Like many first ladies, Michelle Obama spends a lot of her time in public with children. Her visit Moscow was no different. Mrs. Obama visited the St. Dmitriy Orphanage, meeting with about two dozen children. The children range in age from four to 16, some are true orphans, some disabled, others come from so called “vulnerable families” – those with more than four to five children, who simply need help.
Several of the children performed for Mrs. Obama – some sang, others played piano. They presented her with handmade gifts, including a large geometrical ball made from paper, and a large framed hand embroidered flower. The young girl who presented the flower said it had taken her two days to complete.
The children asked Mrs. Obama how many children she has. She responded, two girls, including one named Sasha. Mrs. Obama explained that Natasha is Sasha’s full name, and that it is the President’s favorite name.
“How many Sasha’s do you have here?” she asked the group. There were three in all. Mrs. Obama told the children that her daughters were spending the morning with their grandmother making dolls.
St. Dmitriy’s founder, Father Shatov Arkady, led the Mrs. Obama on her visit and said he wished she could stay forever. The First Lady choose to visit St. Dmitriy’s in part because it receives funding through USAID and the United Nations Development Program. After meeting with the children, Father Arkady took Mrs. Obama to meet with nursing students, who study in the same building.
The 20 faith-based nurses (not nuns) help St. Dmitriy’s with the orphans, and do larger outreach to help the sick in the community. Mrs. Obama spoke to the students about her own work at the University of Chicago’s Hospital before becoming first lady and the importance of volunteerism. She explained that in her new role, national service is one of her “signature projects.”
The nurses also presented Mrs. Obama with a gift – three hand-painted sets of matryoshka or “nesting” dolls. Upon request, Mrs. Obama signed a poster hanging on the wall.
Later in the afternoon, the First Lady, along with a group of the orphans, several hundred school children, and Mrs. Svetlana Medvedev, watched the Moiseyev Dance Company perform at the Stanislav and Donchenko Theater. The performance featured traditional Russian dancing and singing, with a live orchestra. First Tweens Malia and Sasha, along with GrOTUS Marianne Robinson also watched the show.
– Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller