Tatyana Sorokina

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - WILDLIFE -

Tatyana, 66, adopted her first child in 1975. Her late hus­band was an or­phan and de­ter­mined to spare as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble from the ex­pe­ri­ences he en­dured grow­ing up in a state-run or­phan­age. The Sorokins had two bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren and went on to adopt or fos­ter 74. Tatyana cal­cu­lates that, in­clud­ing grand­chil­dren, there are 120 mem­bers of her im­me­di­ate fam­ily. She cur­rently has 17 chil­dren liv­ing with her. ‘You can put off every­thing un­til to­mor­row, ex­cept for eat­ing,’ she says, in a kitchen hung with dry­ing laun­dry. Around her, her chil­dren take turns to eat at the ta­ble. Her new­est ar­rival, five-year-old Kolya, has been with her for two months. He’s set­tling in after hav­ing been re­jected by a pre­vi­ous adop­tive fam­ily. As we speak, she is wait­ing to hear about three more chil­dren whom she hopes to adopt from a chil­dren’s home in Irkutsk, in Eastern Siberia. Some of Tatyana’s chil­dren be­long to the cat­e­gory known in Rus­sia as ‘so­cial or­phans’: a clas­si­fi­ca­tion that ap­plies to those with par­ents who are liv­ing but un­able to cope. The for­mer lives of the chil­dren she has adopted are like a cat­a­logue of Rus­sia’s chronic so­cial prob­lems: poverty, drug ad­dic­tion, al­co­holism. In­creas­ingly, re­li­gion is be­ing pre­scribed as the so­lu­tion.

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