Imagine that your family is always drinking, and so you run away and start spending your days in basements rather than staying at home. You wake up in the morning and are absolutely starving but there is nothing to eat. You have to wait till midday when the Love’s Bridge center opens. Afterwards you go stealing and begging at the market. You make just enough money to by glue first and foremost, then if there is any left you get something else to eat. Then it’s back to the basement to sniff glue and wait for the night to pass. There’s nothing to do. In the morning you wake up and it’s the same old story…

I was 11 years old when I started living on the streets of Perm. I was sent to an orphanage after my alcoholic mother was sent to prison, and I started running away regularly. On the streets I lived in basements and slept on pipes in the sewers, and I sniffed glue and when I got a bit older I started injecting too.

I started living at the Love’s Bridge shelter. Of course life there was full of ups and downs – I ran away sometimes, but I always knew that I was being waited for in the shelter and they always took me back. I even managed to complete some of my education. My favorite memories were trips to the countryside in the Perm region and we were even taken on a trip to Ireland, it was fantastic.

The day I gave birth to my son was the best day in my life! During the birth of course I cursed the whole thing but it was worth it in the end. I was in tears when I saw my son for the first time. I was so happy – I just don’t have the words to explain it.

I love my boyfriend very much. He is away from home working and he phones me every day, wondering how I am, what i’m doing, how my health is… I love him because he takes care of me. He was brought up in an orphanage too. He knows all about my childhood on the streets and doesn’t judge me because of my past.

You could ask me about sniffing glue and injecting drugs – how did I give it all up and start afresh? Because of my son! When I was younger I wouldn’t have even thought about it doing any harm to my baby. I would like other kids to give it up too. Everyone needs to play their part in stopping children from ending up on the streets. We should all make sure that children are living in safe and clean conditions. Everyone can do something to help.

I think everyone wants to be treated with respect. The way people turn out in life depends on how they are treated – treat a person badly and they won’t know how to treat other people in turn. I can even give and example from my own life: In the past I used to cheat people and lie a lot. Then I realized that nothing good came from the cheating and lies. I realized that people stopped trusting me when they found out I had cheated them or lied. I realized that people changed the way that they even spoke to me and I didn’t like it at all. So I have found out about respect through my own experience. I want people to treat me with respect and believe in me.