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 Postcards from Home 



Odessa, Ukraine

During the time of the Soviet system, there were two kinds of pre-school institutions: crèche (in Russian the same word as crib), for children from two months to three years old, and nursery school (kindergarten, for children from three to about six years old (though the upper limit varied in different époques).

At the time of the photograph, the teachers (mistresses--always female) and the children all wore overalls (usually the mistresses' white, the children dark blue satin) over their clothes. You see on the photo small flags. They were red, as were the state flag and all the flags during that time. They were used by children when they were marching or doing exercises. In the kindergarten the children had a dancing hour and prepared with the mistresses some performances for the state fests such as the Great October Revolution, 1 May, the international day of solidarity for the workers all over the world.

Lenin and Stalin were beloved leaders, as well as some military heroic leaders (the names changed with time). The most loved were Voroshilov and Budenny (most of the others ended up in prison [camp] or were executed).

The education was impregnated with political themes, though the children also learned poetry and dances and played with each other,  and were developed there in preparation for school. There were usually three groups in the kindergarten--younger, middle and higher. Each group contained about twenty children. The children were brought to the nursery school early in the morning and would remain there as late as seven in the evening.

After dinner they usually took a nap (a so-called "dead hour"). They had to stay in the kindergarten the whole day. They were fed three times a day: breakfast, dinner and an afternoon snack (something light) after their nap.

During the summer the children were usually taken out of town to live in the country. The parents could visit the children one or two times during this summer period on the special Parents' days (usually one or two in the season), spend some time with them on the territory.

There was a tradition--before sending the children to the summer house, the parents were asked to help, i.e. to come to the resort where the children were staying and and clean the house in which the children lived in and also the surrounding area. The men could also be useful by making repairs. This was not obligatory and wasn't especially difficult.. The parents came with the entire family, i.e. with other their children. It was like a "breath of fresh air", a form of relaxation-work done in a communal fashion made people more friendly.

The whole event was called "Subbotnik", from Subbota - Saturday. The "Subbotniks," free-of-charge work done during one's free time, was very common in the Soviet state.

For children who were in a weakened condition, and for those with specific diseases, there was also the sanatoria, available for very low price or free of charge.

There were also groups for children who remained in the kindergarten the entire week and slept there.

The kindergartens were very important institutions because many mothers were
working, and sometimes  places for their children in the kindergarten were lacking. The fee they had to pay for their child to attend school was not very high and probably depended on the wages of the parents.




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