Orphanage for “Morally Defective” Girls of the First Stage

Address: Prodol’nii Lane 3 (Gorbatyi Lane 6), former Crown Princess Maria Shelter

The Crown Princess Maria Shelter. Photo: PastVu

The Crown Princess Maria Shelter. Photo: PastVu

Natalia the Foster Child

Before October 1917, there was a shelter for young girls on Prodol’nii Lane that was repurposed as an orphanage for “morally defective young girls." The literary scholar Nina Pavlovna Mikhalskaya (1925-2009), who grew up in a neighboring courtyard, recalls this orphanage in her detailed memoir “The River Flows.” Nina Pavlovna’s house consisted mostly of communal apartments, and the majority of its residents were connected in one way or another to work with children--as teachers, educators at the orphanage, school librarians, and a doctor at the children’s shelter. In the courtyard of the shelter there was a pigpen where pigs were raised for the shelter’s cafeteria. According to rumors, a mineral water spring was found near the pigpen at some point. They set up a drill and began producing bottles of “Moscow Mineral Water” on a mass scale. Shortly thereafter, they appeared in district shops, but according to Nina, locals did not drink this water.

In her memoirs, Nina also recalls her mother, who bore many children, and former mentor at the shelter, Natalia, who did not rush to send her daughters to kindergarten or day care after so many years at the shelter. Moreover, Nina Pavlovna describes attempts to entertain the foster children at the orphanage with sweets. The girls from the orphanage would let down ropes with packages through the window grating, and little Nina and her friends would put candy and gingerbread inside them.   

Courtyard on Gorbatyi Lane. The foster girls could look into the courtyard through the grilled window in the wall on the left-hand side. Photo: Mikhalskaya N. P. “The River Flows...” M., 2005.

Courtyard on Gorbatyi Lane. The foster girls could look into the courtyard through the grilled window in the wall on the left-hand side. Photo: Mikhalskaya N. P. “The River Flows...” M., 2005.

In the 1930s, there were also classrooms here for deaf and mute children from the Second Auxiliary Institute (All Moscow, 1936).

In 1941 the division headquarters of the Krasnopresnenskii district was located in this very building. This division “included about 1,000 students, research fellows, and teachers from MGU. Besides them, there were workers and employees from the Trekhgornyi Manufacturing Works and from the ‘Memory of the 1905 Revolution’ Factory, workers from the Moscow Conservatory, and members of the Union of Writers. Among the latter were Aleksandr Bek, Viktor Rozov, and the poets Pavel Zheleznov and Sergei Ostrovoi” (Moscow Journal).  

Daria Durneva, Anna Margolis