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Russia: Children Of Kursk Victims Spend Holiday In Austria

Salzburg, 12 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Seven children of the Russian naval crew who died in the Kursk submarine disaster in August this past week have enjoyed a brief holiday in a small Austrian ski resort as guests of the village.

Four boys and three girls, accompanied by two of the mothers, stayed in a youth hostel in St. Johann-in-Pongau, not far from Salzburg.

The youngest is Katarina, a bright, cheerful four-year-old, who is accompanied by her 24-year-old mother Anna Solareva, a nurse. Others are aged up to 14.

For last weekend's Russian Christmas, the village gave them a party, with each child receiving a present. One villager said "it was Christmas in the Austrian style, not the Russian." The villager said the "children liked it and afterward they recited poetry or sang Russian songs."

Village officials are reluctant to provide information because they do not want the children to endure more stress. The families come from near the northern Russian city of Murmansk. The 10-day ski holiday was organized by the Russian Cultural Institute, together with the Austrian-Russian Friendship Association and Austrian sponsors.

The village provided accommodation and the local ski school gave ski equipment and provided a ski teacher. Most of the children had already been on skis and the Austrian teacher say they all had fun. Even the four-year-old was on skis.

The group spent a night in a hotel on Vienna's prestigious Ringstrasse before going to the resort. Some of the older girls told the organizers they would have liked to have visited a theatre in Vienna but that was not possible.

The mothers spoke reluctantly about life after the disaster on August 12 in which 118 men died. Around 80 children were left without a father.

Anna Solareva said after the disaster she received a one-time payment from the authorities and that the family was living on that. Her daughter also received what she described as a "sort of pension." She said it was enough to live on, but life was not easy and she would soon return to work as a nurse. She said her parents helped with the child. She was grateful for their help because things were more difficult now that she had to cope with daily life on her own.

The other mother with the group, Ektarina Bagorientsava, said she has tried to get on with daily life, such as renovating the apartment and finding a new school for her son. But whatever she did, she said that the sorrow over the loss of her husband is still deep in her heart.