Young Stars from Zabaikalye

Young Stars from Zabaikalye

More than five months of work and preparation for the competition. Several complications, emotions, and finally – a second-place finish and the award of audience favorite. Zoya Chizhkova and Vitaly Tolochkin, participants from the Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky Center for Help for Children Left Without Parental Guidance “Edinstvo” have returned home from their experience of performing on NTV’s televised project “You Are Super.”

Because of weather conditions their flight was delayed for two hours. Then the flight landed and the celebration began. There to congratulate them on their return were children from another center “Vostochni,” a facility for those children who are in a “complicated” living condition. Vitaliy was met at the airport by his foster father and his two stepsisters. After a short ceremony Zoya and Vitaly set off for a meeting with the Minister of Social Development of that region.

Davidov and “We Didn’t Like Artek”

Along with the Minister of Social Development Andrei Fedotov to meet the children was Sergei Davydov, the head of the regional Ministry of Health. The children were somewhat late as a result of their delayed flight, but they immediately amazed all those present with their openness: there was no uneasiness; they playfully chatted with ease. It was immediately evident that five months of preparation for the stage was not in vain.

Zoya talked about her impressions. “In the first round it was frightening, because you are trying to get used to the stage and trying just to feel normal. I was really nervous the first time in the Kremlin. It got to the point that the last refrain I had to sing through five times, and when I went on I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t forget.”

When asked about her future plans she firmly announced that she will continue with her singing. What hasn’t been decided is in which specialized school she will enroll. But it is still early; in September she will go in to the 7th grade. There is time yet to decide.

Vitaly has not yet committed. As his teachers who were with him at the meeting noted, this is because he has two major interests – singing and soccer. So meanwhile he is trying to decide which is the more important.

The fact that the kids did not like their time in the famous camp “Artek” surprised Sergei Davydov. “We thought that we would have time there to relax. Nonetheless we were tired. All the more so because we were far from home, and you were busy all day long,” commented Vitaly.

Davidov and Fedotov gave the kids cell phones and big stuffed teddy bears, one more of which will go to Zoya’s sister, Anna, who did not make it to the second round.

In the Oval Office

A lot of people were gathered on the 8th floor of the government building – journalists, press-corps people. Why? Because the Minister of Culture Elena Mikhailova and the Governor Natalya Zhdanova were on hand.

It started with a letter expressing gratitude to Zoya and Vitaly, as well as to the Director of the Center “Edinstvo” Natalya Skliarova, as well as to the voice teacher Ekaterina Fyodorova. After this Natalya Zhdanova suggested they simply have a conversation.

Ekaterina Fyodorova related how the decision to participate in the competition came about so quickly. “When we saw what the competition was, we understood that this is something quite new. This is a television show that will be seen by all of Russia, as well as the countries of the former USSR. We immediately got excited. We grabbed the materials that we had, the songs that the kids already knew, plus a few new things, and we rehearsed for literally one day. When we connected with the voice teacher from the project by video-conference, she said she really liked everything.”

To the question how did the kids come to their singing talent, she said that it was the result of a lot of long, hard work. Zoya had a clear ringing voice, but she didn’t have a good musical ear, so they had to work at that level with her. With Vitaly it was the exact opposite.

The Director of the Center, Natalya Skliarova, admitted that at the beginning she was really afraid for the children. The reason? Envy on the part of the other kids. But her fears were not justified. “When Zoya went and came back the first time I was frightened. Because kids, and especially kids in our category, often are very envious. And envy is not a positive feeling. Fortunately I did not sense any of that. They received her very positively. Moreover, at the time of the broadcast in the dormitory you could hear a pin drop, as all of the kids were watching and cheering for our performers. Vitaly as a boy thinks that it is not very popular for boys to take up singing. I would want that he understands that singing is not just for women.”

After some prolonged but very pleasant words by the Governor about how good it is to bring recognition to one’s region, Zhdanova asked directly; how can the powers-that-be help the Center? They answered very simply – finances and technology.

Despite the fact that the staff at the center does have some technological base, they never take it with them to rehearsal. This is simply because technology is expensive and they protect it. So the staff asked for help in purchasing speaker stands, a notebook, and a mixing board. One of them commented, “it may seem trivial but a single cord costs 1500 rubles; we have speakers but no stands, they cost 2,000 rubles apiece; an elementary notebook just to turn something on… it is expensive.”

And of course the Center cannot always send kids to such competitions for the same reason, lack of funds.

Both Elena Mikhailova and the Governor promised to bring up the question of support to the Center to budget control. The head of the Ministry of Culture thanked the leadership of “Edinstvo” for the fact that these people in a difficult financial situation are bringing such notoriety to the whole region.

At the end Zoya commented, “We have to work really hard so that our children’s home becomes well known.” To get to the finals of a major TV project, to undergo almost a half a year of exhausting work and to place so well; these Trans-Baikal children have something to show.

This article originally appeared on in Russian. Translation by Chuck Ritchie.

Link to four performances by Zoya, Vitaly and Nastya Yerofeeva (17) also from the Center who entered the next round of “You Are Super” focussing on dance: Zoya, Vitaly and Nastya

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