“Two-thirds of our funding was from USAID,” Vartapetova said. “And now, the quality of care in many parts of Russia is the same as in the U.S. It was a real partnership between Russians and Americans, which is why it was so successful.”
Somehow, she hopes, the American partners will find ways to stay involved.
“USAID can work elsewhere,” she said. “I’ll find another job. But what happens to my daughter and her friends when they are ready to give birth? It will be a pity if we go back 50 years.”
USAID also has funded programs for the disabled. Until relatively recently, the disabled were rarely seen in Russia, often housed in institutions or confined at home. The typical elevator was too narrow for a wheelchair. “You didn’t even see ramps at organizations for the disabled,” said Denise Roza, director of Perspektiva, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the disabled.
In one room, Karen Olson, a volunteer, Yekaterina Vygovskaya, a 34-year-old with cerebral palsy and Nikolai Khludov, a blind 32-year-old, are running through the details of a night of theater. Young people with disabilities, among them a 15-year-old with Down’s syndrome and another with a hearing impairment, have written plays that will be performed by professional actors.
In the next room, Misha Novikov, in a wheelchair, supervises job placement for the disabled. Inside her office, Roza juggles plans for conferences, training sessions, a film festival and a project to get disabled children into regular classrooms.
Now she has another challenge: how to pay the December rent.
The previous weekend, she had stayed up all night with her accountant, trying to figure out how to manage without USAID, which provided a third of the budget.
“It’s been so stressful,” she said, “thinking about what comes next.”
On Monday, Putin said charity from abroad was welcome, as long as it came from private citizens or private organizations and went to pensioners or people with disabilities.
He said Russia was increasing its funding for socially oriented nonprofit organizations. Former USAID recipients expect to see hardly any of that money.
It’s so depressing,” Kasatkina of Memorial said, referring to the new limitations on civil society groups that seem to be announced daily. “Sometimes when you listen to Ekho Moskvy in the morning, you feel so bad you don’t want to leave your apartment.”