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