‘It’s only possible to live in a family, that’s the only way!’
Text: Westfall Margarita
«When I was born, everything was fine», Kristina starts her story. Mom, dad, a house in the Rostov region. A happy childhood lasted for a year. After that, her dad Yura disappeared and left her mom alone with the daughter. Lyudmila did not have Russian citizenship; she came from Ukraine. The father was not mentioned in the birth certificate.
«Almost immediately, my mother met my stepfather. I think that was the moment when everything started. He was not a good person. Mom got pregnant, and when I was two years old, Nikita was born. Mom found out that he had been in prison before they met, more than once. For several thefts, the terms were short».
The family had no money; the mother started drinking, noisy companies gathered in the apartment. The children were on their own. Kristina did not go to kindergarten – the girl did not have Russian citizenship, and no one made any documents for her.
“When we were very small, I was three, and Nikita was one year old, grandmother, my stepfather’s mother, came to visit us. She yelled at the parents; she said we needed to be taken care of, the apartment needing cleaning. This had a short-time effect; parents could not keep it for a long time. We were never offended, but no one paid any attention to us. Parents stole food in shops and stalls. Our neighbors sometimes brought some food. And when I was six years old, and Nikita was 4, grandmother came, saw how we were living, and took him to her place. She didn’t take me, because I wasn’t hers. Mom made the right to custody for Nikita and gave it to grandmother, and she never checked us again.
I went to school a year later; I think they just forgot to send me on time. Everyone around us knew how I lived. I mean, everyone knew that my parents drank. An elementary school teacher, Natalya Nikolaevna, felt sorry for me, she asked me, “Just tell me, if you don’t want to live with your mother, let me take you away from them,” but I always refused. I could not leave my mother.
I cried a lot; we had such conversations with my mom:
“Mom, let’s leave him.”
“No, don’t say that. I’ve chosen him.”
“You drink because of him.”
“I won’t, Kristina, I won’t. I feel so guilty that you have such a life.”
But it started all over again. At school, everyone knew both boys and girls. But they treated me well; they invited me to their houses. I spent nights at my friends’ places; their parents also asked me, “Why won’t you leave them?” But how could I leave, I was an 8-9-year-old girl. At home, they didn’t even notice when I was away. I could not tell them that my stepfather started beating my mom; I had to stand up for her. I shouted strongly at him, “Leave my mom alone!”
Once, he threw me back with his hand, very hard. When I was 11 years old, I stopped going to school. I had nothing to wear, not even shoes. I didn’t have a school bag or notebooks. I didn’t study in the 6 th and 7 th grades; I missed two years. Mom told me, “You will stay at home.” I went out in the evening, or at night.
Then came people from the child protection service, but my parents did not open the door, and no one was looking for me. Then my stepfather went to jail. He had robbed the house and was arrested for that. Then the police and child protection service arrived; they took me to the shelter. I cried and shouted that I wanted to stay with my mother. But they said that my mom would restore (*her custody rights), and it would not be for long. Mom also cried and said that she would take me back.”
Kristina had been staying at the shelter for four months; she used the phones of tutors to call her mother and waited for her mother to take her home. And then she heard how teachers said that the child protection service was suing her mom for the deprivation of custody rights. “I ran away from the shelter that night. The guards were distracted, and I climbed over the fence. I had been walking for 4 hours, along the road, across the field. I was afraid to get into a car. Then I had been hiding for two days, but of course, they found and caught me. They asked all the time, “Why did you run away; why?” I told them that I would run away again. My mother found a new man, much older than she was, and I was back home. We lived together again. His name was Nikolai. Almost as soon as I returned to my mother, neighbors told me that he had served a prison term of 22 years for the brutal murder of the woman he lived with. I cried so hard, ran to my mother, told her about it. And she replied that she knew. He drank heavily and turned into a real beast, beat my mother. I was constantly afraid that he would kill her. Once I shouted at him that he was a murderer. After the beatings, he apologized, but then everything repeated again.
And then the police came to our apartment, and they arrested him, it turned out that he had committed a robbery. Mom had been crying for several days, and I was happy. And then my mother disappeared, she said that if she didn’t come back, I should go to the police and they would explain everything. It took two days, and I made up my mind. The police officer told me that my mother was also convicted of a crime. I found out that she participated in that robbery, and she was sentenced to five years in prison. I was told that she would be sent to Novocherkassk and to Krasnodar from there.
They didn’t let me out of the police station and brought Nikita. I was 15, he was 13, and we were both sent to the emergency center for the children of Azov. That’s how we ended up together again. Nine years later,”.
“I have set a goal for myself: I don’t want such a life as my mother’s. I need to study. And started doing it. I have such great teachers; I am very lucky with them. Sure, at first, it was difficult because of the regime. I shouted at them, “Don’t give me orders!” But they just replied calmly, “Talk to others.” Everyone told me that they had been the same, but changed. I have good chances of getting to 10 th and 11 thgrades, entering a university, and becoming a person one can be proud of. I believe that everything will be fine with me. Nikita and I submitted an application with the request to deprive our mother of custody; this will give us the opportunity to obtain citizenship and normal documents. She said that if we don’t change our minds, she doesn’t want to see us anymore. I have no grudge against her; she just doesn’t think much. I’m not angry anymore; I used to get angry a lot. But then I thought that it was her life that made her like that. But my life can be different, and it all depends on me, the main thing is that there are adults nearby who care, who guide and help me. I take part in the psychological training provided by the Arifmetika Dobra Foundation; I prepare for my graduation from the emergency center for children, I look into the future, and try to leave my fears behind. The most difficult thing is to love and believe in yourself. This is what we are taught. Because everyone is taught this in their families, and we missed it in our childhood.”
Most of the children in orphanages are teenagers—children who will soon have to enter the adult world. Our goal is to help them to get ready for growing up and going to college or university after high school to pursue a profession.
* All raised funds will be used to pay for the lessons for Kristina and other children from her orphanage.