Six months later…
We returned to Perm 6 months later in June. We had made the decision to make the film in two parts to give a sense of time passing. It also gave the character’s story lines a chance to play through and give a better sense of how much can change over the course of a year in their lives. I certainly didn’t expect as much to have changed in just 6 months.
Luckily after months of searching, Ksusha had been tracked down – literally a day before we arrived. Kolya had narrowly escaped a long prison sentence and Irina had run away from rehab. It was blow to see Irina back and using drugs after hearing all the positive updates on her health and attitudes thanks to rehab. We thought she could be the saviour of the film – to prove that with a little help, these people aren’t lost causes. It wasn’t to be. This however is the usual reality of the situation. Very few people do make it off the street for good.
Other developments included the shack (Skazka) being burnt down, Kolya finding a girlfriend with plans to settle down and start a family, Irina visiting her estranged mother and Ksusha abandoning the rest of the group to live on her own in an allotment. The only person who hadn’t changed at all was Denis. He had just spiralled further into a miserable existence of being forced out to beg everyday.The group had also moved on from their usual glue sniffing and the injection of cheap medication to heroin. This created a sense of volatility between everyone as money for the heroin needed to be made quickly and on time.
This is exactly the reason why Ksusha abandoned the group. She didn’t use heroin and wasn’t dependent on the others. She seemed to have found a sense of peace by growing her own vegetables and picking raspberries to sell at the local market. For everyone else it was a downward spiral. It was only towards the end of our time in Perm that we were able to sit down with Denis and ask him to explain his situation. Despite the high of the drugs he was very clear in his desperation and wish to run away. After a few more forced begging sessions enough was enough and he made a clear get away without telling anyone or saying goodbye.
Finishing the shoot
We ended the filming with Denis moving to rehab. All information after this was passed on through the charity.
Irina and Kolya remained in Skazka until Kolya was finally sent to prison for theft (most likely a direct result of loosing Denis as his source of income).
Ksusha soon became pregnant but after birth the baby was taken into care due to her living conditions. Some time later she married, moved to another city and now has a baby boy.
Denis spent 6 months in rehab before returning to Perm as a clean, non drug user with hopes for a bright future. Unfortunately Denis’ destiny was against him. The government had no program to look after him other than putting him in a homeless shelter and so he ended up moving in with his estranged alcoholic aunt – the same aunt who had abandoned him when he lost his fingers. Instead of offering Denis the support he needed to adapt back into society she sent him back onto the street to help her pay for alcohol. Once out begging he was quickly spotted by the old group and persuaded back into living with them.
During the particularly harsh winter, Denis died. Finding this out after we had edited much of the film and getting to know him through his interviews and studying him on screen was devastating. We all had huge hopes in Denis who had gone from being in such a bad place to being bright and happy – with a possibility of a future. It was also the positive end the film needed. Just like we had hoped with Irina – to show that it is possible with support and charitable organisations to change a life. We added this story about Denis’ passing at the end of the film as we feel that although it’s difficult to bare, it’s best to be honest about the situation. It also highlights a lack of support in the system for young adults who are in need of love and support to get back into society, and not just be passed on to a homeless shelter, surrounded by alcoholics and drug users.