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European Deaf-blind Rehabilitation and Cultural Week was carried out in Russia
European Deaf-blind Rehabilitation and Cultural Week was carried out in Russia
10 August 2015
From 3 to 9 of August in Moscow and Moscow region for the first time for Russia was held the European Rehabilitation and Cultural Week for the Deaf-blind people - 2015, ERCW-2015. For the first time in history Russia received the right to carry out such a large international event for people with simultaneous vision and hearing impairment. ERCW is carried out annually from 1997 and it’s been held in France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland etc.
European week was organized by the Foundation So-edinenie under the support of Severstal company, Government of Moscow region, All-Russian Blind Society and Society of deaf-blind social support Elvira.
Within the European Rehabilitation and Cultural Week for the Deaf-blind people in 2015 Russian capital, Moscow, hosted deaf-blind guests. Participants got acquainted with Russian traditions and culture from ancient to modern times. Special attention was paid to the places connected with deaf-blindness.  
European Week was held in Russian national style. Guests of the Week were able to visit different excursions around Moscow and Moscow region, visited rehabilitation centers for people with simultaneous vision and hearing impairment, attended a play where deaf-blind actors perform together with seeing and hearing actors (Prikasaemye (Touchable)) and had a ceremonial dinner.
There were more than 200 deaf-blinds from 12 countries: Belgium, the Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The European Week opening was held on August, 3, in Moscow region hotel Novaya Kupavna. After the welcoming word the Fund So-edinenie president awarded participants of literary contest held among people with simultaneous vision and hearing impairment, the contest name was “We came to this world not choosing the roads”. Award winners who had an opportunity to participate in the European Week received laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Regardless language barrier many participants got acquainted during the very first day: all events of the ERCW-2015 were accompanied by usual and sign language interpretation as well as audio description.
Deaf-blind participant from Belgium, Tina, shared her impressions after the first day: “I learned about European Week from the Helen Keller’s Club – Belgium union of deaf-blind people. I participated in EuroWeeks previous times: in Norway in 2007, for example. I wanted to see Moscow and eventful program of the Week interested me even more: we visited places for deaf-blinds in Russia, we will have excursions. And I’d like to see miniature horses”. Such mini-horses are used in some countries as leading animals for blind people.
Tuula, deaf-blind participant from Finland, also visits EuroWeek not for the first time: “A year ago I visited Hungary and this year received invitation to Russia and came here for the first time. I dreamt to get acquainted with our neighboring country and its capital. And I’m glad to meet deaf-blind people from all Europe.”
Angelina, deaf-blind from Italy, told us that she works a lot with Deaf-blind European Union where she learned about coming events in Russia: “I’d like to meet new deaf-blind people and go along Moscow river on a boat and see the Red Square”.
On the second day guests of the European Rehabilitation and Cultural Week for the Deaf-blind people in 2015 from 12 countries of Europe had a boat tour along the Moscow river, visited Alexandrovsky garden and the Red Square, made group photo for a memory. They also watched a stage play Prikasaemye with deaf-blind actors and seeing and hearing actors on one stage in the Meierkhold Center. This play is a mutual project of the So-edinenie Fund and the Theater of Nations.
The third day of the Week participants spent in one of the most beautiful cities of Moscow region – Sergiev Posad. Guests enjoyed the beauty of UNESCO object - Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Laura and touched the culture of ancient Russia in the museum Russian Village World. During excursion visitors were able to feel village life and work with that time objects, touching interactive items of exposition. In the end of the day our guests visited Sergiev-Posad orphanage for deaf-blind children, where 230 kids and teenagers with simultaneous vision and hearing impairment are being taught.
On Thursday, August, 6, participants of the EuroWeek divided into two groups. First group went to the Military Technical Museum in Chernogolovka where besides watching military hardware the group was able to ride horses and get acquainted with leading dogs for blind and dogs-therapists as well as sound real bells. The second group visited Deaf-blind House in Puchkovo. There deaf-blind people from all over Russia pass complex social, spiritual and psychological rehabilitation. In this house on the regular basis are provided computer courses and preparation courses for assistants and special audio and sign language interpreters, courses on professional skills acquisition. Analytic and scientific work on deafblindness is carried out there as well. Supervisees of the House visit special services in churches, go on pilgrimage tours and visit different social and cultural events. In the end of the day participants visited a farm of mini-horses which in many countries are used as leading animals for blind people.
On Friday, ERCW-2015 guests found out everything about chocolate as they visited museum-factory Babaevsky. They were able to make their own chocolate sweets. Excursion was very interesting for deaf-blind people from Russia and Europe as they were able to apply their remained senses at maximum: touch warm cacao-mass, smell different flavors of chocolate and taste sweets with different fillings.
By the end of the European Week its guests visited the Old Arbat street. They had an excursion along the most ancient streets of Moscow and visited souvenir shops.
On Saturday guests of 12 countries visited Moscow region city Zaraisk and its main sightseeing – Zaraisk Kremlin, an outstanding monument of architecture, reflection of ancient Russian history. Our guests participated in a great show of historical reconstruction – Zaraiski military meeting. Thousands of Russian knights, beautiful Slavic women, salesmen, clowns and actors came from all parts of Russia to Zaraisk Kremlin to recreate exciting atmosphere of ancient Russia for just one day and make all the festival participants a part of it. Deaf-blind people tried themselves in old professions – blacksmith, potter, leatherworker. At the end of excursion they tasted ancient Russian cuisine - buckwheat porridge with mushrooms, fish soup, salty cucumbers, kvas (bread drink), honey drink and many others.
In the evening of Saturday the guests of the European Week had a ceremonial dinner. Live music on marimba, Russian dances, drum team-building, launching of light balls, dj concert and many other things were organized for EuroWeek guests.
The president of the Deaf-blind Support Foundation So-edinenie Dmitry Polikanov thanked everyone who participated in preparation of this international event, awarded the best volunteers and said that So-edinenie won’t stop at achieved results: “Following the results of the European Week we plan to issue methodical recommendations that will describe how it is better to carry out excursions for deaf-blinds and adapt museum spaces for people with simultaneous vision and hearing impairments. Moreover in autumn together with the Garage museum we will organize a big seminar, invite representatives of different museums from different regions of Russia to exchange experience on accessible environment issues”.
Deaf-blind participants of the ERCW were content with it.
Geir Jensen (Norway), the president of the World Deaf-blind Federation, the president of Norway Deaf-blind Association: “It was an extremely impressive week. We saw a lot of interesting things in Moscow and Moscow region. We learned about Russian history and culture. There were a lot of surprises, the biggest one – amazing old wood churches, the Kremlin and the Red Square. I also liked Russian cuisine. I was amazed by the number of new beautiful buildings in Moscow. And it was very interesting to visit Sergiev-Posad orphanage for deaf-blind children. We learned a lot from Russia. When I come back to Norway I’ll tell my colleagues what I saw here and how glad I am things are done in Russia. And are done very good. Such events are very important for deaf-blind people because they can make friends with each other, exchange knowledge and experience. When we meet we learn something new, we can then develop our deaf-blind supportive services and it’s very important. I hope in two years Russia will be able to hold such European Week one more time”.
Zoran Rutbarien (Sweden): “I was very surprised and amazed by organization of the European Week for Deaf-blind people from Russian side. First I thought that it won’t be very safe, but it turned out brilliant. Comparing to other countries where the European Week was held in Russia everything was organized at the highest level. I was impressed most of all by Russian culture, the Red Square. It’s very important to carry out such events for deaf-blind people to make them meet, experience something positive and see that the world is open for them”.
On Sunday the European Week guests visited VDNKH (Exhibition of Economic Achievements). They learned about beauty of “Soviet Versailles”, touched fountains of Stone Flower and Friendship of Nations, walked along the flower alley feeling aromas of different flowers.
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