(The New York Times) ODESSA, Ukraine — Behind a barred metal gate, the dilapidated two-story building’s dreary hallways led to worn but neat playrooms decorated with dour socialist realist art and a few “SpongeBob SquarePants” appliqués. Divided by age, groups of girls and boys up to 7 played in the heat, wearing only underpants.
The older ones were excited to have unexpected visitors, and clamored to be picked up. Despite the sweltering heat and her towering Prada heels, Maria Gaidar acquiesced without breaking a sweat.
She cocked an ear as one of her inspectors reported that, so far, they had counted only 39 children on-site, not the 50 claimed in the orphanage’s paperwork (the caretakers had promised to look for more children to count). “And do you see 250 people working here?” Ms. Gaidar replied with a touch of sarcasm, referring to the institution’s official payroll numbers. […]
“If everything had been fine, I would be in Russia, working as a technocrat, or as a politician,” she said. “But with this war, I feel if I am not doing something against it, then I feel I am participating.” When Mr. Saakashvili offered her a job in Odessa, she quickly accepted.
In Odessa, commentators have been critical of Ms. Gaidar, saying she lacks experience. “One approach is to wait and see,” wrote Volodymyr Dubovyk, a professor at Odessa I. I. Mechnikov National University, in an email.
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