Children of the War

The drive for the collective propagated the Soviet image during World War II. In his article “Between Salvation and Liquidation,” Furst notes that images of crying, bedraggled children could be found between posters of heroic soldiers and dutiful citizens. The presence of street children and orphans was not to be blamed solely on their parents; the Soviet Union, as a collective, was at fault. Therefore, it was the duty of the Motherland as whole to find a solution. Thousands of prospective foster-parents flocked to orphanages, eager to play their part in vanquishing Germany. But were the children really better off with unqualified, duty-bound parents? There is no doubt that the vast majority was physically better off in their new homes; begging is not a consistent food source. However, most of these children carried psychological scars unimaginable to those untouched by war. They deserved a second chance, a fresh start with loving parents who could care for them unconditionally. Clearly, by the number of reports of both runaways and foster-children with “nervousness,” their psychological states were not being well looked after. So did families feel obligated to adopt children? Did they reluctantly take in little girls and boys into homes where they played second fiddle to biological children? Did the Soviet state’s efforts to encourage adoption help or hurt the waifs and orphans?

Lost Children in Post War Europe

In Lost Children : Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II, Tara Zahra explains the changes in attitudes towards the rehabilitation of children in Europe after the two major world wars. Millions of children were displaced as a result of the Armenian Genocide, World War I, and the Mexican Revolution, and World War II. In order to combat the mass orphanage, organizations such as the ARA (American Relief Association) and the IRO (International Refugee Organization) were created to feed, house, psychologically rehabilitate, and provide welfare to the displaced, wandering new “wolf children” of Europe. (4)

The welfare systems that were implemented to save children in Lost Children: Recontructing Europe’s Families after World War II revolved around psychological rehabilitation. According to Zahra, the social workers worked in the “best interest of the child, rather than any particular agenda”. (17) There is a stark contrast between the European post war welfare system than the one in an industrializing Russia, which was described by Hoffman as “a set of reciprocal obligations between the state and its citizens, rather than as a means to protect the dignity of the individuals”. (Hoffman, 19)

While programs such as the ARA and the IRO sought to bring stability to the individual emotionally and provide them with proper homes to rebuild European family life, the Russian welfare system was to serve as a catalyst for industrialization to catapult the nation into a modern era.