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13 Sep, 2007 01:35

Help for children of alcoholics

Alcoholism is one of the most serious problems in Russia. Thousands die from it every year. However, specialized treatment centres are still relatively rare.

But in the town of Saratov, help is at hand for the children of alcoholics struggling to recover from the physical and mental effects of the disease.

For most children of the city's alcoholics a visit to the 'house of sobriety' is the highlight of their week – a chance to meet with friends, try their hands at the latest computer games and play in a secure environment.

Saratov’s house of sobriety is an organization founded more than 20 years ago to give young people the chance of a better life

“My mum died in 2001. She died because she was an alcoholic. My Dad is in prison. There’s going to be a trial and he might go to jail because of drugs. I’ve already been coming here for about 8 months. I like the fact that we talk a lot, we learn about new things. We go on trips and have fun. Coming here also helps me find my direction in life. I do not want to repeat my parents’ mistakes,” said Yana, one of the children who live in the centre.

Many of the children here live in orphanages or care homes. They come here once a week for a year and form strong bonds with the course teachers.

Director Nataliya Korolkova hopes they take something away that will last a lifetime.

“Here in our centre, we teach kids to believe in themselves and find out who they are, to learn to love and respect themselves. If we teach them that – at least, a little bit to guide them in the right direction, then we can count it as a success. They will know that there are different people, there’s an alternative thinking, there’s a different lifestyle and that they have a choice!” explained  Nataliya Korolkova.

More than 300,000 have died from alcohol poisoning since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The average life expectancy for a man in Russia is only 59.

Alcoholism still carries a social stigma and many are reluctant to seek help.