http://cdn.itvs.org/family_portrait_in_black_and_white-background.jpg
  • Olga Nenya fosters biracial children in the heart of the Ukraine.

    Olga Nenya fosters biracial children in the heart of the Ukraine.

    http://cdn.itvs.org/family_portrait_in_black_and_white-trailer.jpgmp4:family_portrait_in_black_and_white-trailer-1024.mov
  • Filmmaker Julia Ivanova on the plight of biracial children in Ukraine.

    Filmmaker Julia Ivanova on the plight of biracial children in Ukraine.

    http://cdn.itvs.org/family_portrait_in_black_and_white-extra.jpgmp4:family_portrait_in_black_and_white-extra-1024.mov
  • Still from Family Portrait in Black & White

    Still from Family Portrait in Black & White

    http://cdn.itvs.org/family_portrait_in_black_and_white-01.jpg

The Film

Olga Nenya has 27 children. Four of them, now adults, are her biological children; the other 23 are adopted or foster children. Of those 23, 16 are bi-racial. She calls them "my chocolates," and is raising them to be patriotic Ukrainians. Some residents of Sumy, Ukraine, consider Olga a saint, but many believe she is simply crazy.

An inheritance from the Soviet era, a stigma persists here against interracial relationships, and against children born as the result of romantic encounters between Ukrainian girls and exchange students from Africa. For more than a decade, Olga has been picking up the black babies left in Ukrainian orphanages and raising them together so that they may support and protect one another.

The filmmakers interview Neo-Nazis in Ukraine reveals the real dangers for a dark-skinned individual in the street. These white supremacist youth joke about their evening raids and how police seem to let them do it. Prosecutors are not particularly determined to give strict sentences to racially motivated crimes, and young thugs can get away with probation for beating someone nearly to death.

Olga sends her foster children to stay with host families in France and Italy in the summers and over Christmas, where they are cared for by charitable families who have committed to helping disadvantage Ukrainian youth since the Chernobyl disaster. Olga's kids now speak different languages, and the older girls chat in fluent Italian with each other even while cooking a vat of borscht. But Olga doesn't believe in international adoption and has refused to sign adoption papers from host families that wanted to adopt her kids.

"At least when the kids grow up, they'll have a mother to blame for all the failures that will happen in their lives," she says.

The Filmmakers

  1. Boris IvanovProducer
  2. Julia IvanovaDirector