We continue our series on schools taking part in our project aimed at attracting gypsy children to school education. Today we introduce readers to School 7 in Gatchina, in the district of Marienburg. There have always been gypsy pupils in Marienburg school –after all, Gatchina is a traditional settlement for Leningrad oblast gypsies. A particular feature of this location is that, as in Pushkin region, ‘Moldovans’ –a Moldovan-speaking ethnic group– as well as Russian gypsies (Russka Roma) live there.

There are gypsy pupils in almost all forms, but particularly many in Lidia Yakolevna Vladimirova’s. She is a Veteran of Labour and has worked in schools for 50 years. She began her career by gaining a primary school teacher / children’s home educator’s diploma in Tomsk oblast, to where her entire group were sent in their ‘distribution’ [the allocation of trainee teachers to schools after their graduation in the USSR –A. G.]. During the war she found herself in occupied territory in Smolensk oblast. Her family saved several Soviet captives, by getting hold of documents for them and conveying them to the Partisans. She has worked in Gatchina region for 30 years. During this time around forty gypsy pupils have passed through her hands. ‘I don’t even remember them all,’ she says. ‘But then I’m walking along and they say hello to me and I remember what everyone’s called.’ And now her former pupils are studying in middle and high school.

From the very start of our project there has been particular interest in the gypsy dance classes run by Tamara Nikolayevna Cherepovskaya: many partners came with their children to the first class, warmly supporting the idea of teaching children a traditional gypsy art form. Older as well as younger pupils enjoy the dancing.

Recently a mixed group integrating Russian and gypsy pupils went on an excursion to Yekaterininsky Palace and the Amber Room. The children went away with a multitude of impressions; after all, for many it was the first time they had been to the museum.

We are grateful to the authorities at Marienburg school who have helped organise our classes. We hope that the accounts of gypsy history, the gypsy folklore classes and the informative excursions will help ensure gypsy children enjoy going to school.

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