The orphanage was founded in 1935 and occupied the mansions at 770 and 772 Rue Bourgeat, donated by the eminent architect A. J. Yaron. Toward the end of December 1940, the landlords requested the buildings back, so the Russian realtor G. A. Kirlian facilitated the purchase of the villa on Rue Victor Emmanuel, which was sponsored by various charitable organizations of both settlements.
By the time of the move, in December 1940, there were 110 children in the orphanage (there was also St. Olga's Orphanage, exclusively for girls). A team of "well-known engineers and architects" helped adapt the "well-built house with spacious grounds" to the needs of the establishment. The first floor was devoted to the dormitories and classroom; the second floor was given to girls' dormitories and kindergarten. "There are also isolation rooms, classrooms and a large kitchen. All the girls wear white blouses and navy tunics and the boys now have a uniform which is black trimmed with light blue. The boys had a gymnastics display on the lawn in the garden yesterday and afterwards tea was served."
According to the memoir of one of the boys who grew up at St. Tichon's, life at the new address was harder. The new principal Boris Uvaroff introduced not only the uniforms, but also army discipline: "The days were monotonous. Everything was done by the bugle call and a drum. In the morning, you only had a few minutes to get up, wash up, dress and line up. The "commander" would closely inspect everything – even the shine on your buttons and belt buckles. If he finds a fault, you will get assigned the dishwashing duty or something similar. For us, the younger kids, the biggest problem was the mandatory ironing of the trousers: we could never get the iron from the older boys, so we learned to make the pleats with an aluminium spoon heated on a candle." (Tsepilov, Tak ono bylo)
Wartime made the food scarce: "We used to be able to help ourselves to the bread from the full baskets on the tables, but now we only got two pieces each, so we had to beg for more at the kitchen. The cook's apprentice learned to make soy milk from beans and gave it to us instead of the real milk." Among the brighter things, the children were organized into a brass orchestra; they played as they walked every day to and from the Russian Commercial School on Avenue Petain. Eventually, the boys' dormitory was moved to that school, and only the girls stayed in the villa on Rue Emmanuel.
St. Tichon's Orphanage at the old location on Rue Bourgeat:
The buildings in the above photo no longer survive – there is a modernist lane compound in their place (774 Changle Road), whose construction, I suspect, necessitated the relocation of the orphanage in 1940. But the neighboring mansions at today's 784–786 Changle Road 长乐路784–786号 were part of the same complex; the porch looks identical:
Boys doing the drills in 1940:
Boys in the uniforms in 1941:
Image: Amir Khisamutdinov.