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1 Children of War

Ola, a young pupil at the Maria Konopnicka School for Disabled Children, 2019, Photo by Marcin Latałło

“We are only trying to tell a story… We’ve got to tell it now, let the news in, show the hungry face, the broken land, anything so that those who are comfortable may be moved a little.”                                                                                                      

David “Chim” Seymour

Tereska, a child in the same school for disturbed children. She drew a picture of ‘home’ on the blackboard. Poland. 1948.

 © David Seymour | Magnum Photos

CHILDREN OF EUROPE

Teresa Adwentowska came from a Catholic family. She was one of two daughters of Jan Klemens, who was an activist in the Polish Resistance. In 1944 During the bombing of Warsaw by the German Luftwaffe, Tereska’s home was destroyed, and her grandmother was most likely shot by Ukrainian soldiers who were helping the Germans annihilate the Warsaw Uprising. Tereska was struck by a piece of shrapnel that left her brain-damaged with a very weak right leg and arm. 

Fleeing Warsaw after the bombings, 4-year old Tereska and her 14-year-old sister Jadwiga spent three weeks trying to reach a village forty miles away from Warsaw – on foot, in a war-ravaged country. They were starving. That episode left her with an insatiable hunger, and her physical and mental condition steadily deteriorated. As a teenager, she got addicted to cigarettes and alcohol and became violent towards her younger brother. Since the mid-sixties, she spent her life at the Tworki Psychiatric Hospital near Warsaw; the only things that meant anything to her were cigarettes, food, and her drawings. She died at Tworki in 1978. Chim’s photo of Tereska became known all around the world and subject to discussions, analysis and even started a foundation for war children, the “Tereska Foundation”.

Designated a “special consultant” by UNICEF in March 1948, David “Chim” Seymour embarked on an assignment to document the living conditions of the 13 million children who had been maimed, wounded or orphaned during World War II. The assignment would take him to five countries, traveling several months through Italy, Greece, Austria, Hungary, and his native Poland. 

“I am not writing to you today out of resentment, although I could easily detest you – indeed I have done so more than once. There are excuses for my doing so, and I am sure you would agree with me if you knew what my life had been for ten years and the lives of millions of others who were children yesterday and who will be men and women tomorrow without ever having been ‘young’”,

David “Chim” Seymour “Letter to a grown-up” in “Children of Europe” UNESCO/UNICEF.

Young Neapolitans placed in a reformatory in the Albergo dei Poveri by order of the Juvenile Court. Children of Europe / Unicef Naples, Italy. 1948.

 © David Seymour | Magnum Photos

 Beatrix from the UK and Hikmat from Nigeria, Glasgow, Scotland. GB. 2017. 

© Olivia Arthur | Magnum Photos

Lamar, 5 years old, Horgos, Serbia, 2017, “Where the Children Sleep”

© Magnus Wennman

Cinema Workshops for Children

Concept: Marcin Latałło

The “Children of Europe” film and photo workshops will integrate children with mental or physical disabilities and young refugees who have lost their homes, their families and friends and have found shelter in Europe, as well as children from broken homes or orphans who will work together with actors, students and film stars.

The true stories of these Children will serve as the basis for film, photography and screenwriting workshops leading to the realization of photo reportages and micro budget films that will later be distributed through human rights websites and social media channels.

The title, “Children of Europe”, is a reference to the reportage made by David “Chim” Seymour, one of the founders of the Magnum Photo Agency and a photographer, who was commissioned in 1948 by the newly founded UNICEF to photograph some of the 13,000,000 abandoned children in Europe. In our present times, there are 250 000 refugee children, or maybe more, within the borders of Europe, and even more around its borders, our workshops are also meant as a way to organize better help for them.

The workshops will begin with projections of classic films and documentaries. With teams composed handicapped children, film students, film professionals, journalists, human rights experts, and activists, will write screenplays and realize, together, with the help of film professionals and film students, short photo stories or fiction films in which professional as well as non-professional actors, famous or unknown, will play different roles inspired by their true stories, set in our present-day reality.

These films and photo reportages will be simple to realize with the help of local partners like film schools, NGO’s, camera and film equipment manufacturers and film festivals, and they will be able to reach a very large audience by being distributed through the Internet and social media, as well as through traditional channels like TV and Cinema.

At the beginning of the workshop, the children ask each other the 3 questions from the Kieslowski documentary “Talking heads” (1995): Who are you?” – “Why are you here?” – “What are your dreams?” and they draw their home, that they show to the other children.

There will also be screenings of classic films like Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”, Andrej Tarkovski’s “Ivan’s Childhood”, Abbas Kiarostami’s “Where is my friend’s house” and documentaries like Marcel Lozinski’s “Everything can happen” and other documentaries on the subject of children, refugees, handicapped, orphaned or just ordinary ones. 

The “Children of Europe” films will be inspired by the true stories of refugee children, but transposed into fiction, played by their friends, by young actors, and by famous actors appearing in cameos. In this way, we protect the children’s privacy and the rights to their images, at the same time creating a more positive image of who the children really are and allowing them to express their point of view on the world.

Teams composed of photo and film professionals, students, local and refugee children, together with journalists, human rights experts, activists, assisted by psychologists, will realize short fiction films with young actors, students, and non-professional actors as well as professional film actors, celebrities and amateurs. Set in our reality, telling the true stories of the “Children of Europe”, the films will be produced with the help of local partners, sponsors and film schools and film festivals.

The “Children of Europe” workshops will begin in a school for handicapped children in Warsaw, where Chim made his photo of Tereska, and then continue to other places, associating as many partners as possible in a common effort to make films that will “change the images of the world to change the world” (Wim Wenders).  

Workshops organization

DURATION: Depending on the circumstances and the resources, the workshops will last between 3 days and more, around 2 weeks being an optimal time. They can be one-time events, but preferably they will span an entire year, with one session every 3 months or so, and become cyclic events that are repeated throughout the year, with different workshops in different cities, connecting the participants through the Internet, creating a community in the long-term.

LOCATIONS: The first workshops will begin in Warsaw, we will then continue in other places, in Paris with refugee children seeking asylum, in Lodz, in Lyon or at the borders of Europe, in Brest, at the border of Poland and Belarus, where many migrant families try to enter Europe, or on the Island of Lesvos, or in other places in Hungary, Italy, Austria, visited by Chim or simply desiring to participate in a common effort…

PARTICIPANTS: The children will always be under the supervision of their parents or their teachers and their legal guardians. The film professionals can be from just one person to a very small crew of two to four, for directing, camera, sound, and editing. There will be guests, actors, and directors, whose films will be screened during the workshops and the actors will participate in the films of the children as guest stars, young actors and students will also join in and play various roles in the films.

COMMUNITY: The workshops will follow the same model: screenplay, shooting, editing and finally a public presentation and airing through the channels of humanitarian organizations on the Internet. The films will be made on a microbudget model, based on the true stories of the children, simple, moving, accessible to everyone. The Children of Europe aim to create a community of likely-minded people who want to help and organize as well locally as globally, through humanitarian organizations and through social media and the Internet.