Photographer Jadwiga Bronte spent 10 months in 2019 visiting mothers and their children at two different prisons in Moldova.
Her project, The Good Memories, aims to strengthen their bonds by reinforcing memories of joy between mother and child while in prison.
“I believe that photos of good memories between a mother and a child can help in the process of resocialisation [by] building the prisoner’s self-esteem and helping her to develop a self-identity as a responsible and caring mother, and not a criminal,” she says.
“I hope I will be able to replace the [mothers’] image of challenging life in prison with a new one, focusing on this unique and precious relationship with their children.
“An important aspect of this project is that outside observers cannot tell that the images have been taken inside the prison.”
As well as taking portrait photos, Bronte worked with the women to create sketchbooks and baby albums using instant snapshot photography.
Here are photos and stories from six of her subjects.
Alina and her son Nicolae
“I am a loyal, honest, joyful, melancholic person who can become moody sometimes.
“I was an only child and my parents gave me everything they could even though we were not rich at all, [including] a good education.
“I remember all my friends and all the colleagues I had.
“I will never forget our little pranks.
“I went to work at a shoe factory, the place where I also met my first love.
“It was beautiful – romantic walks under a sky full of stars, butterflies in my stomach.
“But time has passed and my life changed and I got on a road that condemned me to many years of prison.
“But I was always just a human being – and I still am.
“I met a man who became my husband, I got pregnant and gave life to a little boy who completes me and makes me happy.
“At the moment, my son’s father has another family, another life.
“But I am proud of my little boy, who is one and a half years old at the moment.
“There is someone [else] who loves me very much and I also love him.
“My child is everything to him and he loves him as his own.
“My wish is to get out of these walls with my child as soon as possible and start my life over, from zero.”
Anna and her daughter Sonia
“I am a woman, a mother of four, I am an active person and I never give up.
“I like to work, to listen to music, [to watch] romantic TV shows and movies.
“I was raised by my parents, with two brothers and one sister.
“Unfortunately, both parents died and I’m not on good relations with my siblings – I don’t talk to them.
“From my relatives, there is only one aunt who helps me and supports me.
“The best memory is the memory of me being together with my parents.
“I will keep this memory in my soul until the end – I can’t compare it to anything else.
“I was married for 10 years and, to be honest, this man doesn’t deserve his name to be put in here.
“We have been separated for a long time.
“I have two boys and two girls.
“The smallest daughter, Sonia, is with me at the moment.
“Unfortunately, I seldom see the other children.
“I am very sorry that I’m not near them.”
Elena and her son Vaniusha
“My mum died when I was three.
“I was one of four children and we were separated – my older sister and brother were from a different father and he took them to Kazakhstan.
“Me and my younger sister stayed with the brother of my mother.
“After a while, they gave my sister to a different family and they sent me to the orphanage.
“After many years I have found my older sister and brother – but I can’t find my little sister.
“I was very happy when I went to school – I found many friends.
“The most beautiful childhood memory for me, when I was nine years old, for my birthday, my teacher brought me a cake and presents.
“I loved her very much – she was a mother to me.
“The worst memory from my childhood was the day my grandmother died and my relatives didn’t take me from the school to the funeral.
“I worked as a sales person at the local market, in a shop and in a croissants company.
“The father of my kid is a man I loved very much.
“He was in prison and I was coming to visit him there.
“But when he was released, he didn’t say a word and he didn’t even come to see his child.
“I have a beautiful and smart baby boy, who is two years old now.
“I love music and watching TV drama series.
“When I leave this place, I plan to work and to educate my child [so he can] have a good future, for him not to repeat my mistakes.”
Liudmila and her son Lulian
“I grew up with my parents and sister until I was 19 years old.
“Then, my mother separated from my father.
“My father used to shout at me a lot and beat me.
“He loved my sister more.
“I was in better relations with my mother and sister.
“I loved school – I just didn’t like some classes.
“I most liked drawing, music, sport, Romanian language, et cetera.
“I had good friends as a child and teenager.
“I was in love at 20 – it was Lulian’s father.
“I didn’t go to university, because I didn’t have the possibility.”
Angela and her daughter Aniutka
“Since I was two years old, I grew up only with my dad.
“I have a brother – but when he was one year old, my mom took him and left me and my dad.
“I haven’t seen or talked to them since.
“My dad was my friend and helped throughout the years.
“Even though I grew up with only my father, I got a good education.
“I finished Grade Nine and [completed] three years of professional school as a pastry chef.
“My best childhood memory is when my dad organised my birthday with all my classmates.
“My worst childhood memory is that my mum left us and never participated in my upbringing.
“I didn’t know what motherly love and tenderness meant.
“My husband and I have been together for eight years now.
“I have six children – three girls and three boys.
“With me is the smallest one, Aniutka, and the rest of them are home.
“I haven’t seen them for seven months now.
“It is very unfortunate I cannot be with them.
Ratha and her son Nicolae
“I have two boys – they are like two diamonds – I’m so proud of the fact that God gave me such precious treasure.
“Growing up, there were five people in my family, until the day my sister died.
“Since that day, my family was never the same – we became strangers.
“My parents are divorced and my mother remarried and lives abroad.
“I have two brothers who I do not communicate well with.
“I liked going to school – but I didn’t attend some lessons because I didn’t like them.
“I preferred to play football with boys from my class.
“The best memory I have is my boyfriend, Vasile, being right by my side anywhere I was going as a teenager.
“He was taking care of me and spoiling me with sweets and making surprises with gifts that I still have today… he was the best and most adorable friend.
“I was in love with him because he was always with me and my aunt, who was raising me.
“I trusted only him… he was always protecting me.
“The worst memory of my childhood is that my aunt used to beat me every day until the age of 16.
“After that, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I ran away from home.
“I went to another region and started to work.
“I enjoyed it a lot because I was making some money and buying my own bread.
“Then, I left to go abroad, where I worked for a year and a half.
“All was good until, one day, some problems appeared and I ended up in prison.
“But all will be OK by the end – and with the help of God, I will be free again.
“I don’t keep any connection [with the father of my children], because he is abroad and never even remembers about the babies.
“They are everything to me.
“One of them is here with me in the prison – but the other one is with an aunt of mine… far from the prison.
“I haven’t seen him for one year and a half.
“I recently got married, in November 2019.
“I have a golden husband who is doing all he can to help us get out of here.
“I have a dream – to get out of here, go home, find a job and be able to raise my kids.
“And I also want a house with a big garden that I would take care of.”
Bronte also worked with a number of other mothers and their children.
A few snapshots are featured below.
All photographs subject to copyright.