Maria and Masha

Maria and  Masha


Maria Govyazina, 26, is a Holland-educated revenue manager at the Ararat Park Hyatt Hotel Moscow. She spends her free time going to the theater and teaches marketing in English. 

Masha, 8, just coincidentally happens to have the same name as her Big Sister, likes talking walks, playing house and going roller skating. Masha also really likes to give her caretaker a helping hand and clean up.

When the two first met, it was obvious that there relationship wouldn't be easy: both were very tenacious, strong in character and would stick to their guns to the very end. It remained to be seen whether principle or the willingness to make compromisses for the sake of their relationship would come out on top.

Masha immediately began to act as if her having a volunteer Big Sister was nothing more than an extra bonus that she could easily get along without, but whom she could brag about to the other kids at the orphanage. It irritated Masha whenever Maria tried to develop their friendship. She would keep a safe distance rather than let Maria get close to her.

Only a short time passed when their friendship saw some positive changes, with Masha beginning to open up more instead of being so distant. Here is what Maria wrote about her Little Sister six months after they met:

The main accomplishment I see is how I stopped falling for things when she would egg me on. If she would say, “I don’t want to play,” then I wouldn’t try to convince her otherwise and just go and play with the other girls. She without fail would then come join us, and even once she apologized for being so uncooperative. I think she realizes that I know about all of her attempts to manipulate me. As soon as she realizes that being so recalcitrant will get her less than if she behaves well, then she will choose the latter.

There were a few times when she stopped being so stubborn and turned into a sweet little girl who smiles and enjoyed doing something together with me. One example, although not very upbeat, comes from when, during a tea party, she burned her hand, be it not very badly, but it still hurt. At this point, of course, self-control was out of the question and she asked for my help and let me hug her. She then began talking about how they would suddenly start scolding her and about how could she now be on duty in the cafeteria. Something new comes up each time and things become curiouser and curiouser.

Doing a little can make a big difference in a young person’s life.


Anna Bernikova Administrator, Rehabilitation and Correctional Education Center, Federal Institute for Educational DevelopmentAnna Bernikova