New East Digital Archive

Migrant meatpackers: candid portraits from a Belarusian factory floor

17 February 2016

Moving around in search of temporary work is very common across the post-Soviet states. Belarusian photographer Siarhiej Lieskiec is interested in the human stories behind this tough economic reality. While Belarusians travel to work in Czech Republic, Poland or Russia, a large amount of Ukrainians and Moldovans come to work in Belarus. In 2014 Lieskiec decided to see the life of working migrants first hand. “I found out that many working Moldovan migrants come to my town Maladzyechna in the Minsk region,” he remembers. “I tried to meet them by getting a job as a loader at a meat factory. I told the guards that I was moonlighting as a wedding photographer, and they allowed me to carry the camera to the factory. Instead of my usual medium format I look an old compact camera.” The photographer spent a few weeks trying to find a common language and establish trust with the other factory workers. “Signs of their small, closed circle were the small leather bag with money and documents they always carried with them, and the laptop in the dormitory which they used to talk to their families and watch films in the evenings. Before going away, they asked me to take some pictures of them as a souvenir. I asked what would they like me to photograph, and they said ‘Us working, the girls we worked alongside and a little bit of the factory’. So this project is like a small album of working migrants.”