A Pentecostal drug rehabilitation home about two hours outside of Moscow houses people ready for release from their addictions.
Los Angeles photographer Mae Ryan spent two days there on assignment for Time magazine. She followed Irina Pavlova, a blonde resident who had used “krokodil,” a homemade drug with effects similar to heroin. (Time is owned by CNN’s parent company, Time Warner.)
The group home interested Ryan, and she found herself documenting other people staying there as well. “They seemed very supportive, like they come from similar places,” she said, even though she couldn’t understand their language.
The men and women sleep in separate rooms, and a former heroin addict runs the house. There are religious undertones, like speaking in tongues and reading the Bible.
Physical labor and church activities keep the residents busy, but it also gives them a place to turn when the urge to use seems overwhelming. Some of them end up learning things that help them find jobs after rehab.
“An emphasis on manual labor instills a way of living that is not drugs,” Ryan said. “They’re building skills.”
She admitted it was hard seeing the empty look in Irina’s eyes from so many years of hard drug use but applauded the religious institute for “creating a social program that doesn’t exist.”
Being unable to verbally communicate allowed Ryan to easily hide in the shadows and slip into documentarian mode.
“I thought it would be scary,” she said about not speaking Russian. “But it was sort of freeing as a photographer.”
- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN