The Butterfly Ball 2016 – Photo: Andrius Maiminas
“Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are”. – Princess Diana
The article 2 of the Constitution of The International Women’s Club of Moscow says, “The purpose of the Club is to promote friendship and to further cultural activities among women of all nationalities residing in Moscow and to raise funds to be donated to charitable activities.”
The International Women’s Club of Moscow was established in 1978, when the world was different. The international community, residing in Moscow, had limited mobility by Russia and contacting to other countries in Soviet times. There were only several buildings in Moscow allocated for the diplomatic community. Local people did not have any contacts with international community apart of some departments of the Ministry of Foreign. Adaption for Russian culture and traditions took much more time for international community than now. In the basis of the club was the idea of Delmar Fall, wife of a Consul of the British Embassy, she wanted to create a club for women of all nationalities residing in USSR, to promote friendship and cultural activities. The first meeting dedicated as a cultural exchange was organized by the wife of Consul Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of India, Devika Teja. The first charter of the Club was written by the wife of a Consul of the Embassy of Liberia that had been studying law at university. That fact raised deliberate attention of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of USSR, which expressed its concerns about the danger of this association. The leaders of the club have constantly emphasized their status as an international organization, potentially not dangerous to the Soviet government, because the purpose and objectives of the club were focused on the cultural sector.
According to the memoirs of Alla Semenova, the former head of the Protocol Department of the Main Directorate of the diplomatic service, the first organization of joint trips and excursions of the Club, which are now one of the components of the club, was held under the auspices of trips of the Indian Embassy employees and their families. It was not possible to do in another way. That time was set up the tradition of holding meetings in the Embassy, at that time in the USSR there were little more than 100 Embassies. Every Embassy tried give cultural tinge of their country to each meeting, they organized demonstration of national clothes, taught handicraft production and national cuisine. Also there were organized interest groups to study the Russian language, culture and literature. In 1986, the Club consisted of more than 300 participants and there were organized 23 interest groups (Russian and foreign languages, literature and art, national dances and music, etc.).
The wives of prominent politicians of the Soviet Union including Nanuli Shevardnadze, wife of the Minister of foreign Affairs of the USSR, later first President of Georgia, attended in the Club’s meetings.
On December 1987 the meeting of the club was held at the Embassy of Sweden, where in addition to the traditional performance of the host country, was organized Bazaar, where one could buy products of national creativity of different countries. In 1988 there was a proposal to hold the first Winter Bazaar, which was the first charity event of the club. The first Winter Bazaar was held on December 1988 in the U.S. Embassy, all proceeds were donated to the government of Armenia, which suffered after devastating earthquake in 1988. Winter Bazaar 1989 was held at the Embassy of Sweden, where for the first time there was a lottery, all proceeds were donated to the Children’s Fund.
Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union gave a great opportunity for the development of the Club. The result of these changes was the new version of the Constitution of the Club in 2000, where article 2 was the amended, which describes the main point of creation and existence of the club since 1978. The collapse of the USSR opened up new possibilities for Russian women who wanted to help other people. Now the percentage of Russian citizens is 5% of the total number of members, the international community represented in the club not only by wives of the diplomatic circles, but also by representatives of international business, who moved to Russia.
The International women’s club is focused at Charity projects, raising funds and interest groups.
Currently in the club there are about 50 interest groups that provide to members a wide range of creativity. The main areas of creativity and self-realization are: art, foreign languages, Russian language, cooking classes, music and dance, as well as a wide range of activities for body and soul, such as yoga, discussion club, nonverbal communication and the study of the Bible. The tradition of the club, founded in 1978, is the common tourist trips and excursions in Russia and in other countries. International Women’s Club gives the opportunity every day at any time of the year to develop your talent, make new discoveries, to learn the culture of other countries and meet different people.
In the early 1990s the charity group, which consisted of volunteers, visited several orphan homes. Club activities were limited by the government and charity organizations, fearing to invite the foreigners to their homes. The end of Perestroika promoted the activation the charitable activities of the club, by providing material and financial support. There was opened the office for collecting clothing, shoes, furniture and other necessities. The club members drew attention to the social and psychological aspects, which had been marked in the conference on pediatric psychology in 1994 under the patronage of the wife of the first President of Russian Federation, Naina Yeltsina. Now the Council of the Club for Charity coordinates 20 projects in four main areas: children in poor or unstable families, children in orphanages or other institutions, children with medical need and elderly and destitute. Furthermore, the club is open to support various groups of people in need, such as assistance in rehabilitation and reintegration of women into society after prison, the purchase of medical equipment for hospitals and for people with disabilities. Always there’s necessity of volunteer help on projects on daily care for children with diseases, as well as necessity of teachers, doctors, translators and assistance in organizing the provision of food to disadvantaged people. Today, charity is the main part of the International Women’s club, many members of the club is actively involved in the process of Charity assistance. Each group project has a coordinator and an assistant who work under the guidance of the Chairman of the Charity board, which has been headed for the last few years by Doctor of Sciences and Professor of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation (RANEPA), Katalin Diossi.
Two annual charity events help to involve large amount of material and financial support. The main event for many years is the Winter Bazaar. It is traditionally held in the end of November in hotel Radisson Slavyanskaya, which takes more than 80 foreign embassies, represented on the territory of the Russian Federation. Donations of embassies and companies are transferred for the lottery. Winter Bazaar attracts more than three thousand visitors annually, allowing guests to experience the culture and traditions of different countries, to buy clothes, jewelry and souvenirs. The peculiarity of this event is the presentation of dance groups from around the world. The guests enjoy the food variety of the Bazaar, where you can try unique dishes and drinks, as well as buy products. Among the guests of the Winter Bazaar you can meet the heads of diplomatic missions, prominent Russian politicians; special visit to this event was marked by a visit the Winter Bazaar of Lyudmila Putina, in 2000.
The tradition of holding the Annual charity ball was founded by the wife of the Consul of Belgium, Micheline Champenois, in 1996. Initially, the ball was held in the Embassies, but increasing number of guest promoted to transfer the Ball in the most luxurious hotels of Moscow, keeping the tradition of carrying a dinner before the ball in the Embassies. The hotel Metropol, which is famous for its magnificent ballroom, takes a special place in the hearts of the members of the club. Various musical groups and artists entertain the guests, the well-loved lottery is conducted.
The General Officer of the IWC, Neelam Garп who moved to Moscow a few years ago from New Zealand thinks:
“My start in Moscow would have been very slow if I hadn’t known the International Women’s Club of Moscow! I just hit the ground running with this club when I moved here from New Zealand. I created very valuable friendships, found reasons to be excited in this foreign land with so many new things to learn, explore and try. I have never met before with so many people from so many different countries in such a short time. All impacted me positively.
The women in the club are professionals, high achievers and very intelligent. They are either on their expat assignments or following their husbands. Together, we in the club help each other in meaningful ways and make a valuable difference in the lives of children and elderly in Moscow.
I hope and wish to get more support from local and international businesses to work with us so we can even do more to help these sick and needy children and elderly. I’m going to take so many positive and life-changing experiences with me when I leave Moscow!”
International Women’s club in Moscow passed a long way from meeting in a narrow circle for the mutual support of foreign families residing in Moscow, to huge international community, which helps the integration, the adaptation and personal development of foreigners and finding new friends, moving to Russia. It cannot go unmentioned the kindness of the hearts of the club members that help to socially vulnerable groups of Russia.