2015 - 2017
Invisible People of Belarus
Belarus is the only country in Europe that is not a member of The Council of Europe, a regional intergovernmental organization, which promotes adherence to human rights and democracy. Violations include restraint of disabled children, failing to give medical treatment, and unpaid labor.
Belarus, located in the far-flung reaches of Eastern Europe is the last dictatorship on the continent and for some is still considered to be part of Russia. This is a place where the president, Alexander Lukashenko is seen as an unchallenged, fearsome and almost ‘God-like’ figure. Belarusians still fear the KGB and their ever-watchful eye. This is very much a place where ‘Soviet’ mentality is still the norm.
‘Invisible People of Belarus’
Documentary project about the lives of disabled people and Chernobyl victims living in governmental institutions called ‘Internats’. (Internat is the name of the governmental institution that home disabled people. It’s in-between an orphanage, asylum and hospice.) The government has created Internats to separate Chernobyl victims and disabled children from other healthier orphans and to keep them hidden from society. These are places where tens of thousands of people spend their entire lives. Disability is not understood in Belarus, abandoning, or ‘giving them away’ is easier than being exiled from the local community.
Belarusian people themselves are not aware of what is really going on inside these places.
Disabled people are forced to work and they don’t get paid or any benefits. They work in fields, clean and work on nearby farms.
People in Western Europe should be made aware of the on-going problems with human rights violations; poor health care and starvation, which very often come with lack of money and knowledge.
‘Invisible People of Belarus’ focus on disabled people who are physically or mentally more able then the rest of the residence. These photos are a story of those people as human beings; as people who suffer and struggle against injustice everyday life; and as people who look after each other, build long lasting friendships, and even fall in love even within an environment that is far from civilized life. These invisible people stay invisible. There may be nobody to remember them after all, and a picture might be the only proof of their existence.