Open letter. Maria Gavrilova – Founder of Azbuka Foundation.
This is my appeal to everyone who shares my dream of a Russian-English school in London, of a place where our children can grow and play, study and learn, a place that welcomes any family who values the gifts that a bilingual education brings.
For the past 15 years I have dreamt of building a real Russian-English school here, in this city where I have now spent 25 years of my life. In my city. In this great, beautiful city. Every time I used to walk past a typical English school I would picture in my mind a sign that read:
AZBUKA Russian-English Bilingual School
Dreams do come true – it’s something I’ve always firmly believed, ever since I was a child. We are not defined by our conscious mind, but it is our conscious mind, our will and our spirit that shape the world around us and the lives we lead, no matter where we live or who we live with. It gives us real freedom, creativity and happiness. It becomes our world… I wonder whether there are other people out there who share my dreams. It is, after all, only natural.
In fact, I wasn’t the only one to dream my dream. For many years I have been surrounded by people who share my vision.
Not long ago, just this autumn, our dream became a reality. It didn’t happen suddenly, overnight. It started small, a new and fragile thing, but it was a reality nonetheless. The idea began back in 2000 (many people thought it was a mad idea then), when a group of us got together to set up London’s first Russian nursery. There was just my daughter Sasha and two other children, the three of them growing up together and playing together in our little nursery.
In the 15 years that have passed since then AZBUKA has grown and gathered strength. Before long we had a waiting list for our nursery and were able to open our own Saturday school using a curriculum that we had devised ourselves for bilingual children, and we had hundreds of children and parents coming to our Russian children’s club. Over 900 families have been through our AZBUKA school in the past 15 years.
My daughter Sasha is now a young woman, happy and confident in her bilingualism and enjoying the affinity she feels to both Russian and English culture. She now works at AZBUKA, counselling others and helping to nurture the next generation of Russian-English children. Her close friend whom she first met through our Russian nursery 13 years ago also helps out.
But throughout those years I always clung to my dream, or at least I did until 2015 when I finally saw, with my own eyes, the sign that read:
AZBUKA. Russian-English Bilingual School and Nursery
People who have the good fortune to learn other languages and cultures from a young age have obvious advantages in life. They develop a certain confidence in themselves, knowing that at any place and at any time they have the ability to mix with people from all walks of life, to understand their outlook and accept them for what they are, on a practical, emotional and spiritual level. Not just today, but in the past and in the future too. Languages and cultures have always merged together, and the whole process has an inherent dynamism, it is never a static process.
This reality takes many forms in different places – in the official language policy of many governments, in the day-to-day living of ordinary people, on the street, at work, in offices, clubs and parks. That is why in these increasingly mobile times a bilingual school is no longer regarded as something unusual, it is in fact a vital part of the lives of many families in many different countries across the globe. It is what you might call a universal phenomenon that lifts the boundaries of language and culture. All other boundaries are conditional and temporary. And in terms of academic attainment, the argument for bilingual education has been proven time and again.
The fact that we have a new Russian-English school is not that surprising. More surprising is the fact that it hasn’t happened earlier.
At the heart of AZBUKA we have the benefit of experienced teachers, caring individuals, wonderful resources, great teaching practice, a wealth of talent and a collective faith in our vision, a curriculum that draws on the best of English and Russian traditions in education and bilingualism as well as an essentially non-commercial approach to education.
The AZBUKA Foundation was established in 2012. Our Board of Trustees includes both Russian and English experts, people of different nationalities, cultures and professions, united in our shared vision.
The AZBUKA is not just a bilingual school, it is much, much more. Read our website to find out more about us.
Please come along and join us. Our doors are open, to all your children, to your friends and relations… We welcome all-comers!
Founder of AZBUKA Foundation
21 October 2015