Trustees, Patrons and Consultants

Maria Gavrilova

Russian, brought up in Estonia, in UK since 1990. Background in Russian Philology (Tartu University of Estonia) and Applied Linguistics MA (Birkbeck, London). From 2000, founder of AZBUKA, London’s first Ofsted registered Russian Nursery, Saturday School and Russian Cultural Centre for children. After a 2-year debate with Department for Education (DfES) AZBUKA Nursery became the first “language immersion” pre-schools to be working within the English legislation for pre-school education. Founder and head teacher of the UK’s first independent primary school running a Russian-English bilingual curriculum (2015). Parent of 2 bilingually educated children. Enthusiast and supporter of bilingual education for all children. Firm believer in the not-for-profit philosophy in education and arts. Founding member and chairman of AZBUKA Foundation (UK registered charity).

Svetlana Malinina (Rifaat)

Russian born, raised and educated in Moscow. Background: principle dancer of the famous Moiseev Dance Company and Riverdance. Dancer and choreographer for various UK based productions and theatre companies. Since 2002 teacher and then Deputy Head at AZBUKA Russian School in London, working on school development and writing and directing nine AZBUKA school theatre productions. Svetlana supports the ethos behind bilingual education and is a firm believer in promoting Russian culture and heritage. She lives in London and is a parent of two bilingually raised children.

Charmian Kenner

Dr Charmian Kenner is Reader in Educational Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on children’s bilingual development in home and community contexts, and how bilingual learning can be encouraged in schools. She has directed research projects on early biliteracy, intergenerational learning between young children and grandparents, and bilingual learning through partnerships between primary teachers and community language teachers. Her books include Home Pages: Literacy Links for Bilingual Children (Trentham, 2000), Becoming Biliterate: Young Children Learning Different Writing Systems (Trentham, 2004) and others. Parent of a bilingual and biliterate son. Great supporter of bilingualism in mainstream schools.

Andrew Jack

Andrew Jack is a journalist and Global Education Editor with the Financial Times, and was based in Moscow in 1998-2004. He is co-chairman of Pushkin House (, a London based cultural charity (Russian Cultural Centre), and has previously served as a trustee of two other charities: one promoting philanthropy in emerging markets, and the other providing social services to low income families in London. He is the parent of trilingually educated child and a loyal parent of AZBUKA School. Trustee of the AZBUKA Foundation.

Dr Vally Lytra

Dr Vally Lytra is Reader in Languages in Education at the Department of Educational Studies, at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research, practice and community engagement bring together socio-cultural approaches to multilingualism, inclusive language pedagogies and family language policy. She has a long-standing interest in community languages and bilingual education. She co-founded and is president of the managing committee of a school for children and adult learners of Greek in Lausanne ( Her latest co-edited book ‘Liberating Language Education’ will be published in February 2022. She is the proud mum of two multilingual children.

Count Nikolai Dmitrievich Tolstoy-Miloslavsky

is a Russo-British historian and author who writes under the name Nikolai Tolstoy.
Born in England in 1935, Tolstoy is of part Russian descent and  a member of the noble Tolstoy family. On his upbringing he has written:

Like thousands of Russians in the present century, I was born and brought up in another country and was only able to enter the land of my ancestors as a visitor in later years. It was nevertheless a very Russian upbringing, one which impressed on me the unusual nature of my inheritance. I was baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church and I worshipped in it. I prayed at night the familiar words Oche Nash, attended parties where little Russian boys and girls spoke a mixture of languages, and felt myself by manner and temperament to be different than my English friends. I think I was the most affected by those melancholy and evocative Russian homes where my elders, for the most part people of great charm and eccentricity, lived surrounded by the relics – ikons, Easter eggs, portraits of Tsar and Tsaritsa, family photographs, and émigré newspapers – of that mysterious, far-off land of wolves, boyars, and snow-forests of Ivan Bilibin’s famous illustrations to Russian fairy-tales. Somewhere there was a real Russian land to which we all belonged, but it was shut away over distant seas and space of years.[1][2]

Tolstoy holds dual British and Russian citizenship. He was educated at Wellington College, Sandhurst, and Trinity College Dublin.
Patron and friend of the AZBUKA Foundation

Greg Hands MP (Chelsea and Fulham)
Greg Hands is a British politician who has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelsea and Fulham since 2010, having previously served as the MP for Hammersmith and Fulham from 2005 to 2010. Hands is currently Minister of State for Trade Policy.
Greg speaks several European languages and a big supporter of bilingual education.

“Becoming a patron at Azbuka was an easy and logical step for me, given I have family connections with Russia, that I am a nearby MP, and I have a longstanding belief in the merits of bilingual education. I have known Azbuka for more than 10 years now, and sent my daughter to their pre-school at that time. I look forward to helping Azbuka in the future as a patron.”

Irina Khabibulina
Irina is an international professional with over 13 years of commercial and operational experience, and expertise in Business Development and Management. She has an MBA degree at IE Business School (Madrid), speaks Russian (mother tongue), English, French and Italian languages and strongly believes in value and importance of cultural exchange and learning. Irina is passionate about making a positive social impact and actively applies her business skills in her Azbuka Trustee role.
Jason Manning

English, geologist, parent of 2 Russian-English speaking daughters and a long term supporter of Russian-English bilingual education in London and AZBUKA. Since the birth of his daughters he has been converted into “bilingual education” philosophy and practice. He has also learnt Russian and uses it in his work, home and abroad. Founding member of AZBUKA Foundation.

Peter Reznikov

Born in Russia. Background in Russian studies, linguistics, simultaneous interpreting. Head of Russian at Eton College for the past 15 years. He has done a lot for promoting Russian language At Eton.
Parent of bilingually educated children. Director of Educational consultancy PRINCE.

Andrey Usachev

Russian chidlren’s writer, poet, script writer. Andrey Usachev was born in 1958 in Moscow. Since 1985 he has published more than 150 books for children. He is one of the most famous and best loved contemporary Russian writers for children. Andrei Usachev is a member of the Writers’ Union of Russia. His works have been translated into many languages. He visited AZBUKA School in 2011 and became a patron of AZBUKA Foundation.

Taissia Chinina-Kelly

Background in Linguistics and Japanese studies + MBA (Nottingham University). Born in Novosibirsk Akademgorodok, Russia. Now lives and works in London with her husband and 2 bilingually educated sons. Event organiser, friend of Pushkin house, supporter of Russian culture and heritage. Both through her work and voluntary activities Taissia has gained an extensive experience of producing large scale conferences and other events, including cultural and educational projects related to Russia.

Marc Wolstencroft

Marc Wolstencroft is retired Headteacher (and consultant) of Wix Primary school which has established a French-English “Two-way immersion” bilingual stream, where the curriculum is taught for half the week in English and the other half in French. This work has been supported by the Lycée Charles de Gaulle, French cultural embassy and Wandsworth Council. Wix Primary, which was in difficulty when Marc joined in 2004, now achieves high academic results, a national and international profile and a long waiting list.Marc’s career started in the oil industry, followed by a PGCE (IoE) and teaching science in secondary schools. He later moved on to training, advising and inspecting in a LEA. He has worked for most of his career in multicultural London primary and secondary schools and is therefore no stranger to the challenges of inner city schools.The bilingual model Marc has pioneered works for any combination of languages, as demonstrated by his work with groups who are planning to or have established bilingual schools in English- French, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese and German. He was recently made a “Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques”, a formal recognition by the French authorities of the work that has gone into creating a bilingual school and supporting bilingualism.