MOSCOW: ‘’When you live on the streets, when you have a tent and there is no chance of bathing, people don’t understand you and its tough to get a job,’’ said Kolya, 22. He was sitting near a popular pedestrian street in Moscow trying to collect money for a sleeping bag, he said. Born in a village in western Russia, Kolya said his mom put him into an orphanage when he was eight. At the time, the collective farm was falling apart and his mother had a third child. He said things are still difficult for his family. His mother, step-father and two brothers live in a room and his mom earns about $100 a month. ‘’So as not to be a burden," he said he left for Moscow a few months ago to look for work. He sleeps at night in the forests near the railroad tracks in the Moscow suburbs. I asked him what his plans were. ‘’If I raise money for a sleeping bag, I will hitchhike to Crimea. There is a lot of infrastructure to build in Crimea and an extra hand doesn’t hurt. Plus, it is a lot warmer there."
He was selling New Year's gifts in Minsk near the tractor factory, a less attractive part of the city. He said he put up his Christmas tree on Dec. 1, like he does every year. But this year, his girlfriend helped him clean up his apartment, throwing out alot of his old stuff. He said it was the best days of the year. He told me he rents the apartment basically for free - part of a state sponsored program to help orphans. He said his parents are alive...and that as a child he admired his dad .... But alcohol and crime changed everything. He said he has seen a lot, but tries to keep a positive outlook on life. However, he said many orphans will succumb to crime and drugs because they look up to gangster types.