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Ukrainian orphan Vika longs to see her sister, who was adopted by a Canadian family.

Vika — a 17-year-old Ukrainian orphan with fiery red hair, bright blue eyes and an everlasting laugh — is setting out into the world for the very first time, all alone.

Vika is the story of her final year at a rural boarding school in Eastern Ukraine. It’s also the story of the bond she fights to maintain with her 10-year-old sister, Arina. Arina was adopted by a family in Toronto four years ago, during the Ukrainian revolution.

Arina has a blissful childhood, with a family in Toronto offering her guidance, unconditional love and the types of opportunities Vika never had. Vika, meanwhile, is stepping out into the world as an adult for the first time, moving to another city and leaving behind the only support she's ever known. Vika hasn't seen Arina since she left Ukraine, but her ultimate goal is to one day reunite with her sister — the only family she has left — and start a life in Canada.

Reuniting the girls has always been the plan for Arina’s adoptive mother, Alena, herself a Ukrainian immigrant to Canada. When she and her husband Slava made the decision to adopt, the sisters were already separated: Vika was put in a boarding school while her mother was alive; Arina was put in foster care after their mother’s death. Alena and Slava only met Vika later; they wanted to bring her to Toronto, but as a family of limited means, supporting both girls was impossible.

Before Vika can move to Canada, she’ll need to navigate the troublesome waters of life on her own, in a country where orphans are disproportionately abused, neglected and brutally stigmatised by society. As few as five per cent of Ukrainian orphans make a successful transition to adult life. The majority fall victim to poverty, drugs, alcohol, crime, trafficking and suicide.

Vika has a real chance to break the mould, but it’s up to her to do it all alone.

Update: Vika was able to visit her sister in Toronto when this documentary premiered at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in May. Vika came to Canada for a few weeks. (Watch a video of their reunion!)

"You couldn't describe it in words, you just needed to be there, Vika said." Their meeting, however, was temporary; Vika has since gone back to Ukraine to finish her studies. She is still studying in the city of Zaporizhzhya to be a hairdresser, makeup artist and business administrator and dreams of returning to Canada on a more permanent basis.

The filmmakers have started a GoFundMe to help Vika reunite with her sister in Canada. 

 

Credits (Click to expand)

A film by Marta Iwanek and Christian Borys

Editor
Mykola Bazarkin

Director of Photography
Marta Iwanek

Additional Cinematography
Pawel Dwulit
Yuriy Melko

Sound and Mix
Mariia Nesterenko

Colourist
Olya Korzhinskaya

Post Production File Manager
Maks Kudriavtsev

Trailer Editor
Yuriy Melko

Music

The Wolf
Written and Performed by: Rob Teehan
Used Courtesy of the Artist

The Busker
Written and Performed by Rob Teehan
Used Courtesy of the Artist

Produced in Association with CBC

General Manager, Programming
Sally Catto

Executive Director, Unscripted Content 
Jennifer Dettman

Senior Director, Documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

Director of Production, Unscripted Content
Alexandra Lane

Executive in Charge of Production, CBC Docs
Lesley Birchard

Executive in Charge of Production, Digital Originals
Mélanie Lê Phan

Special Thanks To:

Vika Govdash
Alena Vakuliuk
Arina Vakuliuk
Yaroslav Syrokomskiy
Halyna Hylkevych, Social Worker Raivka Internat
Vasyl Rydnytskii, Raivka Internat School Principal
Raivka Internat School Staff and Students
Help Us Help the Children/ Nove Pokolinnya (HUHTC)
Ruslana Wrzesnewskyj, HUHTC
Anka Wrzesnewskyj, HUHTC
Tanya Bednarczyk, HUHTC
Zaporizhzhya Fashion & Style School Staff and Students Production Company:

Black Hawk Digital Copyright 2017