I should learn to be a programmer. As for me, I am interested in everything. I’d like to do a course, go to a DJ school. Learn to dance salsa, it is so beautiful! I want to travel and see things! Also, I wouldn’t mind being a doctor or a cook.
I am really scared of dying. The best thing is to die happy. Say, you’re driving from your wedding and you crash, but you’re happy, so it’s ok. Or just die together with her when you’re not alone. Maybe then it’s not so scary. When you’re with someone. But if you die alone, that’s scary. No one wants to die at the age of 23.
An average period of time spent by a homeless person at the shelter
56 116 rubles
Average cost of bringing a homeless person to stable life