Photographer Natalia Kepesz visits youth military summer camps in Poland

Youth military summer camps have existed in Poland since the 1920s, but the phenomenon has grown massively in recent years. The young participants are put through boot camps, challenged physically and mentally, and given lessons—often on former army training grounds—in tactics, survival, self-defence, and topography. 

In addition to being taught military basics, children and young people are playfully indoctrinated into obedience, fearlessness and patriotism. In a setting of fake blood, drills and the unreserved use of weapons, I want to raise the question of the emotional effect of military education, and address the tension between a child‘s search for adventure and the excesses of the cult of the Polish army. It is not clear whether these young people would want to continue their military training in the future. For them, it is more about a sense of belonging to a group and experiencing what they have seen in films and in the media. The impact on their psychological and emotional development will only be apparent in the future.