To Russia With Awe

The abandoned and derelict places captured in German and Russian photos always captivates my senses. Dark colours, particularly that of grey contrasting with white, further enhances the depicted mysteriousness, sadness and loneliness left behind. As if forgotten by both people and time.

Images like these fuel the motivation and excitement of urbexers all over the world, feeding the addiction of exploring locations few have seen. Hence, one of the codes of urbexing (urban exploring) states: leave a location the way you found it, so others can share in the unique experience. Move nothing, steal nothing and break nothing (White, 2017).

Silence, occasionally broken by bouts of strong gusts of wind, birds chirping or motorists in the distance. At times, it’s the cracking of broken glass under our shoes, a twig snapping from catching on our clothes or something dropping and scraping. We hold our breath, wondering if anyone else has heard, before we continue our quiet steps.

Apart from the occasional squatter or drug user, our quietness is as if the silence is worth respecting. Perhaps due to past habitants, some who’ve since passed on. Memories, smells and even lost souls linger like invisible dust particles.

Excitement runs wild with our imagination, as we wonder what the location’s history holds, (even in places we’ve already researched or at least, attempted to), as well as the untold stories and experiences of suffering. Like memories, very little is recorded and all will soon be lost forever.

Every now and then, a site will reveal itself as a nice little gem. The precious gems are even rarer, which can be likened to a ruby. The type you see in German and Russian photos.

The Regis Hollywood Village Wyvern Units was certainly a ruby and my first one at that. I was recently fortunate enough to urbex this site and wow! I certainly couldn’t imagine I’d ever get to see something like this again, particularly on a scale as grand!

When I first entered the site, my attention was drawn to the massive amount of possessions left behind since its closure, in around 2010. Photos cannot do justice in capturing the extensive quantity.

Wheelchairs, walkers, gophers, crutches, commode chairs, gurneys, armchairs, tables, a variety of different seats, desks, computers, monitors, filing cabinets, storage furniture, TVs, VCRs, gramophones, big boxes of VHS tapes, vinyl records, bowling pins, board games, recreation and fitness equipment, crockery, various kitchenware, hundreds of books and magazines, artwork, hobby materials, huge quantities and varieties of screws, tools, smoke alarms, cleaning products, a lawnmower etc.

More importantly and certainly a potential legal issue, aside from potentially complete management records, logbooks, journal, ledgers, invoices, purchase histories, operational procedures and manuals, a quick glance revealed what appeared to be client records. This included extensive personal and medical histories, as well as case files. They were found in boxes and filing cabinets in at least eight different locations, with one floor of a bedsit’s bathroom covered in big piles.

Easy to access, unrestricted and unsecured?

Earlier this year, I’d read about a similar situation at the McCall Centre. A fellow urbexer had attended this location, filmed his experience and uploaded it to his YouTube channel. The police were made aware of his footage, which showed a huge quantity of documents left behind in the building. Paperwork, identified as case files of some or all of the centre’s past residents.

Records of children, now easy to access, unrestricted and unsecured.

A serious breach of confidentiality.

Information, by its very nature, that could have been extremely sensitive and potentially embarrassing.

Some children may have experienced various levels of victimisation, abuse and trauma. Perhaps some of the documentation contained details about their suffering, drug-using parents, personal behaviour and emotional problems, mental illnesses, self-harming and suicidal incidents, episodes of violence and acting out, medical and psychology records etc.

Juxtaposing this, the documents and records left behind at the Regis Wyvern Units may quite well contain similar, highly confidential information. The only difference was that the clients of the retirement site were in the opposite age spectrum as the children from the McCall Centre. Once the police were made aware of the McCall footage, so did the media. Public outrage ensued, albeit short-lived.

Should the same response be expected with records of elderly people?

I couldn’t imagine that being the case. Regardless as to what the Commonwealth’s Privacy Act 1988 regulates.

Overall, this site was a fascinating location. When I eventually find the time to catch up with my photos, I could potentially make all my photos dark, mysterious, sad and lonely. Emulating that of Germany and Russia.

To think I’d ever get a site anywhere as good as this again? Yeah, nah!


References


White, Veronica. (2017). The 5 Rules You Need to Know Before Urbexing. Retrieved from the HuffPost website: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-5-rules-you-need-to-k_b_14656484?guccounter=1

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