Twelve-year-old Zlata has to find her way in Belgium after she inevitably had to flee the war in her home country, Ukraine. Her father, Petro, and Findus, her cat, stayed behind, Mother Ira and little brother Martin came along. Step by step the adolescent girl explores not only her new living environment, but also her own identity. Awaiting the uncertain arrival of her father, Zlata slowly opens up.
“When the war broke out in Ukraine in early 2022, my girlfriend Magda and I – both with Polish roots – decided to temporarily open up our flat to refugees. We registered the flat through an online platform and soon got in touch with Ira and her two children: Zlata and Martin. Magda and I both speak Polish, which enabled us to quickly bond with each other.
But Zlata remained quiet and avoided any interaction. Her silent but resistant attitude intrigued me and when they moved to a house with more space, I asked Zlata if I could follow her integration process with my camera. It started at her new school, where she had to make new friends and was confronted with a new language. At the same time, Zlata was on the eve of her adolescence and thus navigating a transition moment on several levels: between two homes and cultures, between childhood and adulthood.
How does an adolescent like Zlata cope with a radically changing living environment? I wanted to make the relationship between Zlata’s inner experience and her new environment tangible. That was the starting point for this documentary, which became a meaningful collaboration, not only for myself but – hopefully – also for Zlata.”