The story Raivka explores what it is like to come of age in a Ukrainian “internat” boarding school in the post-industrial region of Dnipro, Ukraine. Local people describe how families were profoundly affected by the fall of the Soviet Union, the collapse of once-thriving industries that followed, and the spread of unemployment.

Internat boarding schools in Ukraine were introduced during the Soviet Union as part of its centralized school system. The schools ranged in their organization – some were focused on certain academic streams, while others’ aims were focused on institutional care – special schools for children who were blind, hearing impaired, physically handicapped. Many of the internats also housed orphaned children or those without parental care. Governments have looked towards transitioning towards a new system of foster care, but transition is slow and fraught.

In a country still struggling to shed its Soviet legacy, and now faced with war, Raivka provides a quiet glimpse into the lives of ordinary young people inheriting this reality.

Growing up in a boarding school forces these adolescents to be independent at a young age, a time of change and struggle. Moments seem to slip away, impermanent and constantly changing from one day to the next.

Note: Since the making of the photographs the Raivka internat has now transitioned into an educational complex with students from kindergarten and up.

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