At the Doors of a School
Oil on canvas. 127.5 x 72 cm.
State Russian Museum,
St. Petersburg, Russia
By now everyone has heard the story of Artyom Savelyev, the little boy who had been adopted from Russia, and then sent packing again after he "didn't work out" with his new family. His adoptive mother and grandmother put him on a plane unescorted back to Russia. The story is heartbreaking because it is very complex and definitely has more than one side to it. By all accounts, this little boy had become a threat to his adoptive family, threatening to kill them and burn down their house. He was seven years old, and who knows what sort of a life he had led up to this point. One can only speculate.
"Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man". ... Francis Xavier
Artyom is a cute little boy, with what seems to be a perpetual look of bewilderment on his face. Any child who is taken from his own culture, given a westernized name -- Justin -- and re-made into an entirely different and foreign persona would be bewildered. In fact, I think he would be terrified. According to his adoptive grandmother, "He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she said. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."
I feel very bad for the adoptive family. I think they had good intentions, but just didn't know what they were doing. But, there is no happy ending to this story, unfortunately. This little boy is probably going to need a lot of help for a long time. I hope there is some kindly Russian babushka somewhere who hears this little boy's story, and gives him just what he needs -- lots of big grand(s)motherly hugs. He's still just a little boy.