CHINA / POLITICS
‘Sichuan Flavor’ in the Russian Children’s Center
Published: Jul 22, 2021 09:02 PM

In Vladivostok stands the famous All-Russian Children’s Center, known as the “Ocean.” After an earthquake hit Wenchuan county in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, the Russian government invited over 1,500 Chinese children from the affected area to Russia for recuperation. Over 900 of them stayed in the “Ocean” and forged a special bond with the Center.

The children from Sichuan, excited and nervous about what was waiting for them, flew a long way to the “Ocean” in Russia. With the grief of losing their homes and even families and friends, the children were greeted with considerate care upon their arrival at the Center: all the teachers were waiting for them with warm smiles.

The children spent three weeks in the Center. The place was nice and cozy, and they had many things to do together with the teachers: classes, rehearsals, after-school activities, chatting and playing. A child named Dong Lu recalled, “Everybody was playing all day till they got so tired that they threw themselves to the bed and fell asleep in a second. I guess they just didn’t want to leave us any time to miss home.” Sophia, a Russian teacher of the Center, said, “Although we and the Chinese children didn’t understand each other’s language and had to use body language or English plus Russian for conversation, we understood each other’s heart.” To meet the children’s appetite for spicy food, Marzoev, then head of the Center, bought 350 kilograms of chili from China and asked around to buy chili sauce from China.

On March 21, 2010, Xi Jinping, who was then China’s Vice President, visited the “Ocean” and watched the performance of the students. Xi attended the exhibition of handicrafts made by Chinese and Russian students and photos on the life of Chinese children in the Center. All of them bore witness to the deep friendship between the Chinese children and the Russian students and teachers. Xi noted that the love, kindness and warm hospitality experienced by the Chinese children in Russia is a living example of the spirit in the Chinese saying “love knows no borders.”
 
Xi Jinping watches students making handicrafts in the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean,” March 2010.

Xi Jinping watches students making handicrafts in the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean,” March 2010.


Xi Jinping watches the performance presented by the students of the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean,” March 2010.

Xi Jinping watches the performance presented by the students of the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean,” March 2010.

 
Eight years later, President Xi Jinping revisited the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean” in the company of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and met with representatives of the Chinese students from the quake-stricken area that went to the Center for recuperation and their Russian teachers. Xi Junfei, one of the Chinese children that had recuperated in the Center, shared his story with the “Ocean.” When he was at the Center, he wrote down his wish — to study in Russia one day and do something for China-Russia friendship — on a note and put it into a drift bottle. Four months later, the bottle was unexpectedly picked up by a staff member from the Center.
 
President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin visit the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean,” 2018.

President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin visit the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean,” 2018.

Xi expressed gratitude to Russia for its selfless help in China’s post-quake relief. He said, “China and Russia are good neighbors and good partners that share mountains and rivers and stand in solidarity against challenges. Our two peoples look out for each other, tide over difficulties together, and have countless touching stories to tell.” And he told the Chinese children, “As a Chinese saying goes, ‘A drop of water in need shall be returned with a burst of spring indeed.’ You are now in the ‘Ocean,’ so you should repay the Russian people and your motherland with infinite love.

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin talk with the children at the 10th anniversary of the recuperation visit to All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean” by the Chinese children from quake-stricken area of Wenchuan, 2018.

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin talk with the children at the 10th anniversary of the recuperation visit to All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean” by the Chinese children from quake-stricken area of Wenchuan, 2018.


 
China has also invited disaster-affected children from Russia and other countries to China for recuperation and exchanges. In 2010 and 2011, the Chinese government invited 1,000 Russian primary and middle school students, headed by Marzoev, to China for summer camps. Impressed by the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to the Russian children everywhere in China, Marzoev said with emotions that both Russian and Chinese people are grateful nations.
 
The Chinese Embassy in Russia holds the “Embassy Open Day” for the representatives of the Russian students that had taken part in summer camps in China, 2010.

The Chinese Embassy in Russia holds the “Embassy Open Day” for the representatives of the Russian students that had taken part in summer camps in China, 2010.

Countless people have witnessed and experienced the development of the China-Russia friendship, and more are carrying it forward. Today, Sophia, the Russian teacher in the “Ocean”, continues to tell her students how brave the Sichuan children were. Dong Lu, the Chinese student from Wenchuan, recognizing the importance of languages for connecting people, has chosen to study foreign language and teach foreign language after graduation. Marzoev, who is far in Russia, still misses the Chinese children he met in the Center. Xi Junfei, the boy in the drift bottle story, is now studying at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, with his dream come true. While the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean” has bid farewell to the children from Sichuan, there will be many more stories about the ever-lasting friendship between China and Russia for us to tell.

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