Talisman & Istok – Curative Education in Siberia
Russia: the Talisman Curative Education School of in Irkutsk now already exists for more than twenty years. The socio-therapeutic community Istok was founded in 1999. Today 20 people work and live there. Ever since valuable work is being done in both projects. This becomes evident in the development of all children. The young people have become strong personalities. Unfortunately in Russia there are hardly any government subsidies for curative education.
Irkutsk (600,000 inhabitants) is located 8000km away form Central Europe in East Siberia. It is one of the most important and most beautiful cities of Siberia. At the same time Irkutsk is a city of students with a distinctive cultural side and enjoys an important reputation in fur trading and as a place of trade for South Asia. Furthermore, the city is an interesting destination for tourists, as the Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake of the world containing the most freshwater.
Vera is normally a hothead. Still, she managed to play the romantic Marija Gavrilovna. Nikolaj usually finds it quite difficult to respond with tolerance to his environment, but he too learned a lot through his dramatic role. Igor, who is fragile and sensitive, succeeded on stage as the “Hussar Commander”.
These are the words of Olga Krasoskaja, teacher of grade 6 at Talisman School, about their drama „The Snow Storm“, a legend of A.S. Pushkin. It becomes clear that the students with disabilities managed to take up the identity of a completely different human being. Today, the Talisman Curative Education School in Irkutsk enjoys a good public image due to its high quality education and successful care for children with disabilities.
Just Twenty years ago, an artistic and curative education like this was unthinkable for people with disabilities in Russia, as these people were regarded as “damaged” and not eligible for education. Without the right for education, disabled children usually stayed at home with their parents, often hidden from the eyes of the public or were placed in special homes. Back then, the conditions for the disabled children were cruel and inhumane.
The village community “Istok” is situated 35km away from Irkutsk. Since its foundation, many things have changed: there are residential facilities and stables for livestock. A tractor and other important tools are available. Istok has become a place where people with different abilities have found a place for their personal development. Without such a place to live, these people would be isolated, living without social contact and without work. The community lives from agriculture and the produce of their various workshops.
For some time now there is also a regular summer camp with students from Russia, Germany and Switzerland. The aim of this camp is for the young people to experience life with disabled people, to actively assist in the daily work, as well as to contribute to the improvement of the facilities and infrastructure. Besides work there are many artistic activities and a lively exchange of opinions about social issues. Often this camp changes the student’s attitude towards their future careers.
Both initiatives the Talisman School and "Istok" Village Community, receive little support from the government. They are only able to continue their valuable work with the support and active participation of Western European friends. With additional financial assistance more children and young adults with special needs could benefit from both initiatives and thus benefit from an opportunity that helps them integrate into society.