Svetlana, 46-year-old Christian woman, a survivor, always on the move, she had fallen hard into drugs and prostitution along her path.
I’ve met Svetlana for the first time on November 2015 at the “Death Courtyard” in a forgotten dark alley in Tel Aviv.
I’ve gotten to know a strong woman who got dealt the worst cards. Life in that courtyard was unbearable: homeless people, prostitution and drugs. Groups of people, walking daily on that tight rope between life and death.
I’ve returned there time and again, not knowing who or what I would see, life there had different rules, different dynamics. Time was passing in a different dimension from one drug portion to another, from day to day, from life to death, death like a black hole threatening and hovering over the complex, while every so often somebody gets sucked into it. The worlds of prostitution, the drugs and the street are interconnected, nurture each other, and aim at addiction, when the end is well known in advance.
The relationships between all players were complex. One could see a lot of help and cooperation in injecting the drug, sharing food, when there is some, caring for basic health and rebuilding the shelter that is in constant change for various reasons, once the tent burns down, once the municipality takes everything apart, once it is stolen…but mostly, it’s each person to himself.
Every so often Svetlana’s condition would deteriorate, she was sick and weak, and she was happy to see me when I came. She was happy just for a minute, and then she lost the smile and talked about death, several times she said she does not want to live. With agony, I tried to understand the place she was in, all that we have, which surrounds and protects us and is taken for granted – is not a given there.
During our last meeting in the street, she was bruised and hurt, weak and depressed. She sat on the mattress, covered herself with a blanket, bid me goodbye, before she would sip the alcohol that enabled some sleep. She said she feels the end is near, I felt helpless in my inability to help her, it has to come from her, and she has to choose life.
That was the day of critical point in time, and then she made a choice – she had chosen life. She let the church place her in a safe house in a quiet country side town in northern Israel that is kept by nuns. She is being rehabilitated and getting closer to religion, her physical condition is good and she sounds very happy and proud – she saved her own life.
Today, more than a year from the day I first met her, Svetlana is completely clean from drugs, she practices her religious rituals, works for a living and conducts normal life away from that harsh reality she once was a part of, now she helps others to choose life.
About Efrat Sela
Efrat Sela born in 1964 in Israel, interior designer with a passion for photography. I am fascinated by the human experience in all its formats, looking for man’s interaction within society and culture. I look for stories, be it an individual or a group, captivated by different and unknown worlds. Through the lens I investigate and study the place, its culture and people, where I find myself completely enchanted. Lately I’m deeply fascinated by documentary stories. I have participated in several exhibitions and my photographs were published in various professional magazines. [Official Website]