Summer at River International Camp (2003)

Figure 1.--This picture of Alex and the 8th Corp campers was taken at the ???? archeological site near the camp.

Yuri Gagarin Russian School

Alexander and Yuta Matrosov are brother and sister. They are Tajik children who live in the capital city of Dushanbe. They attend the Yuri Gagarin Russian School. It is also known as school number 21. The school is a short walk from the city railway station and very near to the city museum in Aini Street. It is a large school. It houses a kindergarten, a primary and senior school. Alex and Yuta liked the school because they had lots of friends there. Their teachers were nice too and they knew that they cared greatly about them. Alex recalls that sometime in March the School director found out about an International Summer Camp for children. The venue was the Ukraine Black Sea coast. The director gave out letters to the children which told the pupilís parents about the programme.

Summer Camps

The children showed the letter to their parents who thought it was a good idea. They needed to think hard about whether to send their children to the camp because it was very costly. There are lots of summer camps within Tajikistan so if it was a camping holiday they wanted then the camps organised in Dushanbe by the Trade Union Council would be quite suitable and cheaper. Alex and Yuta knew one thing and that was that they wanted to go to the Ukraine.

The Children

Alex has a way with him and his eyes sparkle with enthusiasm when something captures his imagination. Yuta does not quite show her enthusiasm in this way but mum is good at reading her daughters thoughts and knew that there was something very appealing about this camp that had made the children very enthusiastic about it. Perhaps it was the idea of going to the Ukraine; maybe it was the flight by aeroplane or the chance to meet other children from all over the Soviet Union. What ever it was they knew Alex and Yuta wanted to go more than anything in the world.

It would be a very costly camp not like the old days when the Government subsidised summer camps. Now the full cost had to be paid. In the end Dad agreed that they could go provided they worked hard at school and helped mum with household chores. Alex and Yuta were filled with joy when they were told they could go. What an adventure they were going to have. They could not wait for the start of the summer holiday. This came with the Last Bell Ceremony towards the end of May.

At the beginning of June Alex and Yuta set out for the airport. They travelled in their best casual clothes. Alex wore a t-shirt, jeans and trainers. Yuta wore blue denim trouser suit and sandals. She did not wear socks. At the airport they met their chaperone who travelled with them to the camp. Their parents waved them off on the flight to the Ukraine. After the flight the children journeyed by mini bus to the camp.

Ukranian Camp

The Ukraine boarders the Black Sea and this has been the Soviet Seaside destination for a long time. The camp was originally set up in the days of the Young Pioneers but now like all the rest are independent ventures providing camping and woodcraft experience for children from Russia and the Commonwealth Countries. Alex and Yuta travelled to the Black Sea city called Hersons. In this area are the camps. This part of the city is called ĎArtek'. [HBC note: Artek was the most famous of the camps in the Soviet Young Pioneer system. There were camps scattered throughout the Soviet Union. Many had very basic facilities and locations of varying appeal. Artek was not only located on the warm Black Sea coast, but it had excellent facilities.] There are many summer camps for children in this region as well as vacation resports. The camp Alex and Yuta travelled to was called ĎRiver.í The camp logo was a duck dressed in a sailorís suit. It is in a beautiful setting. There are views of the wooded hills and the sea. All kinds of trees are in the camp grounds. There are many pleasant cool tree lined paths that lead to the dormitories. It is an attractive camp site.

Camp Uniform

Once the children arrived they were given their camp uniforms. [HBC note: This appears to be an practice carried over from the Young Pioneer camps where the children wore Young Pioneer uniforms at camp. Many private summer camps in America before the 1970s had uniforms, but this is no longer common in the United States, except at Scout camps.] The uniform was blue shorts and white shirt for the boys. The girls wore mostly a blue skirt and a white shirt but some wore blue shorts. Some of the Central Asian Muslim girls wore head scarves. Some of the children put the camp emblem on their shirt sleeves. Footwear was the sandals and trainers the children had brought with them.

Historic Site

Alex and Yulta soon found that the camp is built on historic ground. There is a ruined building and pillars which could date back to the days of Alexander the Great (figure 1). Alexander is a historical figure well known to them because they studied about him in school. Alexander conquered Tajikistan in ancient times and there are many references to him in their country. The beach and the ancient remains was a place the children liked to explore and Alex and Yulta would find that they were attracted to this place. Rather like the ruined Kirren castle in the Famous Five stories that they read in school. The difference for them was that the ruins were for real.

Figure 2.--Here Alex and Yulta are at the ??? marine park where he got to see dolphins and Beluga whales. The children wore their own clothes rather than the camp uniforms for this outing.

Camp Groups

Alex and Yulta and the other children found that they were the 12th group to visit the camp that season. After an orientation guided tour the children were put into groups. Alex was in the 8th Corps and Yulta was in 6th Corps. Yulta eas one of 25 children in this contingent. Alex was one of 22 children in his unit. The children were taken to their bunk houses. Each corps had two dormitories one for boys and the other for girls. Alex and Yulta did not see much of eachother after that but soon got to know other the other children he was billeted with.

Camp Experiences

What followed was a joyous occasions in which the children took a full part in the camp programme. There were hikes into the countryside, overnight camps, sailing, swimming, beach parties, sporting activities, excursions to interesting places and computer courses. Alex liked football the best. There were inter-camp matches and the teams were made up of both girls and boys.

Alexís favorite experience was the day his unit visited the dolphins and Beluga whales. They wore ordinary clothes rather than their camp uniforms that day. He was fascinated by the show and he got the chance to get up close to these sea creatures and gently patted one of the whales on its beak (figure 2). It was one of the few occasions that he was with his sister.

Alex and Yulta did not have a camera so the only photographic record of the camp is the group photographs taken by the camp photographer. These show happy children enjoying their camping experience set against the back ground of the Black Sea. The carefree holiday come to a close far too soon. The month of enjoyment had passed far too quickly. It was the time of the sad farewells as children set out to return home. They travelled back to all points in Russia and beyond to the Commonwealth Countries. Alex and Yulta had an enjoyable camping experience. They had learnt something of other countries.The children they met had learnt about Tajikistan, their homeland.

William Fergusson


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Created: September 13, 2003
Last updated: September 13, 2003