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Wrapped in obscurity

Ananstasia Kouzina
Moskovskii Komsomolets
I don’t know where to start from. I was talking to the mother of a drug-using prostitute, who was kicked to death by a policeman. No, not from here. I talked to a woman, who knew that her daughter Tanya is sick and there was nothing she could do about it. She saw Tanya doing her best to live on, but failing again and again. She wanted her daughter to live and to return home every day. Yes, this is a right place to start from. All the rest are stereotypes of no relation to this story.

 

 The mother of a murdered girl: “What could I do?”

This was the most weird business trip in my life. I have spent four hours in Sapsan travelling to St-Petersburg and only one and a half hours talking and I had to turn back right away. But it was worth it.
I met two Irinas over coffee. One of them was the mother of Tanya, who had been murdered. The other was Irina Maslova, a head of the sex worker association “Silver Rose”.
This is a usual company for me. But a reader might wonder, how we could communicate. Actually, it is quite plain. Maslova was the only person who treated this story not as a list of grisly details, but as a life story of a woman in need. She helped Irina to find a barrister and is now trying to ensure that the murderer is going to be punished.
The murdered girl for many years was drug-dependent. She was earning money to buy drugs through providing sexual services. This is the most tragic and doomed version of drug dependency. I have seen many such women be it in Moscow, St-Petersburg or Tomsk. They sink to the bottom and are rarely able to return to normal life. All of them perish sooner or later after living through horror and pain.
— Ira Maslova read a story of Tanya on the Internet – said Irina the mother. The article went like this: “A 28-year old police officer Sharapov has murdered a street sex worker and a drug user Tatiana Grigorievna, born xxx...». She was outraged seeing how the personal data of Tanya was displayed, she contacted me and said: “Don’t worry, we will hire a barrister and this person is going to be punished”.
Irina wrapped a cup of coffee in her hands:
— It happened on the night of July 6. Nastya, Tanya’s friend, called me. They communicated regularly and in general the girls work in pairs because it is safer. They work at night, you know. So Nastya called and cried: “Aunty Ira, Tanya was beaten up, we are coming to collect you. They do not let us approach her”. I got dressed quickly, but when I arrived to the parking lot, there was no one there.”


Tanya : «I couldn’t go stealing...»

This remote parking lot at the outskirts of St-Petersburg served as place of work for street sex workers. Men were coming here by cars at night and a guard was charging 50 rubles from each car. It was to the guard that the girls were leaving money when going away with the clients. He charged 100 rubles for this service.
Irina arrived there around 3 at night. There were empty cars, but not a single person. The guard turned away and said that he saw nothing.
— That night there were three girls working, — Irina went on, — Tanya, Nastya and Larisa. A car came around two at night. Nastya told me that she immediately got suspicious about those two – Sharapov and his driver. Tanya wanted to go home, she was unwell and there were no clients. But she approached the car and they agreed to go to the sauna. Usually they charge 2000, but here two of them were looking for a woman, so she called Larisa, they agreed for three thousand, gave money to the guard, got into the car and drove away.
There was a road police car parked next to the parking lot and the policemen stopped them. This Sharapov got out of the car, took out his ticket, showed it to the road police and returned to the car. Tanya got suspicions and said that it was not going to work. Normally there were trying not to work with police since they were cheating or abusing the girls. All sorts of thing used to happen. She said: “Let’s go back, we will return the money and then we will part. Sharapov agreed and turned the car back.
At the parking lot Tanya went up to the guard, took the money, retuned it and set down on the steps to put on some make up. She opened her bag when Sharapov approached her and strated hitting her first on the head and then, when she fell, into the stomach. He was showting: “Do you recall me? Do you? I am a special police force officer!” He was no novice to beating.
— Sharapove used to work in the special police force in Vsevolzhsk – Irina explained. Tanya begged his pardon so that he would stop beating her. Her shoes, her bag and her telephone were scattered around. When he returned to his car Nastya crawled up to her and tried to lift her. Tanya said: “I can’t. I am dying”. The medical experts later said that all her internal organs were messed up and she died from the rupture of the spleen.
Tanya struggled to her feet, and Sharapov immediately jumped up to her. She fell on him and did not stir. Nastya ran away to phone someone.
...Thus Irina was standing in the middle of the empty parking lot. Nastya appeared out of the darkness. After her a police car arrived to the place. Nastya looked at the blood spilled on the pavement and said: “I should have rather called an emergency”.
— We were helped into the car, — Irina went on, — first we drove to the sauna where they wanted to go. Then they were driving us around on the river bank. The district police officer told Nastya: “Don’t worry, nothing is going to happen. They will use her and then will throw her away”. I immediately envisioned this picture – that she was unwell, that they were raping her – and I thought I would go mad. I could hardly survive the night.
A day later they were invited to the criminal investigation department. They once again went to the parking lot together with a detective. There were other girls working and one of them said: “Go to Rzhevka, there used to be a special police force hostel. 19 people were raping me there during 24 hours. Only one of them felt sorry and finally let me go.” The detective went to the hostel and searched all the rooms. Tanya wasn’t there.
— On July 11th I was home, — Irina said quietly. — I was waiting for her. It was already past the weekends, I was sick and fainted several times. I was waiting for her to come home. And then they came. Tanya was found by the fishermen on July 8th. Shrapov took her to the lake shore, threw her body away and he was resisting while being detained. Now he denies everything. Everything!
— I buried Tanya in a bag, — Irina went on after a pause. — I bought her a wedding dress, nice hair pins. But they told me in the mortuary that they treated her as an unknown corpse and did not store her body in the fridge. And when I came and asked to see at least her face, they told me: “Don’t even think of opening the bag. You will never forget it”. So for the church service I put the dress over the bag. If he were to leave her on that parking lot, I could have arranged a decent burial. Before leaving that last time she had washed and had combed her hair. She was so pretty. She said: “Mummy, I am leaving”. She used to have a small icon in her bag, she used to talk to it and to cross herself before leaving.
I interrupted the story here:
— You are saying all the time: “Tanya left for work” “Tanya did not have any clients”. You knew what she was up to. But how did you live with it?
— And what could I do? — she looked into my face. — When Tanya got it that I knew everything, she told me: “But what do I do otherwise? I can’t steal”
Tanya was a drug user; she was in constant need of money. But she chose to harm herself rather than others.


A doctor: “You can beat a drug user, but it is not going to help”.

The lines below are taken from a life journal of a psychiatrist Natalia Yermakova and they clearly explain the changes that happen to a body of a drug user. I will cite a small part so that you would not go on saying that “a drug user just needs to control herself”.
Perhaps everyone knows, that the brain produces a bit of the opioid drugs itself. They are called endorphins. They participate in various physiological processes, most of all in regulating the feeling of pain and of emotions and in creating the feeling of happiness. Chemical opioid drugs are somewhat similar to endorphins. Sometimes they are connecting to the receptors more tightly than the natural products of brain’s metabolism. For this reason the pleasure that a person receives from consuming drugs can be stronger than that from natural metabolism.
But at some point the body will resist the excess of happiness and will not produce enough endorphins. So, let's say, a drug user did not receive a portion of a drug. What is going to happen? Endorphins are part of many processes, so the brain feels like the rug has been pulled from under its feet. The brain is now busy, it can’t work. Without the opiates some neurotransmitters are not being produced while the others are being produced in excess. All of it will continue until the brain will start producing the endorphins again and the endorphins will help the brain to go back to normal.
But the brain, however, will never be the same! Its endorphins will not function the way they used to before one started consuming drugs.
There were different methods used to treat drug addiction, especially during the withdrawal sickness. But it was demonstrated that the speed of returning to the production of the body’s own endorphins does not change.
You can beat a drug user, you can starve him, you can tape him to the ceiling, but none of it is going to change the speed of endorphins’ production.
You can beat a drug user; just do not claim it helps him. You can also beat someone who has flue, but the flue will still go away after a certain predefined period. These measures will help the abusers to solve their own personal problems. But they are not going to help a drug user in any way! It does not impact the speed of endorphins’ production.
This is why it is important that a drug user was determined to quit, since the violent measures give a low percentage of stable remissions. The withdrawal sickness goes away sooner or later, but many former drug users claim that this was the easiest part. The hardest is to resist a desire to start using drags anew. Anything can provoke it. [..]. It is compulsive desire which is difficult to control. It will stay with you for a life. Sometimes you will feel better, sometimes worse.”
I have edited out some of the technical detail; the actual process is more nuanced. It is a constant lack of endorphins, a crushed system of their reproduction; you live without drugs, but you happiness is pale and disappointment is stronger. It is a biological mechanism. You can hardly resist it. Some are able to do it. This is why those who decide to stop using drugs merit immense respect.
Tanya made this decision several times. For many years she was trying to overcome herself, but faced physical pain, depression and disappointment. It is very difficult to look into the mirror and to admit: “Yes, I am pretty. But for the last eight years I have been a prostitute and a drug user. I am HIV positive. How do I live with all these?”


The mother: “I wish she were alive, I wish she were with me”


As I was listening to Irina, a criminal report was coming to life and becoming more real. All of her recollections were part of a horror story. It was a family photo album full of the funeral pictures.
— Nastya now claims that Tanya was doing it for eight years – Irina said. – Before Kostya died he was sending her “to work”. Who is Kostya? He was Tanya’s brother. He also was a drug user. He died from a brain hemorrhage. He was stealing and selling everything from home; when he had drugs you could communicate. Without drugs he was hitting and trying to suffocate Tanya. He was always in need of money and he was sending her somewhere all the time. That was probably how it all started.
Before he died, we had absolutely nothing apart from a small radio receiver. Kostya needed one gram of drugs five times a day. His father used to say: “There are money bags walking over there. Why do you steal from us?” His father was an alcoholic. He died as well. My mother learned everything and is now close to death. She had cancer. Tanya was taking care of her.
I have known about Tanya’s situation for three years. What could I do? It was impossible not to accept it, because I knew that there was no easy solution. We turned for treatment everywhere, she tried to quit several times, had remissions, worked and helped me. Of course, I was also helping her. […]. We had a perfect harmony. Tanya never stole anything from home. None of our neighbors new that she was a drug user. I did not think about her work, I was worrying that she might die from an overdose. I did not care what she was doing, as long as she was alive, as long as she was with me.
...A life of the family that has drug using children is like a swing going from love to hatred. A hope that this hell will end is changed by a burning desire to kill a person who hurts you so much.
The hospital number 10, a notorious clinic on Vasilievskii island knew well both of them, both Tanya and Kostya. It is very hard to abstain from drug use together, but sometimes they managed it even fro year. But then it would start anew and they would even start selling drugs.
— Tanya used to tell me, — Irina’s story takes a new turn, — “Mummy, when you die, I will die as well. I can’t leave without you a single minute. I lived without you for year, I know what I am talking about.” As it happened I had spent three years in prison because of Tanya and Kostya. I was really sick and tired of life. I took the blame upon myself.
While his mother was in prison, someone offered Kostya to sell their three-roomed apartment. According to Irina, Kostya was tempted by an opportunity to receive easy money. Tanya had learned by chance, that they have already fabricated a death certificate for Irina, claiming that she had died in prison. It looked like the criminals would have no problems cheating the two drug users out of their apartment. They locked them in the flat and started supplying drugs. Tanya refused to take them. Kostya was given something that used to make him sick in two hours. He used to say: Either I die, or you, Tanya, will do something”. Tanya managed to run away to her friend barefoot and from there called the addiction clinic. The doctors came and collected both of them.
— That time they managed to hold on for twelve month. When I was in prison Tanya worked and frequently came to visit me. But by the time I came, they had already started using drugs anew. Before that Tanya has spent half a year in prison, and by the time she was out Kostya has rented one of the rooms to a family of drug users. There were a wife, a husband and they also gave birth to a child. She got out of prison, came home and the neighbor had immediately asked: “What would you like? Methadone? Heroin?» Tanya replied: “Nothing. Some normal pelmeni, please.” And here we went again. Later she confessed: “If you were at home at the moment, it would not have happened.”
When I got out of prison, she went to addition clinic, stopped using drugs and started working. Over there they learned that she had been to prison. She changed jobs, but there as well they kicked her out in four months. Then she went to sell doner kebabs. She worked there for a long time, but the owner turned out to be a drug user. Tanya worked at night, she was coming home very tired. Once she told me: “I got it, we should not have money.” And I told her once: “You shouldn’t have started working right away; you should have gotten treated”. I was planning to pay a good rehabilitation center for her. I thought I would sell my mother’s room and I would pay for Tanya. It is two thousand a day over there, but it is a good clinic. It is a beautiful house on the lake. And she replied: “Mummy, why would you pay so much? I should rather go to a church.”
But I said: «No, this is the only thing I can do for you. It is expensive, but I will do it.” And she said: “Let’s rather sell everything and go to the Czech Republic. Let’s leave.” ,

■ ■ ■
I knew I had to return, so I asked:
— Irina, you know, some might say: “It is good she died. She did not need to live”
Here Irina Maslova, who stayed quite during the whole interview, exploded:
— Let them talk! But nobody will be able to count on protection until a society agrees to protect and take care of the weak! As long as we tell prostitutes and drug users that it is their fault, none of us can be sure that he will never get to the “Dalnii” police department and he will not be murdered there! You quietly ascend to the humiliation of the weak, but when they come after you, no one will raise to defend you! I fight for the right of 3 million of sex workers because this way I fight for the rights of my grand-children. I would like them to grow up in a society, where law enforcement agencies serve to protect the citizens. And I would like to see a murderer in prison.
...I was travelling home, looking out the window and recalling this one and a half hour long conversation. I felt like I am looking into a deep black well full of dead and living faces.
Theirs are the dreams that did not come true, the lives that were not been lived: Kostya, Tanya, Gleb, Anya. There are many more whom I do not know. They did not die from drug use; they died from being left alone among happy and healthy people.
But I know those who are alive. If you meet them, don’t judge them. This is all I ask of you. As a matter of fact, you know nothing about their life.

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