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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow's Soup Kitchen: Key to Survival for Some

It is a familiar story, but one that loses none of its resonance in the retelling.


After 40 years of work as a chemist, Yelena Shirayeva, 84, can now barely survive on her 120,000-ruble ($30) monthly pension. And with a bed-bound husband requiring her nearly constant attention, she can make only the occasional foray away from home.


One place she visits six days a week is the soup kitchen located near her home on Khoroshovskoye Shosse.


"The soup kitchen is a very big help to me," said Shirayeva, a spry woman who is allowed to take food home for her husband. "I can't even buy milk because my pension is so small."


The soup kitchen, which reopened after a two-month closure Monday, is the subject of a charity appeal by The Moscow Times. Readers interested in contributing may use the form printed on this page.


Estimates of the number of homeless people in Moscow range up to 100,000, but Alexander Ogorodnikov, director of the soup kitchen, puts the figure for the elderly poor at many times that.


"Nobody needs them now. They feel like their whole life was thrown out because they spent it working for a new life that has become a bad life," said Ogorodnikov, a former human rights dissident. "The young generation looks on them as people who built a bad world. Their situation morally and psychologically is absolutely awful."


At Ogorodnikov's kitchen diners often linger to chat. "It's kind of like a soup kitchen and rest area put together," said Daniel Ogan, an American who works for Ogorodnikov's Christian Mercy Society.


"Especially in the winter they are closed up in their flats. They only go out to buy potatoes and so they are really happy to see each other when they get here," he said.


Another group, the French-based aid organization Equilibre, operates about 50 soup kitchens feeding some 13,000 people daily in Moscow.