One of our favorite people in Russia is Svetlana Golovona who helped us develop our wonderful cruise program in the 90's.
Svetlana's father was Stalin's air marshal and she grew up with Stalin's children. She remembers when German tanks were approaching Moscow and she was bundled in a bear skin in the back of a car ready to flee the city as her father conferred with Stalin. She was keenly aware of the disaster of communism and worked hard to bless the lives of those less fortunate.
One of the memories she cherished was when Eleanor Roosevelt visited her mother who had just had a new baby. Mrs. Roosevelt brought a crocheted baby blanket and booties to Svetlana's new sibling. What an impression of American kindness was made on her heart that day. She shared this precious memory with us and was always eager to help us find those in need who our customers could bless.
Thousands of gifts were delivered to orphanages, children's hospitals and pensioners who had so little. Svetlana made sure the gifts went directly to the people in need instead of the ones in power who might have usurped it. Even orphanage directors in the USSR often sold donated aspirin on the black market -- many times to buy other needed supplies.
She was invaluable in establishing relationships and organizing the counselor/translator element that is unique to Heart of Russia Cruises. Svetlana loved our customers and made each one feel the special place they had in her heart. She went to great lengths to ensure that our counselors gave the best efforts in making sure each customer had a wonderful trip in Russia. As a result, many friendships crossed the oceans and we have heard of friends visiting friends years later as well as a few marriages taking place.
As a result of Svetlana's dedication to bringing our two peoples together in friendship, with the opportunities to provide for those less fortunate, we are creating a DBA for our non-profit organization that will be named "The Svetlana Golovona Charity" to provide our 2022 passengers and friends with opportunities to provide for specific causes in Russia where we can be certain the funds will benefit those in need. If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact us at HeartOfRussiaCruises@gmail.com.
Pensioners sing for our guests to thank them for contributing to their retirement fund.
Stops at orphanages are often a highlight for our customers as the children are delighted with gifts from Americans. One orphanage's dormitory roof leaked so bad, the children were sleeping in the foyers. Our customers raised money, and with Svetlana's help, found workers and materials to replace the entire roof. We held a grand opening of the dorm on our next stop at their village.
Mark Stoddard & Stewart Briskin deliver medical supplies and clothing to children and parents at the Moscow Pediatric Hospital. Three weeks after our visit to the USSR's #1 pediatric hospital, a 13 year old girl fell from a 3rd story balcony. The director of the hospital told us that they feared her life was lost because they couldn't bring her fever down. Then he remembered the medicines we brought. "Your medications saved her life," he beamed. We were shocked and asked which medications. "Children's Liquid Tylenol," he reported. Such was the state of medicine in the USSR.