Heartwrenching stories of Appalachian women who are struggling to escape from tragic lives of poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse. (

This compelling multimedia piece by Ohio University grad student Yanina Manolova combines striking black-and-white video and still photography to present — with unvarnished honesty — the stories of women suffering from the consequences of hard-core addictive behavior. Manolova lived for a time with patients at the Rural Women’s Recovery Program in Athens, Ohio, an in-patient program that typically treats women in their 30s with drug and alcohol dependencies, often exacerbated by mental health problems and physical abuse.

The video includes many emotional and surprisingly frank interviews with women in the program, their families, and their partners. The videojournalist developed a relationship with her subjects that allowed for remarkable access to intimate moments in their lives. The camera points unflinchingly at the wreckage — from a violent street scene with relatives, to emotional breakdowns and destructive relapses. In other hands, the repetitive nature of the interview format could have been a problem, but Manolova’s beautiful composition holds the viewer to the end.

There is no happy ending to this story. Despite often-repeated rescue attempts by friends and relatives, most of the women are unable to break the cycle of bad relationships, bad choices and addiction. The pain of failure and guilt is written in the faces of these women, who admit, “I just can’t stop.”

Yanina Manolova is a native of Bulgaria, and a graduate student in photojournalism at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication. She was a 2009 intern photographer at The Associated Press, based in New York City. Full bio at


Length: 12:27

Video by Yanina Manolova