Artek: my socialist childhood dream
Artek since my school time and Russian lessons was for me a place very close to heaven. The place you will be only able to reach if you lived a good life: behaving well to teachers, having good marks, being a good socialist boy, always helping mama, standing up for older people in the tram, being a friend with the Russians soldiers. And because there was no heaven in a socialist world, Artek was the highest point you could ever reach as a boy like me.
But even though I gave my best, I could never sit with our socialist brothers from Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba and of course our East Germany at the campfire in the Crimean Young Pioneer camp Artek and singing songs together. So we had to go there now, when being a bit older.
The pioneer camp Artek was founded in 1925 and put in the middle of a stunning landscape of Crimea: ten kilometres beach, between the Bear Mountain on the one and rocky cliffs on the other side. Because the climate is so mild, the camp was soon opened all year long. Khrushchev in the sixties enlarged the camp to a little well planned city with parks, stadiums, schools, medical centres, a film studio, and huge monuments to pray to in the mornings. So up to 27,000 well selected pioneers from came to the socialist heaven every year. And if you were lucky you could have even meet here gods like Castro, Ho Che Min, Juri Gagarin or Indira Ghandi.
But after Gorbachev – who’s summer house not so far away from the camp – wrote the new bible “Glasnot and Perestroika” and the USSR fell apart, the Crimean peninsula together with Artek suddenly (and luckily!!) fell into the hands of the newly independent Ukraine.
Artek is still a place to go. But with new bibles also the rules change, how to get into kids’ heaven. The doors to the camp are opening nowadays either for winner or losers of the new system: Either your parents have up to $2.000 to pay for their gold piece’s summer holidays or – which is the more probable way to get in – they have nothing. In this case Ukraine is helping their kids and pays for the stay.
But Ukrainian state is giving less and less money, so the prestigious place was nearly closed because in 2008 and 2009 the administration couldn’t pay the bills anymore. Then it was rattled in 2009 by a scandal about kid’s abuse, which finally couldn’t be proved by court. Because of the scandal and because we are neither rich nor poor, no kids it was – understandably – not so easy to get in, but – as you can see – possible, even without asking anybody.
However, Artek is still a beautiful place, with a newly renovated buildings on the waterfront, collapsing monuments here and there, a lot of old buildings, which seemed to be forgotten or not needed over the years. And everything is wrapped into an amazing green, which would take over everything if people wouldn’t fight for their buildings.
So it’s less heroic, less pathetic, less planned, but with a calm, sweet and different charm. Kids are still walking around in uniforms, but somehow relaxed, chatting, walking hand in hand, talking by mobile with mama. The group leaders are just a bit older and the look like you could meet them on any other workshop. Maybe it was always like this, there was always just boys and girls there, like you and me. Maybe they even haven’t been as good pioneers like we tried to be?