Ex-needle buddies

The first chapter is titled “Ex-Needle Buddies” and focuses on the individual stories of street children in Makeevka. Street children, which are a Ukraine-wide urban phenomenon, emerged at the end of the nineties. Since no population statistics had ever included street children, the exact number remains unknown. These children ended up on the streets as a result of the social and economic crisis that devastated Ukraine in the years immediately after independence. The documentary Bomzhi: Street Children of Makeevka is based on video material gathered during anthropological fieldwork that included 68 children at various locations in the city (Naterer, 2010):


»When it comes to the gender structure of street children, there were 52 boys (76.5 %) and 15 girls (23.5%). The average age in the total population was 13.6 years. 47 children (69.1 %) reported the street as their home, while the remaining 21 (30.8 %) had a family. The main reasons for escaping to the streets were poor living conditions, alcoholism and violence; a matrifocal family structure was also present. Among 68 children, 43 (63.2 %) had both parents present, 18 (26.3 %) had only a mother, 1 (1.5 %) only a father and 6 (8.8 %) had no parent present. Out of 66 children (100 %) stating their family structure, 36 (52.9 %) described their family as being complete, 32 (47.1 %) as incomplete, disintegrated or single-parent. Out of 68 children, 50 (73.5 %) identified their family situation as problematic; 18 (26.5 %) of them felt that there were no major problems in their family. The most significant problems include alcoholism, which occurs mostly in combination with unemployment and the use of inhalants. 60 (88.2 %) reported participation in one of the institutional educational programs, but 8 (11.8 %) had never attended school.”«

Misha, 9 years old (an excerpt from an interview in 2000):

»My father was a heavy drinker. He had been drinking a lot even before they closed the mine in which he was working, after that he lost his job … and while he was drunk he beat me, also my mother and my brother and other people also … he beat me even when he wasn’t drunk but when he was, he used to beat me even more. When I had enough of this, I ran away and never returned. After some time my brother followed … «

Anja, 15, about Sergei, 14 years old (an excerpt from an interview in 2000):

»His parents have a lot of money, they own a gas station. When his father passed away his mother married someone else … Sergei was constantly arguing with that man and the first time that he hit him, Sergei ran away.«


The vast majority of the film material was collected among the group living in the city district of Pushka. The group comprised from 15 to 20 members, of which most were boys. The group was formed around two boys, Arthur and Vadim, who ended up on the street with their parents. Many group members came from disintegrated and incomplete families with a lot of alcoholism and other forms of abuse. The group had a social structure similar to the structure of the family (Naterer, 2010). It was formed around two basic authorities, the authorities of a father and a mother, represented and implemented by two cousins, Arthur and Vadim who were also the oldest and with the longest period on the street. Arthur could be described as the father of the group; the children recognized him as someone capable of providing rational advice and physical protection. In contrast, his cousin Vadim, a few years younger, was the one who had the capacity to give consolation, food and financial resources and was also there to solve minor disputes and discords (ibid.).

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The Potkidish brothers Written by Super User 2006
Arthur and Vadim Written by Super User 2151