Preacher with a First Aid Kit
How and why Dr. Dolittle from Kursk found himself in Africa

There is Russian winter out of the door. Seating by a fireplace in the Moscow region's village on the edge of a pine forest, we speak with Dr. Kirill. Nearby, there is his wife, waiting for the third child to be born. While Kirill is warming by the fire, seating in the pleasant lounge, his thoughts wander off to the land immune to snow and pine trees. Somewhere in the Shima Slum.

Kirill fell ill with Africa when he graduated from the medical university. One day he saw an action movie about Africa. The young doctor saw a different reality. And rushed into that reality. To help.
When he went to Africa for the first time, the “illness” got worse.

Now Kirill has his own family. But they arrived to Russia for a short while until the third child is born. And back to Kenya. Africa does not let him go.

"The road resembled paradise on Russian popular prints: unnaturally green grass, too spreading tree branches, big colorful birds and herds of goats grazing on the mountain slopes. The air is soft, transparent and as if permeated with grains of gold. You smell strong and sweet scent of flowers. A strange disharmony with everything around is black people, walking like sinners in Paradise ... ”

Nikolay Gumilev, 1913
– Kirill, medical education in Russia is quite prestigious. You graduated from the university in Kursk. This is not a depressed region. And instead of working for small salary and a social guarantees in a state hospital or making big money in a private clinic, you left everything for the dirt and poverty of a foreign country. What for?
– It began when I was in my last year in the university. I never had thought about going to some third world country before. That time I got acquainted to a Ukrainian, who was engaged in a strange business – helping homeless African children. He organized some kind of shelters, crisis centers. And he invited me to Kenya, but I did not go. I couldn't – the trip occurred on the days of my final session, and I had no money for it either.
But the curiosity remained. I began to get interested. I read publications, watched video reports from the people who had invited me. That time I watched a film, an action movie. The film was called Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler. I can`t say the film was a cinematic masterpiece. It was about a former bandit who rethought his life and prioritized correctly. The action takes place in the late 90s. He arrives to South Sudan. There is a civil war in the country with all the horrors of the war, and Butler's character is taken to help the children. The film impressed me precisely with the sense of eerie reality. At that very moment I fell ill with Africa.
That time I had absolutely no idea of where to go and what to do, but I clearly realized that as soon as I receive my diploma, I`d look for an opportunity to go to Africa. To help with what I can help.

– A screen hero with a machine gun... He is cool and brutal. To be honest, your motivation was dominated by a desire to become the same superhero, but with a scalpel? Or a defining word was “to help”? You`ve already believed in God, haven`t you?
– It`s hard to tell. I wanted to see the world and rushed to glory. In general, this is typical of men. Women are more about taking care of the home and family, and in male psychology, the desire to realize oneself in something very important remains a very significant factor.

– Yes, men dream of saving the world.
– Well, yes, my subconscious emotional impulse was about a very strong desire to help someone else with what I can do well. To perceive my motive as a Christian ministry, I had to taste first what it really was like...

– Why did you go alone? No colleagues, friends, fellow students accompanied you. «There are few real leaders», aren`t there?
– In fact, at that moment I had already passed the age when people go to the end of the world. Usually, extreme impulses are realized by young people aged 19-23, when they break away from their parents seeking adventures. At this age, it is quite easy to give up everything, career prospects are not yet so valuable. I was almost 25. Half of my peers already had families.

– What did your parents say?
– Parents were gone then. I have two sisters and a brother. They did not understand me and approve, but respected my decision.

– You didn’t come to an empty place, did you? Were there people who met you and explained everything?
– I had contacts of people who had lived in Kenya for four years. They opened two orphanages and a school there, succeeded with some kind of medical service. So, yes – I didn't go to an empty place. I found contacts, wrote them and joined their team. Those days it was called Heart of Help mission. The name of the organization now is Ok!Africa.

– Kirill, would you please list three good or bad things which shocked you and made fall in love with Africa.
– The first one is children.

– You're not a pediatrician?
– No, I`m an epidemiologist. I don`t mean a kind of medical specialization, but simply children. their shocking position in Kenyan society. I saw everything with my own eyes. And what I saw was incomparable neither with the stories, nor with the pictures about Africa that I had heard and seen before.
We are arranged in such a way that we tend to abstract ourselves from terrible reality. When we hear horror stories about atrocities in India or Africa, for example. Or read about the horrors that happened in the Middle Ages. We are horrified ... but calmly. With our heads we understand that yes, this is not good. But cultural distance prevents us from taking it too close to heart. Our brain says: «Don't worry. It is far away. In a culture alien to you». But when we know from the news about our neighbors who do not feed their child and he lives almost in a dog kennel this terrifies us much more.
And it does not work at all when you meet these children face to face. Small children, who were raped and subjected to unthinkable torture by their own relatives. It is impossible to close from this. Here he is – a child. You see him, his stomach swollen with hunger and tiny spider like hands and legs, his gruesome wound. You look into his eyes and realize that the wound in his soul is much deeper. And that is – he is no longer a stranger. He is yours and you are responsible for him.
Shock number two is the Kenyan healthcare system, which exists formally, but in fact, even primitive medical care is not available to people. And the rare help that is available to someone is of prohibitively low quality and cripples more than heals.
And the third thing: culture, another culture, which turned out to be dearer to me than my own.
People in Kenia are very positive – open, sincere, simple. The standard of living is extremely low, but people are optimists. Representatives of Slavic culture on the contrary have a feature that I do not like. It's obsession with negative. Everything is bad: country, government, laws, taxes, husband... Adversity and troubles are the essence of any conversation. And in Kenya, no matter how bad they do people smile. When you return from Kenya to Russia, you can feel it clearly.

– I want to ask a question about your children. They spent most of their lives in Africa, never saw snow, did not go to the kindergarten. Have you got any regrets that the most important period of life they spent outside their native culture and you deprived them of something very important? After all, emotional intelligence is formed in the first three years after birth.
– I don’t want to answer unequivocally, but it seems to me, and I judge just by my children, that upbringing in an alien culture is not an infringement, but enrichment. They are not taken out of the context of their native culture, because in Kenya we are a team – Russian families live in the neighborhood, communicate in Russian. At home we have our own cultural microclimate, authentic atmosphere. At the same time, our kids are growing up in close contact with Kenyan culture, which is different. And this stimulates emotional and mental development. Children learn to communicate with everyone. They know Russian, English, Swahili. At this age, this is a very positive development factor. There is definitely no conflict.

- The global question: why is everything so bad in Africa? The continent is a cradle of Civilization. There is oil here. Not so much as in the United Arab Emirates, but it is. There are diamonds, rare metals. Of course there are some objective difficulties, but why are these difficulties so fatal? Is poverty in Africa beneficial to anyone?
– The longer I am in Africa, the more difficult it becomes to answer this question. When I just arrived there, I had answers to all questions :) I saw everything, I knew everything. Now I am sure of nothing at all. And I just begin to understand how many subtle factors influence the development of civilization, culture, the way the nation is choosing. And it is very difficult to understand which factor played a key role. Why at a certain stage of development, the black, non-Arab part of Africa found itself in cultural development behind Europe and Asia. If European peoples began to build feudal relations more than a thousand years ago, in Africa they still lived in a communal-tribal system. A higher stage of development allowed European countries to colonize Africa. And the enslaved peoples could no longer develop naturally. It seems to me that this violent evolution – cultural and civilizational – is the main cause of all subsequent problems. This is an artificial leap, when mentally people didn’t reach a certain level of civilization, but suddenly the benefits of higher developed civilization became available to them.
The British came to Kenya. They built roads and cities, brought weapons. And Kenyans jumped out of the communal-tribal system with its natural forms of self-regulation, into an alien reality.
The African tribes had their own rules. family relations, certain attitude towards children, their own understanding of what is good and bad. Adultery is bad. Not taking care of children is bad. These things were regulated at the tribal level. And then people rushed to the cities, and the regulators remained in the tribes. And nothing replaced them in the cities. The local population did not acquire any culture of community in places of cohabitation. All institutions, including the institution of the family, collapsed. And those natives who could not learn and get a profession, live in cities many times worse than they would live in the tribes. They sleep with anyone, give birth to children from anyone, do not bear any responsibility for these children. This is not polygamy, because there is no responsibility for wives. This is just promiscuous sex. That is the reason of all troubles – street children, high crime rates, prostitution, infections, overcrowding in the absence of resources. I think all this is the consequences of an imposed civilization.
And segregation as well. White people did not come to Africans as to equals. The colonialists brought all their benefits for themselves, and then simply threw them to the locals as unnecessary, without teaching how to use it. Slums and corruption are also the cost of an unnatural civilization.

– I guess that modern "colonialists" keep the same approach. I read the news from Nairobi: Chinese investors have come to the country, but they are investing not in sewerage and water supply, but in high-speed highways. Just build good logistics for a new sales market. Is the attitude towards the African continent still consumerist?
– I thing yes. There are, of course, internal interests either. But very limited quantity. Modern Kenya is a land of contrasts. You arrive in Nairobi and see Moscow City: glass, skyscrapers, business centers, expensive cars, shopping centers with representative offices of all leading brands. And six kilometers away there are huge slums without electricity and sewage. The inhabitants of these slums hardly survive.
Corruption in Kenya is very strong. The paradox is that poverty in the country is …beneficial. This is a way of getting rich by begging for subsidies from developed countries. But all these subsidies are being stolen. Moreover, the authorities do not even try to splurge that they do something for the people.
And China accepts these conditions, because yes, it is fighting for the market. Compared to 2012, the level of Chinese influence, judging by the availability of Chinese goods and products in the country, has grown significantly.

– Last year, the UN Commissioner advocated for the right of Kenyans to have access to clean drinking water. In a pandemic, this project must have become even more important. Is the project realized?
– No, it isn`t. As I say, as soon as any important project with potentially big budget appears in Kenya, local sharks with great appetites appear either. And until all those who somehow influence the implementation of this project are fed, the project will not budge.
Therefore, the best way to help Africa is to take small steps. To dig one well, to install one pump... This does not require the permission of a large number of officials, and, therefore, does not require a large number of bribes. Charity is also directly related.

– Hopelessness ... And what shall people do? Is Singapore like phenomenon possible here?
– Maybe it is possible if the mentality of the people changes. But in the foreseeable future, in my opinion, corruption is ineradicable. After all, the government members here came to power not in a democratic way, showing extraordinary abilities and leadership qualities, but using brute force and simply fooling the people. And even if a real leader appears, at least a part of the population is to be ready for the changes mentally. Now people are not ready.
The second variant is to build a totalitarian state, but as we know from the history it`s of no good either.

– We have got our own corruption as well as medical problems in Russia, but you, however, invest your intellect and time in a foreign country.
– Yes, and I see the result. The method I have chosen works effectively. I am directly involved in medical care and health education. I explain people what personal hygiene is and how to reduce infections. I want to tell you not an anecdote, but a real story. Some missionaries founded a medical school in Kenya, recruited local students to teach basic things about how to provide first aid and which way antibiotics work. The first group of students finished the course and was ready to take the exam. On the exam, one guy was asked about the causes of infectious diseases. And being quite serious he replied: «White people think that there are very small organisms that enter the human body and cause illness. But indeed ...the witches are to blame».
So, I am now struggling with elementary superstitions: «Hey guys, those were you who did not wash your hands after the toilet, and E. coli caused intoxication, not a witch». Step by step it works.
To stop complaining about life, you have to visit Africa at least once”.
Leonardo DiCaprio
By Tatiana Trishkina