Fifteen years ago, a group of men and women built a house on Ivana Franka street in the Ukrainian town of Vynnyky. The house was created in order to help the homeless and people with a history of substance abuse. There is room to sleep, to eat, to bathe and to work. The community calls itself ‘Oselya’, or ‘Оселя’, meaning home. The residents of this place call themselves the ‘Oselyata’.
Right now, around twenty men, three women and two children — one born on the premises — live in the home of Oselya. They live together in harmony, sharing bedrooms and having breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. They are not allowed to drink or have sex. They work. They follow a daily schedule. And they have a weekly meeting every Monday morning. The Oselyata run most things by themselves.
Photographer Robin Alysha Clemens and writer Lisa Weeda visited Oselya multiple times over a two-year period to make a documentary photo project about the Oselyata. They slept in the house, helped in the kitchen, worked in the second hand store, were part of a fashion show, cleared out trucks full of collected clothes, and had breakfast, lunch and dinner with the residents. They published and distributed a free newsprint magazine about the community, and they presented exhibitions of the story in Ukraine and The Netherlands. All of the quotes in the photo captions come from interviews with the residents.
Oselya is part of the international Emmaus network, a solidarity-based movement that consists of multiple residential communes and second-hand stores all over the world. You can learn more about the community, and show your support with a donation, at the community website.