Ukraine: Death Camps, for Children [July 1 UPDATE]

by Terry Hallman

First and foremost, I want to point out very clearly to all readers that I am not picking on Ukraine.  What is presented here is not unique to Ukraine.  While it might appear that I'm singling out Ukraine, there's a converse and profound condition to be considered: I reveal this, in Ukraine, because I can.  In the former Soviet Union, freedom to do such a thing is quite an accomplishment for a newly-independent country in and of itself.  Thus, what I'm writing about, tragic and brutal though it is, should also be considered in that light.  In Russia -- which is now an absolutely different and distinct dictatorial political climate than Ukraine's passionate drive toward freedom, democracy, and ending corruption -- I'd never be able to get away with this these days, I suspect.  In Russia, I was threatened, harassed, poisoned, and imprisoned, for daring to speak out against corruption and human rights abuses.  That's another story.  Suffice to say that it should be to Ukraine's credit that what I'm writing about here can begin to be exposed to the world.

In 1998, Human Rights Watch brought post-Soviet "orphanages" to light in a report titled "ABANDONED TO THE STATE - CRUELTY AND NEGLECT IN RUSSIAN ORPHANAGES."  Russia and the former Soviet Union were at that time practically ubiquitous, one and the same thing.  Thus Russia could just as well have been Ukraine or any other former Soviet state.  Russia was always top dog, the largest country, most natural resources, largest population, and last but not least, home to the Kremlin and the power masters who have resided there for centuries.  What went for Russia went for Russia's "near abroad", particularly Ukraine where Russia took for granted control and ownership until recently.  In short, substitute "Ukraine" for "Russia" in the report, and it's still essentially the same report.

HRW in 1998 noted at the beginning of their report

"It is a pity that a vise of secrecy and fear, reminiscent of Soviet times, has tightened around the isolated world of Russia's state orphanages. Many dedicated orphanage staff and foreign volunteers begged us not to reveal their names, or the institutions in which they worked. Russian workers, they said, would be fired for talking to an outsider. Foreign charity workers would be expelled from the institutions and the doors slammed on humanitarian assistance. This would further isolate the system which they felt a desperate need to improve. We have respected these requests."

and this:

"They're called children with no prospects, not trainable, not treatable. A colleague called these psychoneurological internaty 'death camps.' The situation there is terrible."

Then, there is this from a recent letter I received from a multinational Western research group in Ukraine just three weeks ago:

"When we arrived at the orphanage we were met by older children without coats, they were begging us to give things to them and not to the directors. It is very hard to write about the rest of this part of the trip. I cannot give a step by step account because we were all in a state of shock. We spoke to the director about our program and he told us that he knows the children need more but he said, "I cannot ask my workers to do more, they work very hard, clearing the road, shoveling snow, cleaning the floors and the children, they have not time, they must work very hard all day and then they must dig graves and bury children." What do you say to that?

"Still, the staff took us around to show us how it is. Words don't come to mind, most of our team was crying and could not stop. Dark hallways, screaming, children clustered together in freezing rooms, some in strait-jackets, haunted looking crying, asking if they were good, asking for food. Water dripping from the dark ceilings, mold everywhere. We held children who were 10 and 13 years old in our arms like infants. One team member said later that she never knew that humans are like fish and will only grow to the size of their environment. One team member threw up outside. Children never leave their beds in some rooms. These children are ages 4-16. In other rooms they leave to go to a room with just a bench and nothing else in it. They hold each other -rocking one another. I have never seen such deprivation and our photographer said it best when he said it was a concentration camp for children. Sorry, this is such a hard part to write but I looked in the eyes of many children who are dying. Their tiny bones fit into the palm of my hands. Their skeleton faces begging for help. No one in our team has really slept since. We talk about it but just end up in tears. I promised the orphanage staff we would come back with a team of people to help them. They are counting on it. The director told one team member that 20 years ago he asked for help there and the soviet minister came and visited. The visiting soviet minister told the director, 'why do you keep these animals alive? You can kill them, you know how to do it you are a doctor.' He never sent any money or aid to the orphanage."

I pleaded with the researcher to allow me to publish the full letter.  The full letter, along with what I know and what HRW published in December 1998, would provide three entirely independent sources corroborating the same information.  Request was refused on what the team deemed to be "ethical" grounds:  they were sworn to secrecy immediately on arrival, and told that staff would fired and charity aid workers would be expelled and prevented from returning.  That had already happened before, with aid organizations having been shut out for four years.

I don't know if I'm stretching ethics here or not.  On the one hand, I am bound by confidentiality and respect for the Western team's work, as well as legitimate concern that everyone could be shut out entirely via mere mention of this information publicly.  At the same time, silence will continue to prolong a deadly situation.  What the Western team was told three weeks ago is exactly what the HRW team was told seven years ago.  Obviously, perpetrating silence remains the status quo, and therefore nothing has changed.  The Western team didn't know about the HRW report until after the fact, when I pointed it out to them last week.  They're at least reconsidering their promise of silence, but feel bound by their own word -- unwitting though it may have been -- to keep silent.  I hope that they will ultimately recognize that their overriding obligation is to their clients -- kids in concentration camps, as they themselves put it -- above the interests of people keeping their jobs and certain powers-that-be threatening to shut these kids off from any further help from the outside world.  In the meantime, I'm trying to strike a fair balance between confidentiality and avoiding being a party to death by silence.  I think I have a greater moral obligation to speak than to keep quiet.

There is a big mystery as to exactly why these kids and their Hell holes are being kept secret.  There are several possibilities.

  1. Ukraine just can't afford to do more than let a lot of them die.  Keeping it all secret prevents pressure for doing more, and avoids major embarrassment and humiliation in the court of international opinion.
  2. Knowledge as to how to treat the children medically is sorely lacking (and this is, in fact, a significant factor.)
  3. Ukraine is already spending more monies for far better care of these children than is actually being used directly for their care, but it's being diverted by corrupt officials.

Knowing what I know personally about how things work in the former Soviet Union, I suspect it's a mixture of all three of those factors.  Consequently, and knowing what to expect from fighting with Russian parasites in the past, there would seem to be some real risk in speaking out. The biggest risk now in Ukraine is possible deportation, making it more difficult to help rescue these children.  Someone has to speak out for these children, because there is no doubt whatsoever that many of them are going to die quiet, pitiful, unknown deaths in a part of the world that, with due credit, is finally learning to care about its darkest, most sinister secrets.

Part 2

In order to understand how to rescue these children, it is first necessary to understand the scope of the problem overall: how many children are in all orphanages in Ukraine?

A 2005 report from EveryChild, "FAMILY MATTERS: A Study of Institutional Childcare in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union" (4MB PDF file), a UK-based childcare-reform charity organization, explains estimates from 40,000 to 80,000 in 2002. (page 17) Recent anecdotal information to P-CED Ukraine, a UK and Ukraine-based social enterprise, indicates 100,000 to 120,000 children in state institutional care as of 2006. P-CED Ukraine has researchers working to confirm those numbers, and/or to get precise current numbers according to Ukrainian officials. EveryChild also points out the difficulty in getting reliable statistics. (Ibid, page 15)

The purpose of getting an accurate count is to determine budget for rescue and solutions. EveryChild further notes that as of 2002, 600 hryvnia or $120 per month were budgeted for each child in a Ukrainian orphanage. (Ibid, page 34) It is not clear if that amount applied to the most conservative estimate of 40,000 population in orphanages, or the better estimate they propose as 80,000 population in 2002. Sources in south-central Ukraine, who are promoting foster-care as an exit solution for orphans, state that on average depending on a child’s age, the equivalent of $256.50 per month per child is immediately available to Ukrainian foster families from Ukraine’s budget. They further state that this amount is less than the amount Ukraine’s budget per child for keeping children in a state-run orphanage. That in turn puts Ukraine’s expenditure at $260 per month or more per child to keep them in orphanages. The question remains: how many children are officially accounted as living in orphanages to start with?

Based on personal experience of caring for and raising a child in Ukraine, $150 a month is sufficient to cover all but dire emergency needs such as a serious accident or catastrophic medical condition, in most locations in Ukraine. This is roughly in line with the $120 per month per child cited by EveryChild (above) for 2002. $260 per month cited by foster-care advocates above includes a small caretakers salary, yielding an average amount per child to a comfortable $190 per month.

More realistic stimates regarding total number of orphans range between 80,000 (in 2002) from EveryChild’s research, and 100,000 or more from anecdotal evidence in 2006. If any error is to be made in first assessing the size of the population, it is better to estimate too high than too low, given that any budget applications will be on a per child basis as needed rather than one lump sum to be spent no matter what. In other words, it is better to have excess budget than insufficient budget in arranging first measures for nationwide assistance for all orphans.

Going with the $256 per month average amount per child allocated for foster care, and allowing for 100,000 children, that brings immediate budget equivalence of a little over $300 million per year. Going with the lowest numbers of $120 per month and 40,000 children yields about $60 million per year.

Even the lower of those amounts -- $120 per month per child -- is sufficient not only to prevent death camps, but also to keep children in reasonably good physical health albeit without the essential need of a loving family.

Obviously, there is something amiss.

Someone is scaring and intimidating, or have done so in the past, orphanage directors and staff into silence. That much is clear. Possibly it might be attributed to habituated paranoia, a common disorder among older post-Soviets. In that case, it is reasonable to predict that foes are only imaginary, and there is no longer anyone in place anywhere in Ukraine’s government or system willing to harm orphanage staff for allowing public information of facilities.

In any case, we’re talking fairly substantial amounts of funding for these children, on the order of $300 million a year. That amount is sufficient for much more than improving health and living conditions in orphanages. As EveryChild points out (Ibid, page 34), the estimated cost of keeping children in any home-type environment alternatives to orphanages is cheaper than keeping them in orphanages. These alternatives include small group homes, foster care, and adoption. This is not speculation, as the group-home alternative has been tried and proven in Russia’s Samara region. Children were placed in group-home settings with professional caregivers attending to them as substitute parents.

An average amount of $256 per month per child, if accurate as existing budget allowance for foster care, provides sufficient budget to place most children in professionally-staffed group homes as the first interim measure, getting them out of orphanages entirely and rendering the existing orphanage system obsolete. From there, they can be phased into foster families as families become available, into adoptive families within Ukraine and, if necessary, abroad. This measure can be undertaken and implemented immediately, and in full within eighteen months.

The aim absolutely has to be getting orphans into loving, home environments. Group homes with ten children per home and four full-time staffers is a good start. In Samara, a Canadian doctor who monitored the transition told me that children’s lives were turned around after removal to small group homes. In his words, “They bloomed and flourished” by comparison to their existence in orphanages.

In Ukraine, foster care and adoption are still new ideas and practices. It will take time for public attitudes to come to embrace those practices. Transition must therefore include continuation of public education, in order to give children even better family living possibilities beyond group homes. Group homes appear to be the first step logistically, because this can be accomplished fairly quickly and represents great relief from orphanage conditions. Every child needs a family, family structure, a place to call home, and people who can be relied upon to love them and guide them. The existence of death camps instead, presumably because some people feel that these children aren’t worth loving – and possibly that funds intended to care for them are therefore better diverted to unknown private elsewheres-- is the darkest possible statement against any pretense of civilization.

Part 3

This is what can be done and, indeed, what has to be done, for Ukraine's orphans.

As explained in Part 2, it is unclear how many orphans Ukraine has, and how much is being allocated in the annual national budget for their care. Getting that specific information is not a simple matter. Moreover, getting that information takes time, and results in further delay. Looking at it from the point of view of, God forbid, an uncooperative and intransigent government, merely hiding those statistics could be used as a delay tactic to put off any further action.

Therefore, I'm going with the following information as a start point for action.

I am allowing that there are 120,000 chidren in Ukrainian ophanages. I am further allowing that adequate support per child is in the amount of $150 per month, as indicated in update 1.

That dictates a total budget of $216 million per year solely for the children. Add in another $300 per month on average across Ukraine for one professional caretaker salary (four caregivers per ten children in new group homes of ten children per home/flat, 30,000 total caregivers) adds another $108 million per year, for total annual cost of $324 million per year. Add in 12,000 flats of sufficient size to take in 10 children each, at an average cost across Ukraine of $40,000 per flat (100 square meters), and the total comes to $804 million for year one. That translates to one-time cost of $480 million for flats, and an annual recurring cost of $324 million. These are simply the financial numbers that must be taken into account to give these chidren any possibility for a decent life. Otherwise, Ukraine's government must admit that these children are disposable, and sending them to either death or a life with almost no hope is official government policy.

There is no other way to interpret this situation. This is no longer a time for Ukraine's government to shirk this matter, or to play games with words and numbers.

Excuses won't work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine's economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine's orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine's death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them..

It is to the credit of the new regime that, at least, one of the most glaring and egregious thefts of state property has been reversed vis-a-vis the reprivatization of Kryvorishtal Steel company. I argued on Maidan a year ago that this reprivatization was appropriate if the state could get at least $3 billion for the sale as a one-time windfall, then intake taxes annually on profits. Otherwise, it would be to the state's long-term advantage to hold the property as it produced a steady $600 million a year in profits. Akhmetov and Pinchuk, in an insiders' deal that was clearly rigged in their favor, had managed to pay only $800 million for the company in the initial privatization, a fraction of what it was really worth on the open market. When the reprivatization controversy was coming to a boil a year ago, speculation was that it might bring around $2 billion or maybe even as much as three times the rigged purchase price of $800 million. Nobody seemed to believe it could bring $3 billion dollars that I proposed as a minimum bid price. The actual price under what was widely hailed as an open, honest, and transparent bid and sale process: $4.8 billion, or six times what Akhmetov and Pinchuk paid.

Now Ukraine has an extra $4 billion in national budget just from that one correction alone. Which, in turn, is far more than enough to permanently solve Ukraine's orphanage problems as well as create a nationwide poverty relief program to prevent such problems in the future. Most of these kids come from situations deriving from poverty. This money should be put exactly where it belongs, helping people who have been left with little or nothing due to massive pilfering and looting of Ukraine’s national wealth to start with. $4 billion represents only a small, partial recovery of misappropriated resources, but is enough to bring badly-needed relief. Roughly $800 million in year one is the largest expenditure for childcare reform, with annual recurring costs of about $325 million. If Ukraine’s government gets serious about helping these kids in internats and death camps, it is very likely that large donor organizations will also be willing to help out.

These are secondary means of bringing humanitarian relief. But, the primary reasons why this problem even exists must not be overlooked. Those reasons have names, and a partial listing of those names is above.

In the next part, I will outline a nationwide poverty-relief program that will not only work, but also will for the most part pay for itself in a combination of generated revenues and cost-savings for Ukraine's national budget. Front and center, first and foremost: getting these kids out of Hell holes and into home-style environments..

Part 4

This update is primarily to outline solutions. At the same time, it is also necessary to at least mention ongoing barriers to those solutions.

From the previous update, the sheer magnitude and scope of orphanage problems becomes apparent: a projected cost of $800 million immediately for year one reform, and an annual recurring cost of about $325 million.

Ukraine has funding in such amounts as a result of only the Kryvorizhshtal sale. The US side has funding in such amounts in its Millennium Challenge Account, for which Ukraine will be soon be eligible in full – pending resolution of corruption issues. MCA has 15 metrics that a qualifying country must satisfy for eligibility, in addition to two primary criteria: democratic progress and bona fide market economy. Without these latter two criteria, the 15 metrics do not come into play. As of November 2005, Ukraine qualified on those two criteria along with most of the 15 metrics. Ukraine came in below median score on the corruption metric, and therefore must satisfy that metric prior to full eligibility for MCA funds. MCA funds, administered by Millennium Challenge Corporation or MCC, are intended for economic development in qualifying countries in order to expand economic growth and reduce poverty.

Further, World Bank has large funding available for development aimed at poverty relief and social benefit. World Bank has been around much longer than MCC, and is therefore much better known.

In both cases, MCC and World Bank, Ukraine needs to define projects that will generate revenue, with that revenue earmarked for further economic development and social benefit. This is assuming that Ukraine’s government is able to satisfy the MCC corruption metric.

At this time, Ukraine alone has more than enough money to turn the orphanage situation around and get these children into family-like environments. However, it appears very unlikely that Ukraine’s children are of such priority for Ukraine’s government. This is perhaps a holdover from previous government, allowing that new government can move only so fast and cannot resolve every single critical issue in Ukraine in only sixteen months since coming to power. That is quite understandable. Furthermore, given widespread poverty in Ukraine and a multitude of social disorders – widespread ignorance and lack of education on HIV/AIDS; lack of corruption remedies and protections for ordinary citizens hit with graft, extortion, and demand for bribes from officials and from mafia; corresponding ongoing tendencies toward demanding that graft; government officials who still refuse to acknowledge problems with orphanages to begin with – it is easy to understand how and why children in death camps are not exactly at the top of governments agenda.

According to Mrs. Yushchenko, the orphanage problems can only be resolved by new legislation. According to people around Mrs. Yanukovich, Mrs. Yanukovich is taking “good care” of all children in orphanages in “her region” (Donetsk.) Which is not true. But, that’s the Yanukovich home base, and that’s where heavy propaganda over the years has persuaded most people to believe that the Yanukovich clan are taking good care of them, even their orphans.

It is not true.

Thus, two of the top political wives are either resigning child care to a legislature that doesn’t seem to have gotten around to caring, or, are engendering public relations indicating that children are already being cared for very well. Yanukovich says nothing. Yushchenko, to his credit, at least chastised and reprimanded several regional governors – including in Kharkiv – recently for not coming up with plans to improve the lives of orphans.

The only significant factor preventing a total overhaul and reform of all orphanages in Ukraine is this: lack of political will, deriving from lack of basic human compassion for the children.

One top official in Lviv, often considered to be one of Ukraine’s more progressive communities, reportedly stated earlier this year in response to foster families in Ukraine offering to take in and care for orphans “Let government take care of these children. Why would you want to burden yourself and your family?” In another region, officials were insulted that anyone would think children in orphanages are receiving anything less than the best of care. This unbridled ignorance and arrogance is, I believe, at the root of the problem for orphans in Ukraine.

Underlying the problem with orphans and children assigned to state institutional care is one main, common factor, which is poverty. Many of these children are in orphanages and similar institutions because their families cannot afford to care for them. (See extensive research from Every Child, cited in prior updates above.) Every Child suggests that as many as 90% of children might be returned to their birth families, if their families receive state support. That support amounts to less than the cost of keeping children in state care. Of all other options available, be it foster care, in-country adoption, or family-like group homes, state care is worst for children and most expensive. ANYthing else is less expensive, and almost always better for the children. Returning children to their birth families would appear to be the first, best option, even ahead of group homes. But, readjustment to home family life may very well be an issue. In that case, getting children into small, family-like group homes may indeed remain to first, best solution. From there, as they adjust to more normal life outside orphanages, they might transition on to their birth families, foster families, or adoptive families, if transition back to birth families aren’t immediately feasible. If transition onward to any of those options are not possible – dysfunctional birth family, no birth family, not enough foster families, not enough adoptive families – small group homes are far better than warehouses (orphanages/internats/state institutions) and pose a healthier and lower costs long-term solution.

Overall, cost-savings alone, over time, will pay for most of the care programs. Thus, Ukraine’s government can simply borrow money from World Bank, or get a large grant from US government (no other governments have this kind of money available in such quantity), implement the better, lower-cost programs, and repay any loans via cost savings from national budget. Ukraine’s national budget and MCC’s budget – after Ukraine becomes eligible for MCC funds – both have more than enough funding to support the transition from orphanages and so on to healthier home environments for Ukraine’s abandoned children.

Additionally, there’s the issue of the 10% of children in internats who do require special care for special needs, such as physical and mental handicaps. This percentage is likely to cost more, not less, due to opening new, specialized facilities to shelter them and adding in new staff with new education and training. That means new education and training programs along with new facilities. Increased costs for this segment will somewhat offset reduced costs for the 90% or so of children who can be transferred to home-style environments, but not nearly enough to offset cost savings entirely.

Thus, cost savings alone will pay for most of the home-style care program, also known as Ukraine’s childcare reform program of 2006. To offset the remaining costs is a fairly simple matter: social enterprise.

Ukraine, at this crossroads in economic development, holds great potential for hundreds of new enterprises that stand to make tremendous profits in undeveloped economic sectors and sub-sectors. The telecom sector, for just one example, is grossly underdeveloped and limited mainly by less than five oligarchs who are preventing development to protect present and future profits only for themselves personally. They employ, pay, and bribe friends and allies as needed to prevent, delay, and control telecom development solely for their own benefit. Social concern and social benefit are nowhere in their equations. This gets back to Ukraine’s corruption climate, which MCC and many other international observers have certainly noted. Further, developing the telecom sector, particularly deployment of high-speed, low-cost Internet that is the norm across Europe, the US, and east Asia (excepting North Korea), is an essential ingredient in Ukraine’s overall economic development. This equation is extraordinarily simple: without such Internet access nationally for Ukraine, Ukraine’s economic future in the Information Age is bleak. Ukraine’s economy can and will develop according to information access for Ukraine’s citizens. Without that access, Ukraine’s economy will be much more limited, but enough to make a few very wealthy oligarch’s even more wealthy. These people have no care or concern for Ukraine, or for ordinary citizens in Ukraine. They certainly do not care about children in orphanages, claims about such as Mrs. Yanukovich’s efforts notwithstanding.

Consequently, the telecom sector and other sectors are wide open for development, with billions of dollars in profits to be had – if Ukraine surpasses its current and ongoing corruption albatross and develops its infant market economy further past its previous mafia/crony economy. Honest players can step in, go to work, invest, make money, and it takes only one or two social entrepreneurs in the mix to work hard in new business development and steer profits first toward the most crucial social benefit needs – such as children in death camps. This satisfies World Bank and MCC criteria, and puts billions of dollars in play for this purpose.

Part 5

From the first installation:

"There is a big mystery as to exactly why these kids and their Hell holes are being kept secret. There are several possibilities.

"1. Ukraine just can't afford to do more than let a lot of them die. Keeping it all secret prevents pressure for doing more, and avoids major embarrassment and humiliation in the court of international opinion.
2. Knowledge as to how to treat the children medically is sorely lacking (and this is, in fact, a significant factor.)
3. Ukraine is already spending more monies for far better care of these children than is actually being used directly for their care, but it's being diverted by corrupt officials."

Based on private communications since that 27 April post, most of my suspicions have been confirmed. The only exception is the very first sentence of item 1:

"Ukraine just can't afford to do more than let a lot of them die."

In fact, Ukraine CAN afford to do more than let these children die. To date, to this moment, Ukraine has not bothered to try.

That is a fact that I will defend with my life.

The why and wherefore behind that fact is a tale of neglect and horror indefensible in any presumably civilized country.

Unfortunately, by my reckoning to this moment -- or perhaps fortunately by Grand Schemes I am merely incapable of grasping -- I am the only person speaking publicly now who has comprehensive and detailed knowledge of those horrors as detailed multiple times to date, to me, "behind the scenes", said information having been graciously supplied by concerned parties who at this moment flatly refuse that I should make ANY of their information public.

Therefore, innocent children continue to die. How many today? I leave it to those who supplied information, but are too cowardly to go public, to wrestle with your conscience in answering that question. Don't tell me. I don't want to know, and I don't care. It is not my business to be your Father Confessor, your priest, the person to whom you confess your dark secrets to get them off your conscience.

From here forward, anyone who tells me anything must accept that it is the same as telling the world. I will no longer keep your secrets. Don't bother, don't try, don't ask. Your secrecy is contributing to this horror, not solving it. I've listened to every one of you, your defense of your secrecy positions. Most of it is hogwash.

Now, with that being said, we come to what must be done next given that virtually everyone who can help with corroborative detailed information wants to do so secretly, privately, without common knowledge.

I do not believe there are any remaining serious political interests in Ukraine capable or willing of further obstruction of open knowledge, and consequent solutions, for Ukraine's Death Camps For Children. Those include everyone I lambasted earlier, above. I don't think they have the heart or stomach for it, and I believe that the primary problem was of controlling oligarchs being distracted by increasing their own wealth rather than focus on helping Ukrainian citizens. That focus of increasing wealth did, however, serve to set a very negative precedent and example under Kuchma's Ukraine, wherein utterly corrupt officials in Ukraine's orphanage system were merely following the example of Dear Leader(s) from the top down. That was the problem, and that was perfectly acceptable and normal before.

100% of people who have contacted me with sensitive information now live outside Ukraine. Some are Ukrainians working or studying abroad, some are Ukrainian diaspora, none are in Ukraine now. Therefore, none have their finger on Ukraine's political pulse as someone such as myself who lives and works in Ukraine, who has done so for years, and who has an unmistakable, no-nonsense and absolutely uncompromising position against any and all forms of corruption within Ukraine. Active or passive corruption are both exactly the same thing, where the result in either case results in injury to, or death of, fellow human beings. From something I published many years ago, and which has stood the test of time:

"We have only to ask ourselves individually whether or not this is the sort of progress we want, where we accept consciously and intentionally that human progress allows for disposing of other human beings.

“This is a tricky question. Except in the case of self-defense, if for any reason we answer ‘Yes’, regardless of what that reason is, we are in effect agreeing with the proposition of disposing of human beings. Whether disposal be from deprivation or execution, the result is the same for the victim. If we agree that sometimes, for some reasons, it is acceptable and permissible to dispose of human beings, actively or passively, the next question is ‘Which people?’ Of course I will never argue that one of them should be me, though perhaps it should be you. You respond in kind, it cannot be you, but maybe it should be me. Not only can it not be you, it also cannot be your spouse, your children, your mother or father, your friends, your neighbors, but, maybe someone else. Naturally I feel the same way. Maybe we come to an agreement that it shouldn't be either you or me, or our families and friends, that can be disposed of, but perhaps someone else. While we are debating this -- passionately and sincerely, no doubt -- a third party comes along and without warning disposes of the both of us, or our families, or our friends. And there is the trap we have fallen into, because whether or not we approve of our or our families' and friends' demise is irrelevant. It is fair because we accepted the principle of human disposability. We just didn't intend that it be us who are tossed, but if we or our families and friends die, it is in accordance with principles that we ourselves have accepted and so must live -- and die -- by."

There is no room for allowing other human beings to be disposed of, whether actively or passively. Doing so defines anyone, as a person or as a nation, as one who approves and supports that other human beings are disposable and have therefore crossed the line of civilization. It is the passive cooperation in allowing any continuation of Ukraine's Death Camps, even if by well-intended people who simply don't know any better, that I must take exception to now.

I just happen to find myself in a cutting-edge political position in Ukraine now, having taken an absolute anti-corruption stance years ago and which serves quite well now in New Ukraine's political climate for which anti-corruption is the main anchor, and is quite stylish. In Russia, I nearly paid for the same position with my life. Operatives there merely failed in their attempt, and so I am alive now. But, no quieter than ever, no more afraid, and given Russia's courage to grant me a visa, I will return there within 24 hours if only to make the point that I am NOT afraid of their worst operatives. Without such fear, I believe that I am clear-eyed enough to recognize danger where it exists, and danger where it is merely imagined.

In Ukraine, at this moment, such danger is merely imagined, carried over by habituation from the prior regime where corruption throughout Ukraine was practically universal, absolute, and unchecked in all social and economic spheres. Again, there are no political forces in Ukraine who are able and willing to continue Ukraine's Death Camps. Silence among those who have knowledge but are now afraid to speak is a fatal illusion.

What needs to be done and what can be done has already been described in previous updates, above. I am now preparing an updated strategy plan, past the first one delivered to Ukraine's Ministry of Youth, Family, and Sports four months ago. This will be done without photos or any cooperation otherwise from anyone else, because everyone else who knows remains too afraid to speak. Photos would tell far more than my words, and my words alone may or may not be believed by funding organizations within or outside of Ukraine. I am well aware that even regional officials who are responsible for orphans' welfare honestly do not know of some of these death camps, due to silence and secrecy. Thus, if they don't know, how might it be possible to convince major funding to assist something that might just be imaginary for all but those who know from direct experience and observation that death camps are not imaginary, but are real, inhumane, and very deadly?

Nevertheless, I am bound to try, and will do my best to convince major funding to help these children that everyone else is afraid to speak about. It's all I can do.

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Submitted by Terry Hallman on Wed, 2011-02-23 23:24.

Photos are at long last available of the facility in question in Part 1.

Ongoing now:

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Sun, 2007-03-11 14:21.

"Ukraine to see creation of over 400 rehab centers for mentally disabled children"

"Over 400 rehab centers for mentally disabled children will be created in Ukraine, Labor and Social Protection Minister Mykhaylo Papiyev told while kicking off inauguration of the rehab center for mentally and physically disabled children in Kharkiv."

Submitted by ak1 on Fri, 2007-01-05 19:58.

I have access to some pics to one of these institutions--even though these are of the "censored" variety they are still terrible----also a link to a journalist's site has some horrendous photos--although they are from 2000 conditions are obviously still prevalent.

Submitted by PhilipGiddings on Tue, 2006-07-04 19:13.

I am just about to fire this off to a long list of unsuspecting people - starting about 2 hours from now, I think, but it will take days to send all the copies. Suggestions for e-mail addresses to add to the list will be helpful, too.

I was itching to put my 2 cents in about corruption, re-privatisation, Aslund and Tymoshenko, but thought better of it and deleted that paragraph.


Horror of slow-death camps for children in Ukraine

Urgent appeal for investigative journalists to verify and expose this outrage, and for media outlets and individuals everywhere to raise the alarm. The source and details are here:

Gathering evidence, I am afraid, will be like extracting teeth, due to the conspiracy of silence and secrecy which has evolved to ward off whistleblowers and (possibly, though it has yet to be established) protect corrupt vested interests. This extends to foreign aid workers being blackmailed that future aid will be blocked if they disclose names and locations. Clearly, somebody is trying to protect somebody else, however misguidedly.

Appalling conditions in eastern European orphanages are hardly news; but the sheer scale and severity of the suffering being claimed in recent reports, more than justifies this wake-up call. Thousands of Ukrainian children are literally left to die in pain and squalor: denied medical assistance and adequate subsistence because they are considered to be a lost cause. These are children with a range of illnesses, learning disabilities and mental health problems. The common factor is, they are all classified (whether officially or unofficially) as low-priority cases, having been rated as unlikely to become fully-functioning, productive citizens, even if their essential medical and other care were provided. It would be 'throwing good money after bad'.

Worse, this is a self-generating, cumulative condition, not an isolated occurrence. The more the orphanages and care institutions are starved of resources - and such funding as they receive is diverted by corruption - the more vulnerable their residents become to acquiring the illnesses and developmental problems that result in being classed as 'human write-offs' and effectively condemned to death.

Lack of money, particularly officially-allocated money, is not the only problem. However, many or most of these children probably could and would become productive citizens if given the chance; thereby justifying additional funding in callous, utilitarian terms, as a long-term investment in human capital and the future of Ukraine. Ukraine's future as part of the European Union, however, will depend on the ability of the State to demonstrate its commitment to European values and standards, in which human rights don't need any justification.

Submitted by Amina on Fri, 2007-01-12 11:40.

Hello Terry. I'm a Ukrainian living in Ukraine, an independent producer and author of the documentary about a disabled boy from the Russian orphanage adopted into an English family. Children's rights is my utmost concern. Please let me know how I can get in touch with you.

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Sat, 2007-01-13 08:05.

webconsult_2000 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Submitted by Amina on Sun, 2007-01-14 19:10.

Thanks Terry. I'll contact you immediately.

Submitted by Jeff.Mowatt on Sat, 2006-07-08 19:20.

Phil, type the words - Ukraine death - into and you'll see this article appears in 4 of the top 5 positions out of 20 million results.

I'd all but given up on UK media, the BBC in particular but then I remembered the Action Network on their site, so it's there now.

Maybe you and others can throw in a few comments to get their attention at the BBC?

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Wed, 2006-07-05 01:24.

It looks like a fair and honest summary.

Actually, I have sources for hundreds of photographs that would show everything. Those sources are foreign aid workers AND Ukrainian aid workers. They remain afraid to release the photos. I've analyzed what they have to be afriad of now, according to them, and there really isn't anything there, not now. It's all in their mind. Someone said "Boo!" and frightened them, in which case their efforts aren't going to amount to very much. People that timid aren't going to be able to get much done, although they are very sincere and have the best of intentions.

For example, one organization seeks to start public education training at university level, to teach Ukrainian students basic intervention and medical techniques that are very simple in practice and have proved to improve children's lives dramatically. They proved the point by applying those techniques in one of the death camps. Ukrainian staff was astonished. Children showed marked improvement within days.

But the logic of their efforts escapes me. They want public education programs to assist secret locations where very few people can enter or even find -- and they're not willing to reveal or help reveal those locations. To me, they might as well be teaching defense techniques against Martians -- just in case Martians happen to appear in reality. So, Martian defense techniques taught in Ukrainian universities. Intervention techniques being taught in Ukrainian universities for -- what? Invisible death camps.

It's the whole notion of trying to do something publicly while maintaining secrecy that seems utterly absurd. But, from talking to them, I understand that they haven't come to recognize that conflict in their thinking, at least not yet. But they do know that children continue to suffer terribly and die horrible deaths.

Known death camps exist in eastern and western Ukraine. I believe at this point that the ONLY reason they're still being kept secret is absolutely nothing more than force of habit and attitudes carried over from pre-revolution days. Plenty of corruption still exists, but now there is clear impetus in reducing and ridding corruption. For one thing, there is now freedom of media, and no politician or official would likely dare risk coming down on the wrong side of the death camps issue. What politician or official would risk public exposure of being in favor of killing Ukraine's children?

Without such officials being able to control death camps for their own nefarious purposes -- which is exactly what happened before, and I have complete information on this that I'm trying to get a researcher to give permission to release -- there is no one else and no other mechanism to further obstruct helping and saving these children.

Submitted by Iryna (not verified) on Fri, 2006-07-07 01:28.


I am Ukrainian and live in the USA. I am fluent in Ukrainian as that is the first language I learned and the only language spoken at home. I would like very much to establish contact with you regarding this horrific matter. I can email you or call - whichever is preferable to you. The article as well as various replies touched my heart and soul to their core. I have not registered on the site because my husband and I are in the process of adopting a child from Ukraine and knowing what I do about the system I do not want to jeoporadize our chance to provide a home for an orphan/orphans. If you need additional verification information about me, I will be happy to forward that to you.

I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.


Submitted by Katy (not verified) on Mon, 2006-10-02 15:17.

Hi Iryna, My husband and I too are starting the adoption process hoping to adopt from Ukraine. Is there any advice you can share with us? We are deciding this week on the agency or doing it independently. We are already undergoing the homestudy process. Thank you.

Submitted by Deborah (not verified) on Tue, 2006-06-20 15:30.

I hadnt seen this post, thanks for the information. But I knew.

I am a single woman who adopted two ukrainian Children. One boy in 2002 and one girl il 2005. I have been in Ukraine numerous times. I am familiar with all this. I can totally believe it. I had information from several other parents who visited "specialized orphanages" as they were referred very sick children and spoke about the situation there with appallment.

In fact my own son comes from a very poor and backwards orphanage distant from cities and I could witness that most of the children in his group in 2002 were close to BECOMING handicapped for life. I will remember my entire life what the dinner for the 4 years old was: a bucket was brought into the room with "compote"(in fact very thin fruit tea) and a plate with mere slices of dark bread. The kids RUSHED all together to the plate to GRAB one slice, the weakest got nothing.

The kids would play on the bare floor with no toys. They had no books, no pens, no papers. I bought on the next day for 100 dollars worth of colored paper, pencils, water colors, scisors etc for the kids and brought it to the orphanage, where I donated it to the group, and ordered it into one of the cupboards. On the next day EVERYTHING WAS GONE (I suppose either the caretakers or director stole it). The children never benefitted from donations. The orphanage is still among one of the poorest "normal" orphanages in Ukraine

In my son's group, which I visited again two years later, several children had already been sent to "specialized orphanages" because they were called "handicapped"; I remembered exactly which children already seemed "handicapped" at 4 years old but I suspect they were MADE to cripples with the total lack of care. They would come to me, unable to speak, and try to hold me, screaming to hold my hand, with water runninig down their mouths trying to kiss me, a foreign woman who had come there to adopt one little boy. I will NEVER forget.

I adopted my son from there in 2002 at 4 years 9 months of age. He could speak well, sing, but had obvious motor delays. I thought I could fix it. He has been home for 4 years now and has been diagnosed over these four years with following troubles: ADHD (with attention deficiut +++), behaviorial disorder, ODD Opposition Defiant disorder, NLVD (Non Verbal Learning difficulty, also called "visuo spatial dyspraxia" which is a neurological disorder where the link between brain, eye and hand is permanently dammaged), anxiety disorder, mild attachment disorder and fear of abandonnement, passive agressive behavior, as well as sequels of sexual abuse in the orphanage. I know the list will get longer, he is only in 2nd grade.

I wrote many letters to the international adoption community in 2002 to SCREAM about what I had found out about this orphanage. NOBODY ever answered, but Cathy harris (from "Ukrainian Angels", she was the only one!). I made numerous attempts at having the Embassies, consulates, gouvernments aware of what was going on there. No avail

So I am SOOOO glad that AmericanExpat is finallly posting this, this is ALSO the truth. Many people adopt from orphanages that really are only raising future adoptees, these orphanages get 40 or more adoptions per year, they receive a lot of money from the PAP, agencies have contacts there and help extra, the kids have music classes, piano, bubble therapy, massages. In the orphanage where my son is from the kids had and still have NOTHING. But in the orphanage, they are so much better than the ones that were kicked out at age 4 or 5 and were sent to the "specialized orphanages".

In 1945, the world said they didnt know; WIll you now still be able to say you dont know?


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 2006-06-11 12:50.

Dear Terry,

I am a Ukrainian living and working in England, UK and I very well believe how true what you have described in your message is. I would love to help - write to someone for a plea, but really would not know where to start. I visit the country once a year to see my parents and what I see when I get there is a loving home, which these kids need. That separates me from the reality of horror which is a life of children, elderly and all of those vulnerable, much less fortunate than myself. If I can join in a voice that begs a Ukrainian official to take the lead on this issue and become a spokesperson for the Ukrainian children, I will do. Please let me know how this can be done.

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Fri, 2006-06-16 04:09.

Thank you. I will, if you'll give me some way to get in touch.


I think the next update will clarify general strategy about what can be done. I need a couple more meetings, then the update will be appropriate. In the meantime, anyone please feel free to contact me directly at the above email address. The second one is used less, for "special purposes" only. I reckon this qualifies.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2006-06-10 23:22.

Addresses of Ukrainian Orphanages you can find here

Submitted by Jennifer (not verified) on Tue, 2006-05-09 21:20.


Where is this orphanage detailed in the bottom of your report?
Headmaster's name?
Contact information?
Did a team return there...please update.

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Wed, 2006-05-31 05:51.

I'd love to tell you, but I can't. The information came to me via a Western research team who really had no idea about how public I tend to be about these things. They are incoming again soon, and facing more than US$10,000 in airfare alone just to get back. They have been promised, in very clear terms, that if the location is made public, they will not be allowed to enter again, ever, and all outside aid efforts will be blocked.

Frankly, I am furious, absolutely livid, about having been co-opted into silence. This silence is the direct result of a long-standing, pre-revolution proppaganda scheme that my friends and colleauges on Maidan know about all too well. They fought it furiously, and by way of the Orange Revolution, finally began to break through.

But, for what? Where are you now, dear friends and colleagues? I notice that not a goddamned one of you have posted about this, and you all surely know perfectly well of these death camps for kids.

You KNOW. And you are silent.

For what were all your heroic efforts -- and they were truly heroic -- leading to and through the revolution, only to knowingly allow innocent, helpless children in Ukraine perish in another Holodomor?

Please, help. Consider this the one voice, the one plea, that these children have. Consider it them asking you, not me. It is striking that the ONLY people taking interest in this are ALL "foreigners."

Silence from the Ukrainian side is deafening. One venture in, one day, two hours, will get all the photos needed to change this entire horror to hope. We foreigners need help from only one Ukrainian who gives a damn, who will help get these photos past enforced barriers of secrecy that is killing these children. Just one Ukrainian. Just one. One. 1.

Is there one anywhere in Ukraine, who cares for your own as much as foreigners do? One? Just one. Not two. Not three. Not more. Just one, among all those revolutionaries who were fighting so long and so hard for something or other. I seem to forget now just what it was that the fight was about, given children in concentration camps NOW -- and YOU KNOW.

I'm ready to go, to travel immediately, if someone, anyone, will open just that one door, for just a couple of hours, in just one day. Ukrainian would be the logical choice, but given the apparent fecklessness and/or lack of concern among Ukraine's erstwhile revolutionaires and intelligentsia, is there anyone else? Anyone?


Regarding use of "goddamned": in deference to the religiously sensitive, I understnad perfectly well the biblical prohibition against using God's name in vain.

Whether or not it was used in vain remains to be seen. I'll take my chances in this case.

Submitted by Old Odessite (not verified) on Wed, 2006-05-31 23:06.


Why not try the first lady? Perhaps she can be persuaded to become a patron if you can organise some form of charity for the children.

Alternatively, getting in touch with the Ukrainian community in Washington, the majority who MUST be unaware the plight of these poor children. If the Ukrainian first lady can, then you can - see

I wish I could do more but, alas, I'm too far away, too old, too tired and handicapped but if you can point us to a suitable link through which we can contribute knowing that the monies are used for the children, I'll gladly help now and again with some funds.

The Old Odessite

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Sat, 2006-06-10 07:21.

and encouragement.

Alas, the projected cost of national orphanage reform is in the hundreds of millions of dollars at this point, out of range for individual donors. Money is actually very likely available, but it's going to take some convincing. Photos will tell the story like nothing else can.

I'll enter a Maidan update shortly, with a summary of costs and strategy. Yushchenko is showing signs of life on the issue. My instinct is that this is nearing critical information mass, with some media and activists beginning to take some interest.

I think very few people really grasp the reality of the situation, and those that already knew just didn't say anything for a variety of reasons.

It comes down to a very simple Truth: Ukraine cannot possibly expect to join Europe while hiding concentration camps or death camps. I know those are harsh, seemingly provocative terms, but those are phrases used by independent eye-witnesses.

Submitted by cjr on Mon, 2006-12-11 02:10.

Terry, please call me, I have given my number out three times on this site - I must be mad! I am an ITN journalist, call in confidence...
0044 xxxxxxxxxx

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Tue, 2006-12-12 20:41.

Either I (in Ukraine) or a colleague (in UK) will call you within 24 hours. Time now is about 19:30 GMT, 12 December. Your number has been duly transferred, and edited out of your messages.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 2006-04-26 00:19.

I'll remain anonymous as it seems everyone does these days who works with humanitarian aid in Ukrainian orphanages. I work with an organization that aids many orphanages. We know that some of the children in the baby houses we work with have gone to these 'psychoneurological internats' - and many have not had psychoneurological problems - but were condemned to them when they 'aged out' of the baby house because they simply could not move themselves or feed themselves because of physical disabilities. By four, this is the test - if you can't feed and move yourself, off to the 'concentration camps' for them.

We also know that the conditions they face once in these 'invalid homes' as many refer to them, most likely mean they'll have a dramatically shorter life expectency, and it breaks all of our heart, including the staff (staff that ARE loving and caring towards the children - including those with special needs.) They beg us to find them Western medical help for this one or that one who could possibly be saved - because they are also aware of where these children, that they have raised and soothed since birth in most cases, will go. I cannot imagine being in their shoes on the day they come to take those children to their future misery. I also can't imagine keeping silent - but then I don't face being unable to feed my own children, find another job, public criticism by all in power, and all other sorts of harrassment from speaking out about something sinister that must change. I feel for the staff, too - they are in a terrible predicament.

But the reality is that until Ukrainians themselves bring this out in the open, it won't happen. It's easy enough to send Western aid workers home. I know many, many missionaries, aid workers and volunteers that have been cowered into silence by the threat that if they talk, even once, they will be shut out. And thye make the choice to keep silent rather than look these children in they eyes and know that if they speak, this one won't get the blankets they are supplying him - that one won't get the occasional fruit they're allowed to bring, and so on. In theory, every Western aid worker should be shouting at the top of their lungs about this, but in practice we all know it would mean these poor little souls suffering more. It is a hellish dilemma.

I know that the majority of Ukrainians love their nation's children, including their orphaned children, and would be appauled at the conditions that those of us from outside the country see, ironically, more frequently than those who live within miles of them. I truly believe the majority of Ukrainians do not know. Many do NOT have access to the Internet, free forms of news, and certainly have never or will never have the chance to visit one of these places.

SO here is my plea. Maybe it is a dream, but I will issue it nonetheless: Will a Ukrainian citizen who has the ability, and who has the conscience to do it, PLEASE go in, photograph everything, and take it to the press. NOT the local press. In most cases they are still very much at the mercy or at least intimately connected to the powers that be, who do NOT want this kind of thing tarnishing their term in office, their name, their town. Go to the national press. Keep sending them and sending them and don't stop. A national scandal HAS to be started and the flames of it fanned if this is ever going to change. Never underestimate the power of media coverage to cause outrage among the populous, or how powerful that outrage can be (remember the Orange Revolution?.) That kind of outrage can change things.

Yes, Ukraine has limited resources to help. Yes, there are many many corrupt and heartless directors who funnel money away for themselves. And yes, there is a lack of both medical knowledge and (larger lack of) medical resources to help these children. There is also a post-Soviet attitude of 'they aren't productive citizens and why should we waste what few resources we have on them' that is lingering as well. But I know Ukrainians' hearts. If they are forced to see the images, hear the stories and so on, they WILL demand humane conditions. I think it will also help to lower the number of mothers who, under pressure from family and even sometimes physicians and nurses, abandon their newborn child with Down's Syndrome, club feet, or other physical problems, to the orphanage. They are also unaware, in many cases I suspect, of exactly what kind of torturous existence they are signing their felsh and blood over to. Someone in Ukraine, please stand up.

Submitted by cjr on Mon, 2006-12-11 02:08.

I am an ITN journalist who has exposed this kind of cruelty many time now- please call me in confidence 0044 xxxxxxxxxx

Submitted by Peter Crosby (not verified) on Mon, 2006-06-05 11:26.

I have an opportunity to contact Ukrainian medics in many regions of Ukraine. If these guys can't be motivated then nobody can. Write to me at with details of the institutions and I'll move heaven and earth to get both photos and professional medical assessments. Requestes for confidentiality will be respected.

Submitted by Jeff.Mowatt on Tue, 2006-04-25 07:40.

Not that I don't believe the report, as I know the source too and know it's professional and credible. What is difficult to believe is that it passes without comment or response.

I can read every day of both Holdomor and Holocaust recognition events in Ukraine and yet here and now there is deliberate starvation in what should be a land of plenty.

This apathy, indifference, isn't confined to Ukrainians. I know there are those in my own country, so-called analysts of international affairs who'll pat Ukraine on the back and raise champagne glasses to democratic progress while looking the other way. Press sources who'll read my pleas for raising the alarm and toss it in the waste basket.

When finally, the truth is out, I ask them to return here and answer me - Why did you do and say nothing?

Submitted by cjr on Mon, 2006-12-11 02:06.

Jeff - your name has come up a lot regarding this subject. I am an ITN journalist - the one who has reported on Romania this year - I find this story hard to belive but I am willing to do what it takes to investgate and expose if true. call me 0044 xxxxxxxxxx

Submitted by Terry Hallman on Tue, 2006-12-12 21:00.

Perhaps this today from BBC will make it somewhat less hard to believe:

Ukraine babies in stem cell probe

Submitted by reagan republican (not verified) on Sun, 2006-04-23 16:22.

pictures are worth a thousand words, post them as you have your news story and you will get results, my wife (a ukrainian) does not have a clue about much of anything that happens in here country, not that she is a idiot, the press wont report the truth there.
as a american i would rather give money or help to those kids (providing it got to them) than i would katrina (survivours?)...
it amazes me a somewhat free country like ukraine, and only 5000 miles away still has soviet problems

Submitted by Jeff.Mowatt on Sun, 2008-03-30 19:03.

Pictures a plenty, with an Ukrainian standing up to speak out:

Submitted by Old Odessite (not verified) on Wed, 2006-06-07 13:55.

Yes indeed - a picture is worth a thousand words.

Pointing all this out to my beloved, also a Ukrainian, I also get the impression she doesn't believe these reports and won't until she reads them in the Ukrainian National press.

I thought Ukrainain Pravda were quite good at investigative journalism - perhaps you could try them?