Top Pick: Orphans in cargo containers

AROUND 6,000 children in Slovakia do not have a home, even though they're growing up in places called "children's homes" in Slovak.
The euphemism, child experts say, reflects the fact that Slovakia is not facing the plight of its orphans head-on.
"Society is aware of the problem of abandoned children, and the media pay sufficient attention to it, but that doesn't change the situation," says Marek Roháček, chairman of the non-profit association Návrat (Return), which helps to find substitute families for children either abandoned or taken by the state from their natural parents.


PHOTOS of children and orphans show the value of family.
photo: Lucia Nimcová

AROUND 6,000 children in Slovakia do not have a home, even though they're growing up in places called "children's homes" in Slovak.

The euphemism, child experts say, reflects the fact that Slovakia is not facing the plight of its orphans head-on.

"Society is aware of the problem of abandoned children, and the media pay sufficient attention to it, but that doesn't change the situation," says Marek Roháček, chairman of the non-profit association Návrat (Return), which helps to find substitute families for children either abandoned or taken by the state from their natural parents.

"People donate money, clothes or toys, but don't realise that the only real help these kids need is a family," he continues.

After a series of documentary films produced for Slovak public television, Návrat activists recently came up with a photo exhibition entitled 'It's Best With Mom and Dad', which speaks on behalf of children from orphanages, whose voice is not otherwise loud enough to be heard.

A dozen Slovak photographers featured in the exhibit captured close moments with their own children as well as children living with new parents. The result is 50 colourful pictures that will be exhibited inside two large cargo containers on the main squares of Slovakia's four biggest towns, two at a time.

The project not only has artistic value but also attempts to raise awareness about the important issue of children and family.

"The photographers took pictures without the intention of making 'art', so the photos are based on an emotional relationship, they have both an artistic and a human value. They speak about the essential - family, relationships and love," says Jozef Ondzik, the exhibition's curator and one of the participating photographers.

While the exhibit may seem disrespectful or provocative, housed as it is in metal cargo containers, Roháček explains that the effect was intended to be ironic.

"Just as pictures about human relationships don't belong in cargo containers, children don't belong in orphanages, in such an unnatural environment. The only solution for them is a family. And it really doesn't matter whether it's their own or a new one."

Devoted to both children and their parents, the exhibition 'It's Best With Mom and Dad' first opens on Námestie SNP in Bratislava and Námestie osloboditeľov in Košice on September 30, and will run there until October 11, open Mon-Fri 12:00-20:00. From October 14 to October 26 it will be displayed on Námestie slobody in Banská Bystrica and Štúrovo námestie in Žilina. For more information call 02/5249-9276 or visit www.navrat.sk

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