How 126 adopted kids saved a Siberian village from disappearing off the map

Sergey and his adopted kids.

Sergey and his adopted kids.

A number of the village’s residents were raised in foster families. As adults, they became foster parents themselves and began taking children in from orphanages, giving these kids a brighter future and saving their village from depopulation at the same time.

Two decades ago, the remote village of Barkhatovo in the Kemerovo Region (southern Siberia) was rapidly losing its population. There was no work, no entertainment and even phone connections were poor. All of this meant that young people were leaving the village in droves and moving to larger cities. Around this time, some locals decided to take in children from orphanages. With time, this turned into a bit of a trend. Then during the population census in the autumn of 2021, it turned out that there were 126 adopted kids living in Barkhatovo. And the village’s entire population is only 247!

3 kids of their own and 20 adopted

Tatyana Fadyushina (left) and her kids.

“In 2001, my daughter and I heard about the regional campaign ‘Find me, mother!’ on TV,” Tatyana Fadyushina told a local newspaper. “My daughter said, ‘Mom, let’s take one?’ And then in the evening, I said to my husband when he came home from work, "Let's take one?”

At the time, Tatyana had already raised three of her own kids, who were already adults. She saw there was a catastrophic demographic situation developing in the village, which had almost no children and a rapidly aging population. 

The village of Barkhatovo.

The first child the family brought in was an 11-month-old named Sasha. Then came Andrey, who was two at the time. When Tatyana was visiting the orphanage the third time to adopt a child, her neighbor, Lydia Bondareva, decided to come with her. Eventually, other neighbors joined in as well. In the end, Lydia brought four orphaned children home to raise, and Nina Krasnova brought in 10. Meanwhile, Tatyana saved an incredible 20 children from the orphanages and gave them a home!

In order to support and accommodate all these children, Barkhatovo’s residents did lots of repair work on their houses and practically rebuilt the entire village.

"Foster kids helped to save the family," Elena Starodumnova told Russia’s Channel 1 in 2008. “There was nowhere to work, we had nowhere to move to, we had to raise our own two children. And now we are working as adoptive parents." 

The village of Barkhatovo.

There are 21 foster kids in her family. The Kemerovo Region pays parents 3,000-4,000 rubles a month (around $50) for each foster child. For Barkhatovo, this is a large amount of money. Elena and her husband were able to make repairs to their house, built a kitchen big enough for their family and all the foster kids, and even bought computers for the kids to use.

All the children help the adults with work around the house and in the garden (there are no supermarkets here, so families have to grow fruits and vegetables themselves). In the end, the district orphanage shut down since all the kids now live in families.

Kids became parents

Tatyana's son Sergey now became foster parent.

Some of the first foster parents have already died, but when their kids grew up some of them continued this tradition and became foster parents as well.

Sergey's wife and their kids.

Tatiana's own son, Sergey, is now 32. He and his wife are raising their own biological daughter plus another nine children from an orphanage. Sergey said that all their kids call them mom and dad, although no one forced them to do this. He believes that the main important thing is to find a unique approach with each individual child, and then there will be peace in the family.

"It is clear now that the village is still alive," says Sergey. "When there are kids, there is life.”

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