Inside a Military Boarding School

At Kiev’s military boarding school No. 23, the look of war comes in Lilliputian form: Morning lineups are filled with pale boys dressed in camouflage garb, shoulders back, ready for battle, and perpetually disciplined. The scene is captured by Israeli photographer Michal Chelbin, the daughter of a Polish-Ukrainian World War II refugee who became fascinated with the school after photographing a group of Ukrainian school-age cadets back in 2004. “In much of my personal work, I photograph kids and adolescents. They are in between innocence and maturity,” writes Chelbin. “In the military boarding schools, this is taken to another level. The boys are brought up as ‘warriors’ while the girls, with their white sarafan dresses, are brought up as ‘decor.’ ”

At a school steeped in tradition, gender roles are sharply defined. Tiny soldiers in training, some decorated with aiguillettes, look as if they will tip over from the weight of their large visor military caps, while one young man models a hefty Soviet-era suit for chemical warfare, gas mask included. The Soviet schoolgirl uniform, a frill-filled and lace-trimmed look that predates the Russian revolution—and that influenced looks on the Vetements runway—is still alive and well. Traditionally, the flouncy garb is worn only on the first and last days of school in the post–Soviet Union, but at No. 23, the dress is an everyday requirement for the young girls. But no matter the student, an adult-minded attitude is necessary. As Chelbin writes: “It’s as if they are asked to be grown-ups before they actually are.”










Photographed by Michal Chelbin

© 2017

scroll down

menu

spinner