Leningradsky - station in Moscow
Leningradsky is a busy train station in Moscow, and the people who pass through it every day have to notice the children who live there. Some give them a little spare change. Some ask them to come home with them and have sex. Some, the good people, offer to help. But, as one boy says, "Of course there aren't too many good people left."
Hanna Polak and Andrzej Celinski's Oscar-nominated short, "The Children of Leningradsky," is a portrait of these children's everyday lives. The documentary, to be shown tonight on Cinemax as part of the "Reel Life" series, is heartbreaking if not always coherent. Television viewers, who have seen so much suffering on the screen in recent days, may find it painful to watch.
The lasting impression of the children is that there are so many of them (an estimated 30,000 living on the streets and in the train stations of Moscow, according to the film) with so many horrible stories.
Roma, 12, says that he stabbed his father twice because "my parents would get drunk on moonshine and beat me up." Yula, 14, recalls being raped at the age of 11. After a while, she says, "my mother became a drug addict." Tanya, 14, sings a sad song about the snow queen ("so tender, so fragile," but "no one hears your voice").
They manage by begging, sometimes holding a stray dog or cat so that people will give them more. Some steal. Some choose to prostitute themselves, putting themselves at risk for syphilis and AIDS.
Sometimes they sleep in the corridors while train passengers rush past them. In the winter, some live on the hot-water pipes. "We need some heat, food, a little money and nothing more," one boy says. "And glue."
A child inhaling glue from a plastic bag, the bag going in and out like a bellows, is a common sight. The children who become addicted tend to spend all the money they get on glue, of course. Near the end of the film, one child - one we have met earlier - dies of an overdose.
The children disdain and sometimes torment homeless adults, possibly because of their fear of ending up the same way. "Bums stink," one boy says. "Nobody likes them."
For now, the children spend their days smoking cigarettes, drinking vodka, playing and wandering. They do eat, but the only specific foods they mention are Bounty, Twix and Snickers candy bars.
Watching "The Children of Leningradsky," it is tempting to want to scream at the filmmakers: Put down the camera and feed these children. Go buy them some decent clothes. Take them to your doctor.
The situation isn't always that simple, of course, but Ms. Polak has said that she did help many of these children. And when she accepted the reality that she could not save them all, she created an organization, Active Child Aid, to try
Link: Leningradsky station
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