Invisible People of Belarus
Belarus, located in the far-flung reaches of Eastern Europe is the last dictatorship on the continent. When you walk the streets, you have a feeling that you are on a movie set. Everything is extremely clean and organised, the grass is always clean-cut, and the architecture glitzy and reflecting perfectionism. It does make you wonder exactly what may be hiding behind this facade.
Invisible People of Belarus is a documentary project about the lives of disabled people and Chernobyl victims locked up in governmental institutions called ‘Internats’. Internat in Belarusian refers to a governmental institution that houses disabled people through their entire lives. A place, which is something in between an orphanage, asylum and hospice for people with mental disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, people with physical mutations, deformations, and people with Aids.
The government has created Internats to separate Chernobyl victims and disabled children from other healthier orphans in order to keep them hidden from the society. These are places where tens of thousands of people spend their entire lives. These institutions have become a subject of folklore legends and made a stigma on their residents.
Belarusian people themselves are not aware of what is really going on inside these places. People are not properly looked after and hardly any medical stuff works in the internats. Most of carers are ex-cleaners with no medical training. Internats are partly self-sufficient, where patients are forced to work in fields, clean and cook.
This project aims to indirectly expose the on-going problems with human rights violations; poor health care and free labour, which very often come with the lack of money and knowledge. To find out more about the project and support it click here.
Jadwiga Brontē is a Polish photographer. Since 2015 she has been documenting the stories of abandoned children, born with mental and physical deficiencies from the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. Her other projects include: Old Red, Barry & Jo, New Guinea and Await For Change.