Tortures, neglect, exploitation, no toilets: Horrors of Ukrainian boarding schools
There are 751 boarding schools in Ukraine, 106 thousand minors and about 50 thousand adults with disabilities live here
These places are more closed than prisons. And the journalists are uninvited guests here. These are boarding schools. There are 751 boarding schools in Ukraine, 106 thousand minors and about 50 thousand adults with disabilities live here.
We have already shown the terrible truth about boarding schools. In particular, terrible living conditions in the Teteriv boarding school in Zhytomyr. And the local orphans were used as slaves; they worked at the local market. Director Oleksandr Honcharov now faces up to 12 years in prison for human trafficking. Meanwhile, the Zhytomyr Regional Council has already allocated almost 10,000 USD for the repair of the institution.
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When our journalists' crew came to Verkhniodniprovsky boarding school (Dnipropetrovsk region), the institution psychiatrist broke our camera. And hit one of the journalists. However, even despite the video evidence, the Dnipro police are in no hurry to punish the attacker. Therefore, we wrote a complaint to the Prosecutor General's Office. Previously, we showed how the director of Verkhniodniprovsky boarding school, Hennadiy Fedenko, beats his pupils. Fedenko has beaten, to the point that he had lost consciousness. The pupils also complained that Fedenko took their social benefits and intimidated them.
Khotyn general boarding school, Chernivtsi region. Almost 100 girls and boys live and study here (from 2nd to 9th grades). The crew, accompanied by of the Chernivtsi Regional Council deputy Mykhailo Lypka and volunteer Lina Deshvar, who was brought up in a boarding school.
Each of these children has his or her own reason to have come to the boarding school. Someone's parents are in prison or abuse alcohol, and someone's father and mother live below the poverty line or are seriously ill.
This is their school; it is full of old furniture. The conditions the residential building is also terrible. The furniture crumbles from the inside. There are two bedroom buildings on the territory of the school; one of them does not even has a toilet. Boys and girls are forced to do the deed outside or use buckets in the middle of their bedroom.
Ihnat Didych, the director of the boarding school, does not consider it to be a serious problem: “Well, maybe we’re used to it, maybe, for you it’s crazy. Do not dramatize, this is not a tragedy," he says. Schoolchildren also wash in their bedrooms. Each child keeps his bowl under the bed. There is no hot water there, so the children are forced to bring it from the neighboring building. In 2018, 536,000 USD were allocated for Khotyn boarding school, and in 2019, it has got only 321,000 USD. This money goes for salaries of employees and maintenance of children. Money for repairs is not allocated.
Skvirsky psycho-neurological boarding school, Kyiv region. 360 adult men live here, all of them suffer from mental disorders. This is one of the largest boarding schools in Ukraine. The rooms are full of beds, wall-to-wall. Some furniture is too old. Some patients wear old, tattered clothes. There are no low walls in shower and toilet.
The director assures: there are no problems with financing. Patients do not complain about the conditions either. They spend their free time in the recreation room, usually, it is overcrowded. Some patients are forced to watch TV standing up. There is no security or at least a high fence there. Therefore, patients with mental disorders and criminal past often flee.
In 2016, Mykola Semenyuta has first seen the world outside the orphanage. He learned to write and read at the age of 25. Now Mykola lives a full life. He likes fishing and dancing.
Once he even met with motivational speaker Nick Vujicic. Mykola was lucky that in 2016 he was adopted. He was brought up in an orphanage. Due to congenital malformations, his parents abandoned him when he was five.
He still remembers Nizhyn boarding school in Chernihiv region with horror.
“They have beaten me many times. On the back and on the head. And on the legs, even though I do not feel them, but still. My head was wracked. I still have a scar on my head, so that one nurse hit her with something sharp I remember that there was a lot of blood,” he remembers.
And this is Oleksandr Redchich, another pupil of the Nizhyn orphanage. He has spent 23 years in a special institution. “If a child peed himself, they can even put a diaper on his head. I remember when a nurse took off her shoes and threw them at the children,” Redchich says.
Often, the nannies tie up the children. These terrible photos were taken in 2016. Children with disabilities cannot move because they are tightly tied with diapers and clothes.
Children are forced to sit in a chair motionless, nurses tied some children right to their wheelchairs. Some children were tied straight to the pot. There is a video, where nanny took a paralyzed boy from the bed and tied him. The boy groans in pain. After the publication of the terrible video, the prosecutor's office of Chernihiv region opened criminal proceedings on the fact of child abuse; the perpetrators have not been found. The prosecutors ignore our request.
The deputy director of the department bluntly states: reporters have nothing to do in the orphanage.
Then our crew randomly went to the Nizhynsky special institution. The reporters were still allowed into the territory. But the administration declined to give any comments. In the end, the journalists were let for only 5 minutes.
This is Oksana Svichkolap. She is the only parent who was not afraid to report on torture of the sick children. Her son Danylo was diagnosed with autism. The husband immediately left the family. It was difficult to cope with the child because he became more and more aggressive.
In 2015, when the boy turned 16, Oksana was forced to send her son to a boarding school. Soon she began to detect bruises on the boy's body. And provided evidence of beatings.
In the autumn of 2018, Oksana came to visit her son. Beaten Danylo could not even get up. For about 15 years, the boarding school of Nizhyn orphanage has been headed by Harmash Olena. And despite numerous scandals, she has not been fired or reprimanded. They say that the director is on good relations with the head of the regional department of the social security department Oleh Rusyn.
We have received a video message from the Biloposky boarding school in Sumy region. This is Mykola Bazyliuk.
"They smacked us in the back of the head. They can hit with a mop too… And they beat those who cannot speak," says Mykola. This resident of the boarding school says: the staff forces them to work instead of themselves.
And in this photo, one of the pupils is wearing a bathrobe over his naked body. They are bullied in such a way. “They put on a bathrobe, take all the clothes away, the director takes him to his office… You can wear it for two or three months, without underwear,” says Mykola. Children with disabilities of physical and mental development live in Biloposky boarding school. The youngest patient is 4 years old, the oldest is 35. The worst thing in a boarding school is a punishment cell. This is a small basement room, like in prisons.
Chernivtsi. This institution is called the Center of Kindness “Marta's Dream.” It was founded in 2017 by Marta Levchenko. Ten women with children, who had to be deprived of parental rights, live in the Center.
Olha Gerega and her daughter have been living here for more than a year. Olha was brought up in a boarding school. She left the orphanage as an alcohol addict. And when the social services decided to take her daughter away from her, Olha took hold of her head and found volunteers herself.
In fact, the boarding schools are mostly not for orphans, but for the children who have parents, who are addicts.
Ukraine plans to abandon boarding schools by 2026. They would be replaced by family-type centers. And now, boarding schools remain a relic of the Soviet Union, a place of bullying and torture.