To Grow, Live and Die Like a Plant

Shortlist 2018

Alexander Vasukovich

Alexander Vasukovich is an independent freelance photojournalist who lives in Minsk, Belarus. He was born in Minsk in 1985. Alexander began his career as a photojournalist in 2011.

The Problem

To Grow, Live and Die Like a Plant

In Belarus children born with cognitive disabilities and cerebral palsy are often abandoned by their families and placed in state psychiatric orphanages.  They live a life of sorts in a permanent state of institutional neglect. When they reach 18, they can be moved to adult residential facilities where life continues much the same way, in isolation, with little stimulation, waiting out their lives until death. For the last two years I have documented the quality of life and care at three of these institutions. Nation-wide some 2,000 children and 12,000 adults are housed at 46 facilities. These are closed institutions with little accountability. Sometimes an employee, concerned about the lack of funding for necessary food and staff, will speak out, but such people risk dismissal.