russia boots and all

russian bootsBabushka Tonya Makarova, former scientific researcher, goes out onto the street which leads to the Kremlin every Saturday and Sunday in order to earn some money. Next to her small, bright camping tent are framed photos of herself surrounded by children and clippings from newspaper articles.

All week Babushka Tonya is busy making small souvenir felt boots, then an artist decorates them and the result is no ordinary Russian memento. With the money she earns, Baba Tonya buys things that children from a nearby orphanage really need: books, fur boots, clothes and more. A pair of her felt boots cost 300 rubbles, but as Tonya says, “your money will be in the children’s hands.”

Babushka Tonya has been running this volunteer project for 50 years and Intrepid’s Maria Korneeva always looks forward to spending time with this remarkable woman…

“There are many abandoned children in Russia and people willing to work with them for a pittance are very few. Baba Tonya supplements their income as much as she can. For me, her story is even more interesting in the fact that you can live your life in a different way, even if you are 90 years old!

Our groups visit her in Suzdal. We have a cup of tea and share stories and news. Most of our travellers are moved enough to buy some souvenirs to take home, especially when they think that the little felt boots will make great Christmas tree decorations!

Babushka Tonya is well-known in Suzdal, yet sadly for some reason most tourist guides will not take their big groups to her little tent. Most just go past, heading straight for the other souvenir stands, after all, they get paid commission there.”

Tour Russia with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Taste of Russia – 8 days
Trans-Mongolian Express Westbound – 21 days

The Intrepid Foundation – helping travellers to make a real difference.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Babushka Tonya is truly an amazing woman who has dedicated her whole life to helping others. She has many generations of children at the orphanage she supports who fondly call her “Granny”. I know she’d like to send special thanks to the Intrepid travellers who help support “her” kids, especially the one couple who recently bought 10 pairs of her boots. It brought tears to Babushka Tonya’s eyes that people from so far away would care enough about her kids to make such a donation! Well done Intrepid travellers!

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