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Children of the Enemies of the People

About 1.5 million people were arrested in the Soviet Union during Stalin's purges in the 1930s, and about half of them were executed. The agents usually arrived at night and knocked on the door; the terror of expecting these night-time visitors seized people and kept them up at night.

Once a family member was arrested, the rest bore the stigma of association, they were left without work, shunned by neighbors and even relatives, and often arrested as well.

The children were hit hard too. Left without their parents, their relatives too scared to care for them, these children usually ended up in special prison-like orphanages. I'm not very far removed from that time; in fact, my parents were the same age as some of these kids.

These portraits are based on photos from the children's orphanage files. I tried to imagine where they came from and what they were feeling. Children of Party functionaries, factory managers, journalists, bus drivers, regular people, urban and rural. Confused, dismayed, angry, stubborn, lost, desperate, depressed. I don't know what happened to them, I don't know their names, but they came to me and I adopted them through these portraits.