Newsletter 29

News from the Moscow Bilingual School

Another School year – the fifteenth since we opened – ended on 31 May. The pupils had returned on January 15, and had to contend with a shorter than usual May break. Usually this lasts from May Day to Victory Day (May 9), but for inscrutable governmental reasons the holiday was severely truncated this year.

This has not been an easy year and we are monitoring carefully our relationship with School 65. They have been generally very supportive, but we are anxious that they do not take over the functions hitherto exercised by mbdsa and the Moscow Centre for Deaf Studies.

Our Year 7 has had a new subject on its curriculum this year – chemistry, taught by Alla Varlamova. Their class teacher Lena Silianova, whose work for the Usher forum means she has had to stop teaching mathematics, reports that all are coping well, including the only girl, Arina, who, as reported in Newsletter 27/8, joined the School this year and has had to do a good deal of catching up. Sasha Firsov has done particularly well this year. He reads a great deal, especially fantasy literature and has won a gold medal from Japan for one of his pictures. Pasha is the best at Russian language, but the natural leader of the class is undoubtedly Dima.

He, like all the others, is an enthusiastic sportsman. Both he and Andrei won prizes for swimming this year. Alen continues with his orienteering and hopes to take part in a competition in Finland this summer. He also came second in an interschool chess tournament without having done any training for the event. Vania Ivanov, a passionate supporter of Moscow Spartak, plays goal for the school team, while Sasha Firsov favours basketball.

We also contribute RSL classes to Year 6 and, for the first time this year, Year 11. Negotiations are continuing with School 65 to reopen the Year 1 Bilingual class. Anna Komarova reports that one of our former kindergarten pupils, Vania Fatayo, is in Year 4, where a Bilingual programme has been started. One of Galina Zaitseva’s former pupils, Elena Fedorova, who is hard-of-hearing, is working with this class on bilingual principles.

Year 7 with their class teacher Lena Silianova (left), their RSL teacher Tania Davidenko and their geography teacher Andrei Goroshkov. All 3 teachers are deaf. All the children bar one are deaf, from deaf families.

Irina Tsukerman

Irina, who taught physics at the School for four years, has not been at all well recently, following a stroke. We wish her a speedy recovery. Mbdsa has made a small grant towards her health care. You can read Irina’s story in Life or Hearing and Arzamas-16, both available via our website.

An American helper

The School was delighted to welcome as a classroom assistant Elizabeth Zane, from the United States, who taught English and American Sign Language. Elizabeth was the latest visitor of a long line of visitors to the School since we opened in 1992. Their help is invaluable and much appreciated. Elizabeth created a blog for the School which you can see at and which contains photos of several of our pupils.


Our financial year ended on 31 May, and a full statement is now available. Membership numbers have held steady – we were pleased to welcome another US member recently. Thanks as always are due to our sponsors, and to those who make regular donations, as well as those who help with the website and with conveying materials to and from Russia, in the absence of an adequate postal service. Action for Russian Children, based in Moscow, also helped to fund Tania Davidenko’s salary.

Money raised by mbdsa contributes to the funding of two posts, those of Tania Davidenko, who teaches and researches RSL, and of Irina (‘Irochka’) Ignatova who helps with administration. (Irina’s work as a teacher of IT is covered by School 65). Other teachers in the Bilingual programme - Andrei Goroshkov, Alla Varlamova and the speech therapist Liudmila Zaitseva – are paid for by School 65. All have worked in the Bilingual programme since 1992.As reported in Newsletter 27/28, we were able to contribute substantially to the refurbishment of the Centre for Deaf Studies, which is based in School 65. Much work remains to be done, and a start will be made on this during the summer.

We have, in addition, been able to subsidise trips for the School and to contribute to their New Year party. One such trip took place in February when the School visited the Moscow museum devoted to the great nineteenth-century dramatist Alexander Ostrovsky. Also in February the School marked St Valentine’s Day, something which never happened in Soviet times. Mbdsa money has also gone towards videotapes, CDs and DVDs which are an essential part of working with deaf students. Chevron Oil, who have been stalwart supporters of the School, donated a videocamera for the School’s use.

Year 8 with their Deaf teachers Tonia Shikhova and Lena Grebneva (who was one of our first intake in 1992). On the wall is a chart of the Russian fingerspelling alphabet.

Our website and its publications page

We have made some changes to our website ( Our publications page now lists those items which we source in UK. We do, of course, from time to time, receive RSL-related items from Russia, but not in sufficient quantities to justify advertising them on our web page. Instead we will advertise them in the Newsletter and sell them on a first come, first served basis. This month we can offer the following:

  • Slovar’ leksiki russkogo iazyk

(a dictionary of over 100 signs exclusive to RSL i.e. not found in Signed Russian). 3 available in VHS video format, 1 in DVD format. Member’s price 25 GBP or equivalent. Non-members 30 GBP.

  • G.L. Zaitseva: Daktilologiia; zhestovaia rech’

‘Fingerspelling and Sign Language’; in Russian, but contains 208 RSL signs for which English translations are provided). Members’ price 13 GBP or equivalent. Non-members’ price 15 GBP or equivalent. 1 available

  • I.F. Geil’man: Druzhestvennye iazyki

‘Friendly languages’ – a phrasebook of RSL with meanings in Russian, English and French. Members’ price 5 GBP or equivalent. Non-members price 7 GBP or equivalent. 1 available.

  • Mezhdunarodnaia konferentsiia perevodchikov zhestovogo iazyka

Proceedings – in Russian – of interpreters’ conference held in Moscow in 2005. 7 contributions). Members’ price 5 GBP or equivalent. Non-members’ price 7 GBP or equivalent. I available.

Newsletter 30

We hope to publish Newsletter 30 in December and to update members on the situation with School 65. Meetings with the headteacher are taking place as we go to press.

Please send in any copy by 1 December. Don’t forget you can read many past Newsletters on our website


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