Nineteen years ago, Chernobyl exploded, vomiting 8 tons of radioactive ash into the air which swept across the lands poisoning 25 per cent of the population and 25 per cent of the lands of Belarus. And now the new generation of children bears its legacy through a horrifying and bewildering array of afflictions. Some children are born brain-damaged, others have genetic, physiological, neurological and psychological damage.
Some of the most damaged children are kept at Novinki – a psychiatric institution on the outskirts of the capital Minsk. At birth most of these children are immediately abandoned to the State and within months sent to Novinki.
They are kept clean and fed but they live lives of almost total deprivation. There is no perceived future for them and they are left mostly to themselves. They are not steered to a better life, they are simply trained – if they can be – to eat, to bathe, to go to the toilet, and to follow directions from their carers. Some play with other children but many cannot even move without help. Many live solitary lives, frozen in time and space, reacting in secret with the phantoms that inhabit them.
Very few of these children ever see their mothers or fathers, most having been abandoned to the State at birth. They grow up isolated without a concept of family, or parents, or even of being a child – lives devoid of historical and biological relationships.