Documentary

The wall

© Tatsiana Tsyhanova
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Grozovsky, Belarus – May 2017

The wall
by Tatsiana Tsyhanova

Foreign tourists always wonder why they don’t see any physically or mentally challenged people in the Belorussian streets, parks, museums and shopping malls. Many foreigners can think the very healthy nation live in Belarus. But the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident manifest in numerous problems with physical and mental health. So, where are disabled? Actually, Belorussian families hide their relatives who have serious problems with health. It happens because the families with disabled often become offcast. The relatives have to make a very difficult decision about the future of hopelessly ill members of a family. They have to decide to stay with them and be lonely in society or to send physically or mentally challenged people to the special orphanages.

How the USSR built the great wall that separated country from another world the disabled in Belarus, the ex-republic of the USSR, have to live behind the high wall to undisturb the society, because the society doesn’t want to see them.

Tatsiana Tsyhanova, a photographer from Belarus, decided to crash the Walls of prejudice and to show all of us the handicapped people. She created the project calling ‘The wall’. This project points at the people, who have to live behind the cement wall of psycho-neurological boarding school and dream about being hugging and talking with persons, who live outside the wall.

Tatsiana Tsyhanova has created the series of photos in a psycho-neurological orphanage “Grozovsky”, that bases in the bear corner, about 100 km from Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Tatsiana frame by frame shows us the emotions of persons, who have to live in this orphanage all their life. The majority of inhabitants of psycho-neurological boarding school will never be able to come back to common ordinary life. Some of them were removed here from children orphanage, where they had been living from their birthday. The others lost their physical or mental abilities because of alcohol or drugs. The last part contents from old people, who have become unnecessary for relatives because of senile dementia.

Several years ago instead of psycho-neurological school, there was a school for orphan kids, who lost the parents. Social institution for the disabled appeared on this place in 2014. Almost nothing changed after the disabled people have come to this school – the same trees and the same buildings. But one detail has appeared. This was the cement wall about one and a half meter in high, that was constructed around the perimeter of orphanage territory. All private houses of staff stayed outside the perimeter. Only the seesaws, the benches, the school with empty classrooms and living buildings, where the today’s inmates of the house live, have stayed inside.

The local staff and caregivers turned into the orderlies, others quit and left this place. The ex-staff said they had a lot of issues with orphan kids but at the same time they had much fun because those children had a hope for the future, but the new inhabitants had only the despair.

Tatsiana found out that the majority of villagers, who live near the orphanage, have the prejudice to physically or mentally challenged people. Many of villagers even afraid to be near the wall of the orphanage because they have a fear of non-existent illnesses infections. Yung mothers often say to their kids, when they see the disabled people behind the wall: ‘Don’t move to the wall. The fools live there!’ Unfortunately, the physically or mentally challenged people became the heroes of scary tales to frighten the kids. At the same time, Tatsiana Tsyhanova gives us the material evidence these people have open kind hearts. The inhabitants of psycho-neurological orphanage know how to rejoice and suffer, make friends and fall in love. But the physically and mentally challenged gradually lose contact with the outside world. The whole world for them is their orphanage and all outside the wall is the other universe.

The orphanage inhabitants go for a walk across a territory, ride on a swing, talk with each other and watch with sadness on the cement wall.

Tatsiana Tsyhanova
Tatsiana Tsyhanova is a photographer from Belarus who earned several worldwide awards in photography such as one of the 50 best portrait photographers by Sony World Photography Awards 2017, the 2nd Place winner in Photomanipulation category of Monochrome Photography Awards 2017, the 4th Edition the 3rd Place Winner of Fine Art Photography Awards and took part in photographic exhibitions in England, France, Slovenia, Belarus, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Turkey etc. In February 2018 Tatsiana Tsyhanova reached honorary title Artist in the International Federation of Photographic Art.

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