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Run Valentina, Run – a story of domestic violence

Lightning fast, Misha* punches her in the face. Valentina* fails to dodge her husband’s fist and finds herself thrown to the floor with a bloody nose. The man grabbed her by the hair and lifted her to her feet, piercing her with his glassy and red eyes. ‘A  pump, is that what you want b..ch?! F..ck off to your village and get yourself a pump’, the man yells, clenching his fist for another blow. ‘Misha, please don’t beat me in front of our children,’ the woman pleads, as blood trickles down her lips, down her chest, and disappears down and down between her tiny breasts hidden behind a black sweater.

 Valentina collapses to the ground before taking the second punch. Misha is standing in front of her with a mop of black hair glistening in his hand. Two pairs of teary eyes stare at him. The streaks on the children’s lime-white faces do not have any effect on the man. The youngest, a second-grader, charges at his father. Snot mixed with salty tears drips into his mouth preventing him from clearly shouting his warning:

– Leave my mother alone!

The man makes a mocking grin at him. He effortlessly twists Ionel’s* hands behind his back and pushes him, slamming his head into the masonry heater. Hidden behind the bed, Victor*, the older boy, shaking in all his limbs, doesn’t dare to even blink. He knows his father has locked the door, so he’s just waiting for the right moment to get away and call the police.

Wobbling on his feet, with endless hiccuping and chest heaving, Misha turned his attention to his wife who had just gotten up and started towards the kitchen, leaning against the walls. The smell of booze moistened his cold smile.

‘Hey you b..ch, don’t bother washing yourself, as I’m gonna kill you today,’ Misha hissed through his teeth, pouting his fleshy lips.

He lets her get to the washroom, then, with clumsy bear-like movements, follows after her. When he reaches her, he pushes her hard from behind. Valentina hits her head on a cabinet and falls. The man leans over and slaps her on the nose. Then he lifts his leg to stomp her. It freezes for a few seconds something makes him to change his mind. Whistling, he heads for the kitchen cupboard where he keeps his tools. He begins to rummage through the sharp instruments that keep rattling forebodingly. The woman realizes what’s about to happen. Her face is pressed to the linoleum, she gasps in pain and writhes helplessly. ‘This time I won’t get away,’ Valentina muttered to herself.

In the meantime, the children surround her and, between sobs, beg their father to leave her alone. The man doesn’t even flinch from the toolbox. Just mumbled to the youngest to unlock the door and fetch him some cigarette butts. Hearing this, the woman raises her head with difficulty and motions to the older one to run away too. But Victor doesn’t budge – he stands still as if paralysed.

Misha turns and catches them in the middle of their silent communication. But he doesn’t intervene. He holds a screwdriver in each hand. Imitating a chef, the man rubs them together, shattering the stillness of a March midday. The metal is creaking, filling the room with an unpleasant smell. The older boy merely swallows dryly while staring dumbfounded at the screwdrivers gleaming in his father’s huge shovel-like hands.

‘Please, just not in front of the children’, Valentina barely managed to mutter.

‘B..ch,, I’m gonna kill you today!’ the man confirmed her earlier thought and leans down to her…

 * * *

On a frosty Saturday in November, the music and the joyful shouts were shaking Misha’s home village. It was 1998. Valentina’s cousin was putting on her bridal headpiece. Invited as a bridesmaid, the young woman was pulling on a pair of skin-tight jeans. They had just become fashionable and ‘whoever had such jeans  was the coolest ’.

It was halfway through the party when the future spouses met each other. Valentina went to the roadside well for water – the mums in the guest room were starting to wilt. Even now, when she recalls how their relationship started, she starts blushing.

‘There was a group of lads by the well. Misha stepped forward and offered to draw some water for me. When handing me the bucket, he looked me in the eyes and asked me to wait for him until the end of the wedding. He was handsome. I took a sudden liking to him, damn it. Little did I know about his berserk side’, Valentina recounts, her small, round squirrel eyes are flashing.

The tall, stocky young man didn’t wait for the wedding to end. He caught up with her and shyly asked her to dance. It was the first slow dance that Valentina agreed to dance that evening. She was invited by several other young men, but ‘they all were unimpressive so I told them to get lost’. ‘Misha on the other side,’ Valentina says and emotions overpower her.

They couldn’t take their eyes off each other, dancing until the wedding was over. And when a storm collapsed the tent, chasing the guests back to their homes, Misha grabbed her firmly by the waist and kissed her tightly on her thin lips. He promised her that the following Sunday he would come to visit her in the neighbouring village.

After that passionate kiss followed three years of quarrels, reconciliations, promises and tests. When Misha was enlisted in the army Valentina waited for him. Then it was Misha’s turn to wait, when Valentina went to the Russian Federation to earn money to pay off the debts she had accumulated after her father’s funeral. ‘In these three years I’ve seen him drunk, but not being cantankerous or fussy. He behaved very well,’ Valentina recounts.

When she came back from Moscow in 2001 for her older brother’s wedding, held in November, Misha and two of his friends payed her an unexpected visit. ‘He sent the two on reconaissance while he remained lying low behind the fence not even daring to breathe. They were fishing out information whether she had found somebody or not. After all, it’s been half a year since we last saw each other,’ she recalls. The two asked her to go outside, where Misha was waiting nervously and frozen stiff. ‘I’ll give you gold, I’ll give you silver, I’ll buy you anything you want, just marry me’, the man blurted out nervously but firmly.

The proposal stunned Valentina. ‘I accepted. Everything was like a dream come true… Now, when those two guys see me, they make fun of me, asking if he have got me the promised gold and silver,’ sighs the woman, hiding in her hands her little face, tanned by the sun and the wind.

*  *  *

In the dimly lit room life flickers like a guttering candle. One body lies on the ground, another one visually searches for a spot to stick the screwdrivers in. The woman manages to lift her soft hand and place it on her husband’s ice-cold hand. Their eyes meet. No sentiment left between them. They both forgot how 15 years ago they vowed to each other, ‘Till death do us part!’. They also lost their memories of Misha, who used to come to her house in the neighbouring village, riding his motorbike like crazy for seven kilometres that separated them, only not to let the wild flowers wither…

The neighbours stand agitated in the street. Galea, their neighbour, accompanied by several villagers, are watching what’s going on with their ears pricked up. No one dared to call the district police officer, who lives a few houses further up the hill when ‘they fought for life and death’. They are racking their brains over how to get Valentina out of Misha’s clutches.

Galea, a plump and ruddy woman, plucks up her courage and starts towards the house, bathed in the warm rays of the spring sun. She knocks on the door. None. She knocks harder. Behind the door, Misha does not lose his temper and calmly asks what she wants. Galea, on her turn, freezes on the spot. The words dry up in her throat and she barely manages to behave naturally.

‘Hey, call Valentina!’

‘Say what you want to say,’ Misha retorts.

‘I need cooking oil,’ the woman conjures up a lie on the fly.

While Misha was looking for the oil, the older boy finds his bearings and slips out like a bat out of hell. Running barefoot on the cold, muddy ground pricking him like steel knives, he shouts to the villagers to call the police.

Galea follows him. Without Valentina – just a bottle of oil under her armpit. Misha is watching her through the window. He sees the boy too. He also sees the neighbours crowded together. He pauses in indecision for a few seconds. He realizes that the police will be here soon and that he won’t get out of this whole mess. So that no one would spoil his plans, he grabbed his wife and jerked her over his hip. More dragging her than carrying her, he walks out of the house with her. He headed across the garden to the nearby meadow full of bushes. ‘He wants to finish me off,’ she had no doubt of it.

He just started heading off when Vitalic, his drinking buddy, who had been plotting with the neighbours, called him out. He mentioned having a litre of wine and no one to drink it with. The man gives in and drags his wife back into the house. Galea, being part of the plot too, joins them for a drink. ‘All the neighbours wanted to rescue me,’ Valentina recalls.

As they all sit in the kitchen around the table, Valentina picks the right moment and rushes to the door. Galea leaps and tries to stop the ‘madman’, who has anticipated his wife’s attempt. Misha lands her a punch sending her to the floor. He gains on Valentina, digs his fingers deep into her hair and pulls her back. The fellow drinker is silent like a fish.

After the failed escape attempt, Valentina looks around and is gripped by terror: the wine is running out, Galea is on the ground, Vitalic doesn’t even dare to lift his nose from his glass, the police haven’t shown up, the children are with the neighbours. ‘So no one to come to my rescue,’ the woman concludes.

With a quick motion, she grabs the insecticide spray from the windowsill and sprays some into her mouth. She wants to pass out, so that the ambulance would have to be called, and in this way she’ll be rescued…

*  *  *

‘He slapped me for the first time…,’ Valentina scratches her ear, searches her memory, the lines on her forehead becoming visible. None. She smiles. ‘I don’t remember, but I think not even a few months after we got married (Misha and Valentina’s marriage was blessed by the church, but it never came to a civil marriage). By the time I gave birth to Victor, my eldest son, he was beating me quite regularly,’ she continues. At that time, Misha was working as a tractor driver. ‘Sometimes he would come home flustered. Misha’s friendship with his drinking buddies was starting to become an issue,’ Valentina recounts.

The birth of their first child estranged Misha even further from his wife. Parties and fights became an everyday occurrence. ‘He wanted us to make love all the time, but I couldn’t because of my birth-related lesions. He didn’t like that. Moreover, Victor was a very fussy child and raising him was tiring. I was scattered all over the place. Sometimes my clothes were dirty with milk. All this irritated Misha,’ Valentina recounts her memories in a plaintive voice.

The woman believes that the post-natal period tore a piece out of each one’s souls. ‘If he needed sex he would find it, forgetting about his family for a few days,’ Valentina recounts of her husband’s amorous escapades. ‘This is where it all started. He would beat me, with or without reason, only when he was drunk. On the next day, he would become a different person. He would cook food and wouldn’t even want to talk about what happened the day before. Let’s put this behind us, he would tell me, and we would make up,’ Valentina explains.

The woman admits she always feared her husband. Weighing 45 kilos, his 95 kilos generated huge amounts of fear. And, lest she got a punch the size of a stump, Valentina would run away. ‘So run Valentina through corn fields, run Valentina through the trees and meadows, run Valentina run and hide at the neighbours,’ the woman recounts. When there were nights when it was better to stay away from the house, she slept in the cart, in the attic or in sheds set up by the neighbours as a bedroom for her and the child.

Thus, their relationship was degenerating fast into quarrels, name calling and physical abuse. After the birth of their second child in 2007, Misha had taken partying to another level: he held the parties in the yard of their house, bringing his women home.

One night – Valentina remembers it as if it were yesterday – Misha went out to a drinking party riding his newly bought car. The woman knew what was going to happen when he returned, so she gathered her children together, grabbed some quilts and went up to the attic. ‘When he wanted to bring hookers into our house and party, he’d kick up a fuss. This was his way of saying ‘when I get back, you better be gone’. Out of fear, I would leave. I knew that if I stayed, he’d beat me up,’ Valentina shares.

Around midnight the stud returned home accompanied by a whore. From the attic above, Valentina could hear everything going on in the house. The two were cuddling right in their bedroom, affectionately calling each other sweet names. He never called me babe. B..ch and c.nt was all I knew. She instead was showered with all the sweet names imaginable. I got really pissed off, especially when I heard he was going to take her for a ride,’ she recalls of the night in question.

She snuck down from the attic and headed for his mother-in-law’s house – two houses further away – where Misha had parked the car. She found a crowbar and took a full-blown revenge on the car’s windows. Then she hid in the bush, waiting to see the lovers’ reaction.

Seeing the shattered windows, Misha got furious. He told his ‘babe’ to go home, since he has some scores to settle with his ‘madwoman’. He then entered his mother’s house with the intention of calling the police. But being tired and drunk, he fell asleep before he could reach for the phone. ‘The end of story,’ Valentina wraps up.

*  *  *

The shrill ring of a phone wakes her up. She can feel her cheeks burning from punches… She opens her eyes – everything is dark. She doesn’t understand where she is. She finally manages to see a window dimly lit in the moonlight. Someone is whispering into the receiver, ‘Misha is not here’. Only then does she realise that she is in her mother-in-law’s house and that the police are looking for her husband, who is standing right by her head. She recalls spraying insecticide into her mouth… When Vitalic saw Valentina pass out, he threw Galea over his shoulder and got out. Misha, stunned by the turn of events, dragged his wife across the garden to his mother’s house. Nobody called the ambulance.

A whimper stirs the darkness. Valentina’s mother-in-law starts crying. She thinks her daughter-in-law is dying and, amid sobs, begs her son to calm down as two children are going to be without a mother. Misha does not answer. He curls up even tighter by his wife’s head, hiding his face in his huge palms. But the old woman keeps making doom-laden predictions, ‘This time around, you won’t get away with this!’.

Valentina comes to her senses and gestures to Misha to let her go – the cows are still on the pasture and she has no one to fetch them. She gets up with difficulty and gets out. He follows her closely. After she’s done with the cattle, she enters the house and collapses on a bed. The kids are at the neighbours, but the woman has scarcely any strength left for anything else. She falls in a deep sleep.

In the morning she woke up around six. There’s no one in the bedroom. She slowly gets up from the bed. The pain doesn’t let her make sudden movements. The doors of the house are wide open, the gate unlocked… She gets the children from the neighbours and heads to the district capital, to the police station. She also notifies the prosecutor’s office.

Around noon the police officer bring Misha to the station. They busted him at the house of a drinking buddy that went by the nickname The Spartan lass. The interrogation takes place in an office opposite to the one where Valentina is. The doors are wide open. Suddenly, the eyes of the spouses meet.

‘Oh, I see, you wanna imprison me, b..ch,’ Misha blurts out desperately.

Three months later, Misha is sentenced to three years of prison and ordered to pay MDL 9,000 as moral compensation to his family. Throughout the court hearings, Valentina did not speak to her husband. She didn’t even look in his direction, though he was being loudly insistent. ‘Every time the prosecutor had to step in and ask me if I wanted to look at him. Anyone in my place would have done the same, considering everything he had done to me! I would just raise my head and relay the message through the prosecutor that I don’t know who’s talking to me,’ the woman smiles mischievously.

*  *  *

15 years of beatings and fights. She endured all this for the sake of the children. There was a time when the youngest left her for the sake of his father, who was not allowed in the household, and used to go drinking with him. ‘I got so scared! When I saw that he didn’t want to come back home and that he hated me because I drove their father away, I swore to myself that I would put up with anything, just to have the children with me,’ Valentina explains her decision.

Another reason was the household. She worked too hard to make it a home and keep abreast with the rest of the neighbourhood to leave everything and just go. ‘Where should I go! Who needs a woman with 2 kids?! I don’t want to leave him anything,’ says the woman angrily.

‘For a bottle of wine, he once took [from home] a sack of wheat grains. He would do the same with whole sacks of sugar he used to get from work instead of money. All the neighbours got something from my household,’ Valentina sighs. The woman’s revenge was not long in coming: she poured diesel into the wine, she overturned the vat with crushed grapes, she broke windows, she beat up Misha’s mistresses so that none of them set foot in her stone yard decorated with red roses.

She just wished her husband would stop drinking and the police would take action, i.e. ‘put a scare into him’. But there was no progress. Valentina would call the village policeman several times a week. In the beginning, he would fine Misha or chase his friends out of the yard, but as time went by he stopped responding to the woman’s complaints.

Valentina recalls how one day the policeman was passing by their house at the very moment Misha was beating her. The policeman asked the man to calm down, but seeing that he wouldn’t be able to get her out of her husband’s clutches and would risk getting a few punches himself, he just shouted, ‘Run!’.

‘Neighbours, Misha’s mother and his brothers crowded at the gate watching him shaking me. The policeman’s ‘run’ made all of them running down the hill, with Misha following us. And the policeman was just standing there stunned with his hands folded to his chest. Afterwards, Misha got a fine, but all I wanted was some tough measures on him,’ Valentina says disappointed.

Iurie P., the policeman from Valentina’s village, also complains about Misha’s unruly character. ‘Many protection orders and interventions were needed until finally he got arrested. […] Countless times he was warned, I had to search for him many times, beg him to behave well, as he had become an utter nuisance,’ says the policeman, who has since been reassigned to another village.

Things only started to change when Valentina called 08008008, a free helpline set up by the ‘Women’s Law Centre‘ (WLC) for victims of domestic violence. It all happened a few months before the last beating. ‘I reached a point when I couldn’t keep going, no longer knowing what to do. It was late fall. I was with my little ones in the field, since Misha was partying at the house. We lit a fire. I was observing my sons shivering, then myself sitting huddled and browning a slice of salami over the fire. I told myself that this can’t go on like this anymore and that I should find a way to stop this nightmare,’ she recalls.

*  *  *

‘The days without Misha are wonderful,’ the woman says with a disarming sense of humour, which combines beautifully with her gentle and intelligent nature, her brown eyes sparkling with liveliness under her thick eyebrows. In the first days of her husband’s arrest, she feared she would not be able to manage on her own and that the boys would leave her. But time sorted it all out. ‘After all these years, it’s quiet now. No one is pushing you around. I have time to do my work. I couldn’t do the household chores before because I used to be chased out of the house. No one breathes down your neck. My cows calved, my goats kidded, I mowed the alfalfa, I ploughed the assigned plot of land,’ Valentina lists.

With the little she earns, she provides for her children. She works in the fields for a farming company, where she earns no more than MDL 1,000 a month. You get paid by piece rate: for a peeled plum tree – MDL 1.60, for a kilogram of picked cherries – MDL 2.50. ‘Run Valentina, run – from one tree to another. ‘Where else am I to go? It’s still money after all and no one would give it to you for free. At least I have a health insurance policy and the sick days are paid,’ the woman consoles herself.

And her relationship with her two sons got back to normal. The boys help her with chores and in the field, if needed, so she doesn’t fall behind with the assigned plot of land. None of them blamed her for what happened to their father, which Valentina feared the most. So she couldn’t refuse to accompany them during their several visits to prison.

‘It was Christmas. The boys asked me insistently to visit Misha, since they were missing him. I didn’t say a word. I just packed a bag of food and we went. It was really hard for me, but I had no choice. He looked like hell. He was skinny and without teeth. He just said he was sorry and begged the guys not to land themselves in hot water, since it sucks being in prison,’ Valentina recounts the gist of the meeting.

What will happen in a year and a half, when Misha is released, is a question awaiting answer. It’s the question that disturbs her peace of mind and gnaws at her for days. She’s sure her husband will want to come back. And if the children insist that their father live under the same roof with them, she won’t be able to refuse them. ‘I just pray he will have changed by then. When I saw him [the second time] at Easter, there emerged a slim ray of hope that he would never touch me again. He was so wretched… We shall see how he behaves. If he starts beating me again he will end up in prison again. If he’s going to behave well and stop drinking then we can be together. Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on this possibility yet,’ says the woman somewhat terrified.

Her mother-in-law didn’t blame Valentina for her son ending up in prison. On the contrary, she believes he deserved it. ‘I didn’t raise him that way. I didn’t put him on this path. I don’t know why he behaves in this way. He’s been beating me too. It could be that he used his father as a role model who used to beat me every day, with or without reason. I think he deserves to spend some time in jail – hopefully, this will prompt him to come to his senses,’ says the old woman, who has gone through a family life very similar to that of her daughter-in-law.

We also tried to talk to Misha, sending a request to the Department of Penitentiary Institutions (DPI). But we have been informed that ‘he does not want to talk to the media’.

And Misha is not the only man in jail under Article 201/1 of the Criminal Code – Domestic Violence. There are 501 other inmates under similar sentence, according to DPI data. And since mid-2010, when domestic violence became a criminal offence, 1,099 men who assaulted their wives have ended up behind bars.

*  *  *

Valentina’s case is just one of 10,459 cases of violence against women reported in 2016, according to the General Police Inspectorate report. This is a tiny figure compared to the reality of the Republic of Moldova. The survey ‘Men and equality between women and men in the Republic of Moldova’ shows that only 8.4% of abused women reported to the police. And this is due to dissatisfaction with police response, fear of the perpetrator, ignorance of the mechanisms for dealing with violence, as well as the stereotype that ‘an unbeaten woman is like an uncleaned house’.

‘I got my first protection order in 2012, after a hell of a beating, which made me famous on the district’s TV channel,’ Valentina jokes. The 2012 protection order she refers to is actually the first ruling in which Misha was found guilty of domestic violence and sentenced to two years probation. ‘Pursuant to Article 90 of the Criminal Code, the court orders the conditional suspension of the execution of the sentence for a probationary period of 2 years, obliging the convict X.X. to participate in a special treatment or counselling program to reduce his violent behaviour, to undergo alcoholism treatment,’ the judge ruled at the time.

At the beginning of his probation, things calmed down, but not for long. ‘It was fine for only half a year, during that time he underwent treatment. We bought a car. It was like being in heaven. Then everything went back to the way it was before, i.e. fights, drinking sprees, beatings,’ Valentina explains.

Several attempts to obtain protection orders against her husband followed, but judges refused each time, and the reason was the lack of relevant and conclusive evidence that would prove that Misha is a perpetrator.

After turning for help to WLC in March 2016, Valentina succeeded in obtaining her first protection order. ‘And that’s after the judge, on 26 February 2016, dismissed the Police Inspectorate’s request […] as unfounded, due to no violence being present in X.X.’s family and that there is no evidence. The police officer was supposed to send her for a psychiatric examination, interview the neighbours, etc., to gather conclusive evidence,’ says Diana Ionita, the lawyer who handled Valentina’s case.

But Valentina enjoyed the protection order for only two weeks. At the end of March, Misha paid her an unannounced visit, as a result of which the woman thought she would not escape with her life. The next day the man was arrested and three months later – convicted.

In 2013, there were cases of domestic violence that also reached the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). This is the year when the Republic of Moldova, for the first time in its history, is sentenced by ECHR, including for not taking enough measures to protect victims of domestic violence. It is not long before long the court sentenced the Republic of Moldova in three other similar cases. EUR 60,000 (editor’s note: about MDL 1.3 million at the exchange rate at the time) – this is the amount of moral damages established by the ECHR in the four cases.

 

‘This means that there are system deficiencies, there is not enough action, and the European Court expressly points out that despite the existence of a good regulatory framework and alignment with the international standards, it does not reach the stage of implementation and enforcement at the national level, and precisely for these reasons, if we look deeper into the ECHR judgments, we find a lack of interaction or insufficient interaction between anti-violence stakeholders on the horizontal and vertical levels and that the law enforcement agencies are not proactive, failing to work in the interest of victims,’ says Ion Oboroceanu, president of the Law Centre from Causeni and leader of the Movement ‘Men against violence and human trafficking’.

But the four ECHR sentences have not gone unheeded by the authorities. ‘In terms of cooperating with the Committee of Ministers, the body that supervises the execution of ECHR judgments, we can see that real steps are finally being taken to address these problems. Since March this year, changes have already been introduced in the legislation allowing police officers to issue restraining orders (editor’s note: similar to a protection order issued by a judge). The procedure for ensuring and guaranteeing protection from the perpetrator has been greatly simplified. But after a year, or at the end of the year, we are going to carry out more thorough monitoring, a more qualitative analysis of the way these restraining orders are issued; […] only then will we be able to ascertain whether there is any progress or not,’ says Alexandru Postica from Promo-Lex Association.

*  *  *

No one expected that on that day of March 2016, things would take such an unexpected turn. Nobody. Neither Valentina, nor Misha, nor the children, nor the neighbours. Valentina had gone to work early in the morning to prune the orchard. The dark rain clouds were amassing, eager to pour down on the village. Seeing it coming, the woman headed home around noon. She fed the animals, then the kids who came home from school and started sweeping the bedroom.

Victor, the eldest boy, went to his grandmother to get a pump to inflate the tires of his bicycle. His father was also there. It was two weeks since he was forbidden by the protection order from entering their house. ‘X.X. is ordered to leave, temporarily, and not to come within 200 m of their communal dwelling place for a period of 3 months; to stay away from the place where the minor children attend school; not to contact the victim in any way,’ reads the Order issued in early March 2016.

However, the protection order did not prevent Misha from paying ‘visits’ to Valentina… ‘It was 11 o’clock at night. He showed up drunk and started banging loudly on the door. At first I didn’t answer, but he was scaring the kids so I didn’t have a choice. I figured he wouldn’t touch me – he’s not that foolish to go against the protection order. He kept whining at the door that he wasn’t going to put his hands on me, so I let him in. I pretended I was asleep. He approached me slowly in the dark and threw a flower on my chest. The Women’s Day was just recently. Then he headed into the hallway, where the kitchen is,’ the woman recounts of the scare she had that night.

In the hallway Misha rummaged around in the pots until he found some milk and noodles in a pot. The children and Valentina were listening attentively, holding their breath, trying to guess what he might do. The woman asked her little ones not to make a sound, so that he would leave. After pouring a spoonful of tomato paste into the pot of pasta and gobbling it up, Misha left.

When Victor arrived, he found his father drunk in the grandmother’s yard. He wasn’t surprised at all. He asked for the pump. Misha stared at him bleary-eyed and shouted angrily,

‘F.ck off to your mother’s village and get yourself a pump!

The child looked at him calmly with his brown eyes and returned home. Misha followed him. ‘He seemed like he was out of his mind,’ Valentina recounts, shuddering. ‘When he’s sober and angry, I’m not afraid of him, but if he’s drunk and angry, he scares the hell out of me.’

But that Thursday afternoon he sneaked into the bedroom. He usually would make a loud appearance, his screams being heard from the street. ‘And by the way he was screaming we were judging whether to run off or not. This time he suddenly entered the room and came at me. I just knew something awful was going to happen,’ Valentina recounts, her voice turning squeaky.

names changed to protect the identity of the characters

This article is supported by AVON as part of the Respect Campaign. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of AVON. 

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