Bella Antonyan-Shevchuk, 28, participated in the femLENS documentary photography workshops in October 2018, in Zhytomy, Ukraine. She is a social worker, working together with a local NGO “Parytet”.
Antonyan-Shevchuk worked on a story about a single woman living in rural Zhytomyr, a region being depleted of it its residents due to lack of jobs and subsequent migration. We often think of migration in terms of the benefits or disadvantages of the receiving community. But what happens when a community, a land, becomes empty of its residents, the people who live and work on it?
For more than 10 years there is no man’s hand in the house. The fence is fallen, the windows are broken, the roof is leaking. All the hard physical work lies on the shoulders of a woman with poor health. But she is happy that she leads a quiet and honest life.
She has no work. The social pension is 1300 UAH a month, one has to be able to live on that. The only source of income is the household. The most profitable crop is corn – it is feed for chickens, cows, goats, cereals for the mistress, and the waste is burned for heating.
There are very few men in the village: those who have not gone abroad to work, slowly loose themselves to moonshine.
The old well with a leaking bucket is running out of water. To get 10 litres, she needs to turn the large iron crankshaft 32 times.
Empty houses of dead neighbours, bushes and grey puddles underfoot create an oppressive atmosphere.
Her hands are rough from the cold winds and hard physical work, but like everyone, she wants to look beautiful, she manicures her nails.
The dog is a faithful friend, accompanying her everywhere in understanding silence.
The warm stove saves her on cold evenings.