The Russian Girl Who Grew Up in a Garbage Dump
It’s a universal story. There’s homelessness everywhere in the world… For 14 years, filmmaker Hanna Polak followed Yula as she grew up in the forbidden territory of Svalka; the garbage dump located 13 miles from the Kremlin in Putin’s Russia. Yula’s story – is a dramatic tale of coming of age and maturing to the point of taking destiny into one’s own hands. It is a story of hope, courage, and life
Youthful Yula has but one dream – to lead a normal life. She was one of the inhabitants of the “Svalka” outside Moscow. A few kilometers away from the Red Square, there it’s another world. This Svalka, known simply by its Russian term for rubbish dump, was the largest landfill in Europe.
Yula lives in Europe’s largest trash dump, called Svalka, just 13 miles from the Kremlin in Putin’s Russia. Her home is made of heaps of garbage, where she and her mother, Tanya, are forced to work for an illegally-operated recycling business. They’re paid in denatured alcohol (a substance similar to rubbing alcohol). The residents drink and bathe in melted snow. They eat rotten food scraps and sleep on trash in makeshift huts. Their only connection to the outside world is through the garbage of others and the glimmering views of Moscow that can be seen from the dump
Just like the others, the girl subsists on what she finds in the dump. From the mountains of rubbish she digs out clothes, food, cosmetics, sometimes an old radio, or a carpet. In the scrap collection centre metal junk can be exchanged for a bottle of vodka. Here this is the only currency.
As a child, Yula played innocent games with the other children and with the toys found in the rubbish. She cracked jokes, listened to music and read magazines plucked from the trash. She listened to the radio to keep up with what was going on in the outside world.