Karla-Maria Schälike – Germany and Kyrgyzstan

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

When the Children’s Center “Nadjeschda” (hope) began to work with abandoned children in 1989, hardly anyone in Kyrgyzstan knew what future these children would face. In the village where the children were to be cared for, feelings of fear, hate, and aggression arose. It was difficult to find people to help. However, it eventually became possible to improve the health of these children and help them become part of society. The Kyrgyz public was made aware that these children are human beings who can be helped. A journalist dubbed the Children’s Center Nadjeschda “Island of Brotherly Love” … (1000peacewomen 1/2).

She says: “These disabled, rejected, so-called ineducable children show us adults what we so often forget in our daily struggle: without love between people our lives would be cold and barren” … (1000peacewomen).



Karla-Maria Schälike – Germany and Kyrgyzstan

She works for the Children’s Center Nadjeschda (see more next paragraphe).

… After this meeting and visit, Bermet took us to the “Children’s Rehabilitation Center‘s Umut-Nadjeshda”: If parents in Kyrgyzstan are confronted with the birth of a disabled child a heavy fate is in front of them. These children find themselves isolated from the community and a few people are interested in their fate. Many disabled children are admitted as retarded and all kindergartens or schools close their doors to them. It was Karla-Maria Schälike, living in Kyrgyzstan, but a native German woman, started this Centre where mental and physically disabled children with help of adults, sign, draw, study, work and have fun as all children in the world do. The Nadjeshda Children’s Center is a home for 60 children and teenagers, aged between 2 and 21 years. They are regarded as “worthless, discarded children”. They work with these children using therapeutic pedagogical methods, including elements of the Waldorf pedagogy and that of Janusz Korczak. The result is that with time around half of the “uneducable” are able to move into the state institutions … (full text).

… Sichtlich berührt stellte Karima Hartmann die Friedensfrau Karla-Maria Schälike vor und befragte sie zu „Nadjeschda“ („Hoffnung“), einem Zentrum für ausgesetzte behinderte Kinder, das Schälike 1989 nach dem Tod ihres Sohnes in Kirgisien gegründet hat. Offen berichtete sie von den Schikanen und Einschüchterungsversuchen der örtlichen Behörden, die das Projekt jahrelang begleitet haben – aber auch von dem Stolz und der Freude, die es ihr bereitet, „ihre“ Kinder dort aufwachsen zu sehen … (full text).

(1000peacewomen 2/2): … “In the Children’s Center Nadjeschda I experience daily how the buds of my vision for a loving future shared by children and adults living together blossom, in the Children’s Center Nadjeschda I experience daily how the buds of my vision for a loving future shared by children and adults living together blossom,” says Karla-Maria Schälike. This is her account of how this center came about: In 1977, I was awarded a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to attend the Pushkin Institute in Moscow.

In Moscow I met my husband, who was working there on his doctorate in theoretical physics. Since he was not willing to emigrate to West Germany, I decided to accompany him to his home country, Kyrgyzstan. As a citizen of a capitalistic and enemy country, I was treated accordingly by the KGB, as was my husband: No work, a life of constant surveillance and threat.

I was not able to get to know the country of Kyrgyzstan, since I was not permitted to leave the city of Frunse (Bishkek). Intense loneliness and hopelessness characterized the beginning of my life in Kyrgyzstan. In 1980 I became a teacher at the University in Frunse (Bishkek). This work continued until 1990 (with pauses for pregnancies in 1983, 1985 and 1987).

It was purely by chance, in 1982, that I had my first contact with neglected children in our neighborhood and with the helpless officials responsible for them. From then on, beginning on a private basis in our apartment, I began to work with these children individually and in little groups.

The hopelessness of their lives touched me so deeply, that even today my eyes fill with tears when I think about it. There are still many children in Kyrgyzstan, who even today are desperate and live in poverty, but the brutal stamp of rejection, which was officially put on them daily by the socialistic system, has fallen away. Within the framework of this private group work, I also became aware of the great need and helplessness of many mothers.

In 1989, as a part of the Soviet Children’s Foundation, I opened a Counseling Center for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood. Together with 28 helpers, we tried to help children and mothers, and anyone else, who came to us for advice and help.

When our son Gert-Michael died, I was overwhelmed by such terrible inner pain and such deep despair, that I cannot find the words to describe it. Then I remembered a little disabled boy, who was born next to Gert-Michael. The doctora tried to force his mother to sign a document, making her give up this tiny baby
because he was disabled.

In the meantime I had found out where these rejected, disabled children were brought. Even worse is the fact that many mothers gave these newborn, disabled children into the hands of the state of their own accord.

From that point on, it all went very quickly. At first my husband and I kept on adopting babies, who had been given away because they were ill. I was able to nurse them myself for a number of years. In our apartment I began to take care of little groups of neglected or homeless children.

I recognized the deep pain and sense of loss of these little beings and applied repeatedly to the appropriate ministry for permission to open a children’s center. However, since I might “infect” some of the children because of my capitalistic background, my request was always refused.

When Perestroika arrived, the previously capitalistic and dangerous Karla-Maria suddenly became just a normal member of the Soviet Children’s Protection League in the eyes of the Soviet authorities, and I was finally able to turn my great hope into reality.

I was able to open the Center Nadjeshda (which means hope) for abandoned children. They had no place in the hearts of their fellow people and therefore no place in their families, kindergartens or schools. With this center I had the gigantic hope of opening the hearts of other people to these children, and so I named it simply “Hope,” which is “Nadjeschda” in Russian and “Ümüt” in Kyrgyz.

In order to fight for the rights of abandoned children as a foreigner in the Soviet Union, I needed the support of internationally recognized organizations and individuals. That is why I contacted the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as well as the famous Kyrgyz author, Tshingis Aitmatov.

Since 1991 the Children’s Center Nadjeschda has been a member of the Associated Schools of Unesco. Tshingis Aitmatov is Honorary Chairman of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center Nadjeschda. I was also elected to the board of the Kyrgyz Children’s Protection League, through which I have been able to make many new and useful contacts for my work.

Along with the collapse of the Soviet Union, came the breakdown of all the aid for children. The building which had been renovated for disabled children was taken away from them by state officials, since such children were considered uneducable and therefore not entitled to use a state building for such a purpose.

Many of the 28 helpers left for countries with more promising economies: Russia, the USA, and Germany. Desperate mothers gave their children to the state institutions, where they vegetated, half-starved, half-frozen and dirty, or died.

Nadjeshda came to life again, in private homes, rented rooms and with almost no financial support from outside. For years it was a desperate battle for the sake of all these children, whom we did not want to give up. Unfortunately it was also a fight not only for the children, but also against an antagonistic outside world in Kyrgyzstan, which did not want to understand these children.

Only through the help and understanding of many people in Europe was it possible to help people in Kyrgyzstan to begin to understand that these children must not be rejected, and that with love, they can be helped. These disabled, outcast, so-called uneducable children, with incredible patience, show us adults what we so often forget in our daily struggle: that without love between people, our lives would be ice cold and barren.

Now Nadjeshda’s ray of hope shines far over the snow-topped mountains of Kyrgyzstan and reflects back to us out of the hearts of many good people in far-off Europe. For this we are eternally grateful. (1000peacewomen).


Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek), a report by Theo Cappon;

HfH-Studienreise nach Kirgisien in Zentralasien;

Freunde Waldorf Kirgisien;

Das Goetheanum: Wochenschrift für Anthroposophie, Page 320;

Spender-Rundbrief 2007.

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