“Family Portrait is riveting!” – LA Weekly Critics’ Pick
“Gets high marks for honesty.” – New York Times
“The film is a feat of unforced and watchful insight.” – Chicago Tribune
“The film is riveting, truthful, and profound.” – Rosie O’Donnell
“It’s a fascinating story, fascinatingly told.” – Christian Science Monitor
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 biracial.
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.
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 disadvantaged 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 want 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.