And so my research successfully started within the educational sphere. Yesterday, I was able to meet Olga Ott, the coordinator of the project of the society of Russian-speaking parents and teachers in Berlin “MITRA”. This non-profit-organization is unique in its conception and practice.

As is generally known, in Germany the problem of adaptation of immigrants is especially acute. Among the citizens, the definition of residential areas as “turkish” or “asiatic” is highly topical. There is as well a quite important Russian diaspora. The Germans scratch their headsover the correct political relationship concerning those immigrants: many of them are not willing or not able to learn the language, do not conduct legal business, and generally seek to stay away from the law and officials. Parallel societies seriously irritate the inhabitants of Berlin.

Mitra is an organization, which  helps Russian-speaking migrants to normally adapt, live and develop in Germany. The groundwork of the organization is the education of children (kindergarten and schools) in two languages: Russian and German.

“In the past”, tells Olga Ott, “parents wanted  their children to forget  Russian language as fast as possible, never spoke in Russian and only the German language and culture was known. But our conception is based on a bilingual approach. We learn Russian and German language, we don’t allow a person to forget who he/she is and where he/she is from. It is  this understanding of one’s own roots which becomes a pledge of a successful adaptation."

Mitra simultaneously serves as theory and practice of its approach. It successfully launched 9 kindergarten an 2 schools. With pupils  necessarily  work Russian- and German-speaking pedagogues. In the kindergarten, the same attention is paid on both languages, whereas in the school the focus is of course on German. The bilingual approach is in general an underdeveloped topic in the world.

“There is no university with a departement for pedagogues, who afterwards could work with bilingual children. This whole system needs to be elaborated, pedagogues and educators need to be trained and supported as well as methods have to be created“, explains Olga.

For this reason, Mitra is carrying out a lot of expert-projects on the development of methods and to advance the system of qualification for pedagogues in Europe. By the way, this subject is not only rather actively supported by Germany, but also the European Union as a whole.  One of this projects is ViaLight, in which a module for the increase of the qualification of bilingual pedagogues is developed together with the University of Plovdiv „Paisii Hilendarski“. At the same time,  practices (on the basis of  10 years working with children and teenager) and theories.

To my suprise, Mitra has no partner universities in Berlin. The technology of search and the work with partners works, for example, as follows. The organization actively takes part in various thematic measures: speakers at conferences, publisheing. By this way, they gradually find people, who have a similar line of activity and both sides get into contact with each other. Afterwards, the initiators look out for a foundation or a programm, capable of financing different types of projects. And together with their new partners, they also search for a possibility of registration. If they win a competition, there will be a project. In the further process, the results of the project will become a public resource – commonly open and free of charge.

Mitra works by a conception, which it developed on its own. This scientific approach has been as well a successfully defended dissertation. What it is interesting in this conception, is that it presupposes the immersion of the pedagogues into a foreign culture. Let’s assume that a German pedagogue begins to work with Russian children in a bilingual kindergarten. In the opinion of the Mitra experts, this pedagogue have to be familiar  with Russian culture. For this purpose, exchanges of Russian-German experiences are constantly undertaken. A German delegation is travelling to Russian cities, and afterwards Russian experts come to Germany. By the way, there was a delegation from Perm as well.

By the way,  purely for my Russian interest. Kindergarten are free! This regards to my already beloved principle of subsidiarity: the money for them is provided by the authorities, and the NGO is fulfilling the function of placing the children in the kindergarten. The control of them is rather strict as well, as it is in Russia. Nevertheless, the results of this kind of distribution of authorities is definitely successful.

This text was prepared by Elina Erenko, participant of the Youth Exchange Programme.

read more about the Youth Exchange Programme


The society of Russian-speaking parents and teachers in Berlin “MITRA” is not a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum at the moment of this publication.