Street Kids in Odessa

Heartbreaking photos and story about the estimated 3000 kids who are living on the street in Odessa, Ukraine.

On Odessa streets, children from all over Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Prydnestovye and Russia coexist. “According to…official statistics about three thousand children live in the streets of Odessa. According to the words of the specialists it is just a top of the iceberg”, says Tatiana Semikop, Chief of Criminal Militia on Youth Affairs. No one has real data on the number of homeless children in Ukraine, but the country is overflowing with a third wave of child homelessness. During the first two waves of the Civil War and Second World War, children became orphans when their parents died. The majority of modern homeless childrens’ parents are alive. An awful concept has appeared in Ukraine: “social orphans,” children who in theory have somewhere to go, but who will go never there.

In the streets, children find refuge from parents’ aggression and violence or alcohol and drug abuse. The street is a complex environment where survival is an every day goal. Uniting into groups and searching for deserted basements, garrets and hatches, children create their own niches and tough rules. The cost of a mistake is life. In order to live one must eat. In order to get food one must have money. This chain of logic is acquired by homeless children from their fist day on the street. Some of them wash machines, work as loaders, do casual repair work. Others beg, becoming professional “homeless children,” and some steal. Kind “uncles” and “aunts” turn handsome boys and beautiful girls into sex-toys. Payment comes as a bottle or a dose. Obstinate children are beaten. Juvenile homeless children brighten up their uneasy lives however they can – cigarettes picked up from asphalt or a passers-by’s alcohol, drugs, glue…

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