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B&WConceptEuropeChildhood : Dear Mom and Dad by Ksenia Apresian

What is a happy childhood? Few experience the idyllic family life portrayed in TV shows and commercials. The truth, told by the World Health Organisation, points to a sadder, darker reality.

What is a happy childhood?

Few experience the idyllic family life portrayed in TV shows and commercials. The truth, told by the World Health Organisation, points to a sadder, darker reality.

  • 55,000,000 children living in Europe have experienced mental abuse. 

  • 44,000,000 have endured physical abuse.

  • 18,000,000 have suffered sexual abuse.

Dear Mom and Dad is a project devoted to those who have experienced difficult, abusive childhoods. I interviewed 8 people with unique stories. They come from different parts of the world, each with different backgrounds and life experiences, but they all share one thing in common.

Their stories, although unique, carry the theme of a toxic childhood. They tell the tales of strict upbringings, tough fathers, overbearing mothers, alcoholism, gambling, and poverty.They have sought freedom as expats in Berlin, having distanced themselves from their families. But are they really free?

About Ksenia Apresian

Ksenia Apresian is a russian photographer from Moscow, currently living in Berlin. She began to study visual arts in 2011. She is currently working as a documentary and portrait photographer, interested in such topics as self-perception and psychology, movement practices and electronic music scene. She moved to Berlin in 2018 and continues to explore personalities of the people around with the help of her camera. [Official Website]

Hero 1: Hannah – My whole childhood felt like a roller-coaster ride, as we moved from place to place all the time. And also because of my mother having her ups and downs all the time. She suffered from depression and never kept her promises. We could plan to go to an amusement park on the weekend but never did. Small things, but it was important for me. So her behavior really pissed me off. As I was little, I didn’t understand what the word “depression” meant and I sometimes was mad at her for not getting up and just getting things done.

Hero 2: Anna – I think my parents were not ready to be parents. They didn’t accept my negative emotions: like being upset or crying. It was mostly arguing or silence or being ignored by them, shouted at or criticized. It wasn’t very positive. When I was 9, I tried to jump out of the window. Our nanny came in, when I was standing on the edge and stopped me. Now I think: how is it possible for a 9 year-old girl to want to kill herself? The main reason were sadness and self-hate. I was really sad all the time, but I didn’t understand why. I just felt that if my parents couldn’t love me, who would? I felt as an unlovable, shitty person. I wanted to hurt myself, like you want to hurt something you don’t like.

Hero 3: Emma – My Dad is an alcoholic and he became a gambler as well. We never knew that he was spending so much money. He started to take loans for gambling and had secretly put my mother in the contract. When she found out, she divorced him. They had to register our flat on me, because if my dad didn’t pay the loans, mom would have to. We had to deal with all the paperwork, it was such a drama. I was so angry at my father that I didn’t talk to him for 2 years. Now we talk, but never discuss that episode. I think he’s doing well, he stopped gambling and is still paying his debts.

Hero 4: Olga – I come from a very loud family. My mother was more dramatic, and my father just didn’t know how to communicate. So he was shouting and trying to dominate me. He got lots of anxieties. Being very religious, he tried to deal with them by praying. It didn’t help, so he just vented all his frustration on us, his kids. It keeps influencing my life: if someone shouts, I cannot answer. I get very emotional, want to cry and run away. I’m just used to behave this way. I learned a lot from my family. Through pain and struggle, I understood what kind of person I don’t want to be. Now I know how to behave, so that nobody around has the same experience.

Hero 5: Maria – I dreamt of going to St. Petersburg to study acting, but my parents forbade me. “You must study economics to be able to make a living”. My mom and dad were typical Soviet people and it was very important that I get a proper education. So I had to. Now I feel ashamed of my economics degree and never show it to anyone. I’m still mad at them – I dreamt of acting, but they didn’t support me. I have never worked as an economist: at the age of 22, I moved to Germany and at 26, I finally started to study theatre.

Hero 6: Sophia – My mother was not a good person. She lied and took advantage of me all the time. She’s done so much wrong that I’m still in process of trying to forgive it. She was drinking a lot, always going to the bar and staying there. I was scared and called her: “Mom, can you please come home?” And then my father would beat me up for trying to call her. I would never go to school the day after – I was so stressed about where she was and what’s going on. That it still affects my life: when my boyfriend goes out without me, I cannot sleep. I really trust him, but I just know that it comes from my childhood.

Hero 7: Pavel – I was born in a small German town in a very conservative family. My father was explosive, while my mother was more like “either you accept my rules or I will beat you”. I never did anything bad, but my parents were beating us a lot. Because of that I kept having nightmares until I was 25. The nightmare was always the same: I was in the middle of tropical plants grabbing me, so I couldn’t move, and my mother and my father were screaming at me. Just imagine, it’s so crazy! I recently had these nightmares again. So I know it’s not really solved for me and my subconscious.

Hero 8: Ben – My father was never at home, he was not a family guy. He was at home 2 times in a week, coming to sleep and that’s it. He had never put his energy in raising me. My mother wanted to do all the things as she wanted and I was rebelling against it. As a child I’ve heard all the time fighting between parents and it was stressful for me. I rejected everything they did, always wanting the opposite. When we had conflicts, I never asked my parents for forgiveness or something like that. No. I was feeling that I’m always right.

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