MOSCOW, July 29 (RIA Novosti) – A hundred of Syrian children from Damask’s Orthodox shelters and boarding schools arrived Tuesday in Russia for a two-week vacation at a recreation camp near Moscow, an accompanying Syrian official told RIA Novosti.
“This trip to Russia is a great treat for our kids. We hope this experience will take their mind off the tragedy that befell them and help build up energy ahead of the next school year,” said Angela Ganim, an official at the Syrian department for Martyrs’ Sons Boarding Schools, said in an exclusive interview.
There are currently two such schools in Syrian capital Damascus, both are government-funded as they host children whose fathers died while serving with the Syrian Army. Other children come from an Orthodox shelter in St. Techla convent in the village of Maaloula, a Christian shrine that was invaded last December by Islamist insurgents.
Angela Ganim said she was surprised to see a delegation of Russian high-flyers upon the children’s’ arrival at Moscow airport.
“When we came to Moscow we were amazed at the high level of the reception. At the airport, we were greeted by the Syrian ambassador and his spouse, as well as by a representative of the Andrei Pervozvanny Fund, the chief of the Russian Railways company and other Russian senior officials,” she told RIA Novosti.
The children are expected to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, have a sightseeing tour around Moscow, take part in fun recreational events and do sports.
The ongoing war in Syria has killed over 100,000 people and forced nearly half the population to flee. Some 1,600 schools and more than half of all hospitals have been torn down or severely damaged in the three years of conflict.
The number of Syrian children living in poverty meanwhile reached 6.6 million in June 2014, according to United Nations children’s fund UNICEF.
Russia has assisted Syria in the past. In 2013, its emergency ministry sent 200 tons of humanitarian aid to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In return, Syrian authorities decided to introduce the Russian language into schools starting in the school year of 2014/15.