Brothers Andrey, 8, Sergey, 6, Ilya, 7, and Sergey, 14, and mom Larissa, 52 watch TV before going to sleep. (Ksenia Les) Kristina, 6, and Sofia, 7, play. (Ksenia Les)
Ksenia Les is a documentary photographer originally from Yaroslavl, Russia, but has been based out of Berlin for the past eight years. Her work focuses on social issues and the shifting of East European identities, hoping to show more than we are usually accustomed to.
Les has been working on a project about a Russian family that has adopted multiple children, a practice she says is not that common. As Les says: “Only a few families in Russia adopt children due to possible prejudices of society and the fear of raising traumatized children. Children who grow up in orphanages are often not given adequate psychological and physical care. Former orphans in Russia are often stereotyped as alcoholics, criminals or too stupid to work.”
Les began her project in 2016 when she met the Morozov family. The family is from the Russian city of Kaliningrad, a former German city that was annexed by Russia in 1945 and is on the Baltic Sea between Poland to the south and Lithuania to the north and east.
At the time Les photographed the Morozovs, they included 13 adopted brothers and sisters. The Morozovs began adopting children in 2009, after their own children grew up and left the home. The parents, Larisa and Sergey, live with the children in a former kindergarten. According to Les, the family does not have a lot of money, and they receive 8,000 rubles (around $100) subsidy per child per month. The lack of money also makes it difficult to provide an education for the children.
Life is difficult for the Morozov family. Les says the household is run strictly: “Order and house rules are enforced by strong authoritative methods.” But despite this, Les says, “all of the children call Larisa and Sergey ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ and enjoy a life without existential fears.”
You can see more of Les’s work on her website, here.
The children practice singing patriotic songs for Victory Day on May 9. It has become a tradition for a group of local veterans to visit the family. (Ksenia Les) lya, 7, flexes his muscles in the living room. When he grows up he wants to be a police officer or a painter. (Ksenia Les) The children have a separate dining room. Only the older kids are allowed to eat from time to time in the kitchen with the parents. The father, Sergey, 47, is serving their favorite food — noodles with minced meat. (Ksenia Les) Exercise is an every day ritual for the kids and, according to their parents, is a way for them to become self-disciplined and ambitious people. Katya, 14, demonstrates a training routine to Sergey, 6, Kristina, 4 and Andrey, 8, in the exercise room of the Morozovy‘s house. (Ksenia Les) Hair cutting is something of a ritual in the family, as well. Echoing the father's life in the military, they believe short hair "forms a disciplined character." (Ksenia Les) Katya,14, plans fun activities for the youngest kids every night. She and Kristina, 4, are resting after a little disco in the living room. (Ksenia Les) Sergey, 6, and Andrey, 8, are punished by the older brother Dima, 14, for being too loud and watching TV after 9 p.m. (Ksenia Les) Katya, 16, is in charge of preparing clothes for kids for the beginning of the school year. Although she dreams of working in a kindergarten, she will start an apprenticeship at a telephone company. (Ksenia Les) During Epiphany, two girls, both named Katia, are not allowed to go too deep into the holy water with the boys. Instead, they organize their own ritual. (Ksenia Les) The older kids (especially girls) are in charge of taking care of the smaller ones, starting from picking them up from school to helping them with homework and cleaning up before bed. (Ksenia Les) Discipline and respect for older ones is one of the main lessons children learn in the house. Sergey, 15, is showing the younger ones how to take care of the house. Children usually start cleaning their place after coming back from school. (Ksenia Les) Andrey, 9, is the oldest of three siblings who came to the house in 2014. (Ksenia Les) It is almost a summertime, and it is getting warmer. After every task in the house has been done, a couple of the older kids Katya,15, and Misha, 15, organize a picnic for the very small ones. (Ksenia Les)
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
More on In Sight:
Chernobyl broke down over 30 years ago. These photos show the effects aren’t over yet.
40 years in the making, photographer’s book reveals the ‘boundaries that hover just beyond our sight’
Down and out on New York City’s Bowery in the 1970s
Want to keep up to date on our latest In Sight posts? Subscribe to our newsletter here.