In central Moscow stands a once hubristic building, adorned with decorative balconies and windows that at one time held un-broken glass. Its former beauty given way to decay, the elements encroach through its gapping windows and doors, frost crawling along the walls like a cancer spreading through the bones of its victim. This building is derelict, abandoned and forgotten.
Deep in the cold, menacing bowels of the dereliction live people. They belong to the community of Moscow’s homeless. In this frightful place they try to survive, sheltered from the bitter streets; obscure from regular Muscovites going about their’ business.
This is home for Dasha and Serezha. It’s a hard existence, they try to keep the frost at bay with candles but it creeps ever closer. The air is cold and stale.
“We like to live like primeval hunters” explains Serezha. “We don’t want to be part of the social system. Every day could be our last day”
“I’m educated, a biologist, now I’m a writer and a poet,” he says.
Dasha clings to her baby as though she grasps life itself. The baby is lifeless, her baby is a toy doll.
Further along the hallway past the detritus and through a door sparkling in ice and frost, another couple, Lyudmila and Dmitry. The room is dingy, dank and desperate.
Dmitry has been homeless for two years. “I fell from a platform and broke my back. I had medical treatment and then my money ran out. I had no place to live,” he said.
The state does cater for the homeless, it provides shelters, warm food and clothes. They have had success with reducing the number of those living on the streets. There are also plenty of volunteer groups that help too, crucial during the long, biting winter months.
However, people like Dmitry and Lyudmila prefer to fend for themselves, not confident in the state.
“I once stayed for a night in a state run shelter, you know what I got there? Fleas!” Dmitry explained.
This unsightly, neglected and forgotten structure is a life line to people like Dmitry and Lyudmila and a home for Dasha and Serezha. Derelict and open to the elements, this shell represents resilience and normality to those that live within its dark, numbing innards.
Obstinate in the face of a particularly harsh winter, with temperatures in Moscow reaching a low of -30. Those that live here, in this home for the homeless, are determined to survive. They have to.