Giles Duley

Galleries: The Family of Prymorska Street, Odessa, Ukraine. 2010

The family of Prymorska Street.Andrei, Colya, Ruslana, Sasha, Lydia, Dima, Nadya and Lilick.
The derelict house on Prymorska they call home. Odessa, like many European cities has an ongoing problem with street kids caused by failing economies and the transition from communisim. The Ukraine only helps those registered as official orphans, those who leave home due to violence and neglect are left to fend for themselves.
Andrei passes time in the house. Their lives are a mixture of crime, drinking, drugs and violence. Boredom though is constant.
Ruslana plaits her sister's hair. They have four siblings, the oldest is in jail, the others often living on the street. They are still in contact with their mother, but she is unable to care for them. Lydia is constantly cutting her arms and legs.
Lydia with Vanya.
Ruslana, Lilick and Lydia.Lilick is in love with Ruslana, though she is with somebody else. They are always together and each day she lovingly combs his hair.
They all sleep in one room, sharing what beds they have. Despite the conditions they live in, each day they sweep the room and make their beds.
The kids are often playing. Wrestling, cards, fighting but more than anything else they love to play tag.
Sasha is the father of the family. At 23 he is much older than the others and he runs the house with strict discipline. He looks after the money, hands out cigarettes and the others do little without his permission. He beats the others when he feels they have stepped out of line. He has been on the streets much of his life and has spent the last 8 years in jail.
In the house there is always an undercurrent of violence. Often fuelled by vodka or drugs the switch from moments of aggression can be swift, though rarely long-lasting.The children have often grown up in violent homes and it's something they have grown to see as normal.
The family lives on the third floor and the difficulty of climbing in offers some security.
Vitalik and Zolushka (Cinderella).Vitalik is twelve years old and is not yet living full time on the streets. He still spends some time living with his mother, but increasingly he lives on the street. The kids bully him as he still spends time with his mother; but despite this he prefers to be with them.
While running around the house Lilick slipped and cut his eye on a nail.
Colya helping Dima wash in the morning.
Mersalav is a regular visitor to the house. He is now in a care home but comes to visit his old friends and two brothers who still live on the streets.For many years he was addicted to balthuska, a homemade narcotic that many of the children inject. The years of abuse have left Mersalav with permanent brain damage, he slurs his words and struggles to walk unaided. One of his brothers is close to death from the drug and his sister died from AIDS after using a dirty needle. There is a strong possibility Mersalav also has the disease.
Dima's gypsy family adopted Sasha when he was young, so they grew up as brothers. When Sasha came to live on the streets, he followed. He neither drinks or takes drugs, and dreams of being a boxer.
Sasha making his bed with Lydia. They are a couple.
Despite still spending sometime with his mother, Vitalik hasn't been to school since the 3rd grade. He says she doesn't care. Increasingly he is drawn to the street.
The house.
Sasha pouring vodka. Vodka and cigarettes are cheap in the Ukraine and the kids use both heavily.
Andrei taking a shot of vodka. They always drink shots and then wash it down with juice of vinegar.
The children use whatever they can to get high. Glue sniffing, the homemade balthuska (coedine tablets crushed with vinegar and then injected) or any pharmaceutical drugs they can get their hands on.
The kids make their money through a mixture of crime and begging. Many of the children in Odessa have come here from other European cities as it's seen as a good place to make money. In the summer the streets are full of tourists, seen as easy targets for both theft and begging.
Lilick had just done something that Sasha disapproved of, and so he had received a beating. Afterwards he is full or regret and is soon hugging Lilick. Violence is a common outlet for emotion. Only recently Sasha had come out of prison after stabbing somebody.
Lydia sleeping in the house. They often sleep through the day as the nights are spent drinking and making money.
Colya is the clown of the group and also one of the most caring to others. Before they drink in the evening he always puts a little cloth on a box,
Despite his violence, Sasah cares deeply for those in his family, constantly looking out for them and often stopping them from over using drugs.
The family are always looking out for each other. Food, cigarettes and vodka are always shared and when one is in trouble, they all help. They are very aware of infection as many self harm or inject drugs; they have seen friends die from blood poisoning. Nadya has just cut her arms and so they apply antiseptic before dressing her wounds.
Nadya is constantly cutting her arms, often after sniffing glue. On her arms you can also see the marks from where she has been injecting. She is three months pregnant.
Sasha and Lydia.
Leaving the house.
Most days the family goes out as a group, whether to drink in the park, roam the streets or spend the day at the beach. In the summer it's a particularly good place to beg or steal from tourists.
Rusiana, Nadya and Lilick.
Diving into the Black Sea.
Despite everything the kids love to be outside, love to run and love to swim.
When I tell Sasha I will be back to see him in a few months, he says he will probably be in prison by then. With no education, no home, a criminal background and too old to be helped by any of the charities working in the area, his future is bleak.
After the day at the beach the 'family' of Prymorska Street head home to carry on the drinking. Lilick persuades Ruslana, who is about to leave, to spend the night with him.A couple of hours after the photo Lilick took some pills with Andrei and Coly. They were a recent drug to Odessa containing opiates. He washed them down with vodka.In the night Rusiana woke to find him dead.