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Kirk Ellingham | Four Floors in Bielany: Chechen Refugees in Warsaw

Every day dozens of Chechens try to escape the Putin-proclaimed happy paradise in Chechnya by entering the European Union illegally via the border with Ukraine or Belarus.

Each time I returned in Poland to the refugee centre I found it harder and harder to get a grip both ethically and photographically on the situation, some of the residents had moved into Warsaw some had been repatriated home, others had just disappeared into the EU if their asylum claims had been rejected; some may have returned to Chechnya voluntary, even perhaps to fight in the insurgence if they had been refused status to stay in Poland or elsewhere; the militant young feel they were left with little choice.

It became a confusing place but with so many kind and courageous people letting me into their lives to photograph them I felt the desire to document the transient and desperate nature of their existence on the four floors of Bielany and the reasons they fled their homeland in an original way at least. How could I transpose these stories and photographs?

The stories they told me ranged from horrific stories to tales of searching to rejoin family members who had left Chechnya years before during the two wars.

(From PRIVATE 51 – Global Report 2, p. 18-21)

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