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No Hope for Hope

A Story of Domestic Violence

By Lana V LynxPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 9 min read

August 8 is a sad date for me. On that day in 2000, our family friend with a beautiful name Nadezhda (meaning “Hope” in Russian) died a horrible and slow death. Five axe-cut wounds to the arms, chest, left shoulder, and a final blow to the neck from the back that broke her spine. The investigators said she was probably running around the house wounded trying to shield her two kids with her body. The murderer was more merciful to the kids, killing each of them with one hard blow to the head with the blunt end of the axe. The police never established if he killed the kids after Nadezhda or made her watch them die. According to the neighbors, who heard the screams and cries (no one came to help, but someone did call the police which was too late to arrive), the whole crime took about 30 minutes. Half an hour of horrible pain and agony for Nadezhda.

She was a friend we were lucky to have. Ten years younger than my mother and eleven years older than me, she clicked with all the three of us (my younger sister loved her too) right away. Mom met Nadya, as we called her for short, through work when her husband got transferred from Russia as a prison guard to the prison my mom worked at, and Nadya started working there as a nurse. When they arrived to Bishkek (Frunze at the time as the Soviet Union still existed), they already had their little daughter. Our friendship was long enough for us to see Nadya have her second child, a beautiful baby boy. She was everything you’d want in a friend: Kind and reliable, always ready to come to help or just hang out. I loved our long tea drinking evenings when we talked for hours about everything and nothing. She was also beautiful: About 5’4”, very shapely, dirty blond hair and huge blue eyes. As a teenager, I could watch and admire her gentle manners and feminine gestures and think, “If only I could be like that.” I tried to copy the way she gently tucked her hair behind her ear but it never looked as organic as hers. Nadya also had a beautiful smile, both kind and mysterious. Men usually melted and would give her anything for that smile. She was just an impressive and remarkable young woman.

Her husband was a complete opposite of her. About 6’3” and broad shouldered, he had flaming red hair and the face, chest and arms covered in freckles. My mom called him “a cupboard” because he was so square and big, especially next to Nadezhda who looked tiny and fragile with him. “He can break you like a twig,” my mom used to tell her.

My mom never liked him. She was an opinionated independent woman who never shied away from saying what she thought to people’s faces. Mom had a couple of arguments with Nadya’s husband when they just started to come to our place for dinners and tea, and he once called my mom a cunt. Another time he said my mom needed a good beating by a man. My mom was single at the time and always feisty, so that argument ended with her kicking him out of our apartment. A domestic violence survivor herself, my mom knew the signs. “Good beating by a man” triggered mom’s concern and she asked Nadezhda if he had ever abused her. Even though Nadezhda said “no,” my mom asked her not to ever bring him to our place again, “You and the kids are always welcome, but leave your cupboard at home.” He never came again.

He was always incredibly possessive and jealous of Nadezhda, wanted to know about her every step, walked her to and from her nurse office, and never let her go anywhere by herself. She got a lot of scolding even when it was another man who’d give her a longing look and she never flirted with anyone. Nadya once jokingly asked her husband if she should wear a head-to-toe burka and he said it was not a bad idea. Surprisingly, he still let her come to our place without him, only if she took the kids with her. For some reason, he either trusted or was afraid of my mom, who enjoyed great reputation and respect at work, and we continued to enjoy Nadezhda’s company.

The first time my mom saw a black eye and other bruises on Nadya, she asked her again if her husband had beaten her up. Nadezhda said no again. It was an obvious lie but no matter how hard my mom pressed her she’d insist that it was just from a fall. It happened again and then again, every time with more bruising, pain and longer recovery. I think it was on the fourth or fifth time, after her husband kicked her in the ribs breaking two of them, that Nadya finally admitted it was him. He was always possessive and jealous, but the abuse was mostly verbal and in the form of controlling her. Beating started when they moved to our city and he thought she flirted with all the men at work. He even accused her of flirting with prisoners who she only saw when they were sick. When mom asked why she wouldn’t tell anyone or report him to the police, Nadezhda responded that he still loved her, and even cited the overly-used Russian truism, “If your husband beats you it means he loves you.” When he was triggered, he just went into jealousy-driven rage when he couldn’t control his anger. Nadya even suggested that it could have been her fault, that she was perhaps provoking him. After an outburst of rage, he’d immediately regret it, and beg Nadya to forgive him, standing on his knees and kissing her battered hands and face. She’d forgive him and when the next time came, he’d escalate to more beating and kicking.

When he broke her ribs, Nadya and the kids stayed at our place for about three days. She was mostly in bed, healing, and my concerned mom tended to her like she did to me and my sister when we were sick. Nadezhda had no relatives in Bishkek or anywhere else: Her parents died when she was young, and she had no siblings. Her one grandmother lived in the Far East in Russia. Nadezhda had no extended family she knew of, and we essentially became her family. After the broken ribs incident, my mom took it upon herself to protect Nadezhda. She told about the abuse to a couple of men at work. Everyone loved Nadezhda there, so five men got together and went to beat her husband up so badly he had to take a sick leave from work. While beating him up, they kept telling him that it was for Nadezhda and they wanted him to “have a taste her pain.” They also made him promise he’d never raise his hand at her again.

He kept his promise for about half a year. Nadezhda thought that he finally stopped the abuse forever and kept telling my mom it was the happiest she ever was with him. Their little boy was about three at the time, so the husband even became a better father, spending time with the kids and Nadezhda as a family. And then one day her saw her “give that man in the street a lustful look,” as he claimed. Because she denied it and reminded him of his promise not to raise his hand at her, he grabbed a knife and went for her face. “I will take your eye out so that you only have one to look at other men!” he growled charging at her. She put her left hand up to protect her face and he sliced off her thumb. When he saw the blood gushing from her hand he dropped unconscious and that was the only thing that saved her. She grabbed her thumb hanging by the skin and ran to my mom. Mom took a van on duty from work and rushed Nadya to the hospital. They stitched her thumb back but it never had the same flexibility or functionality. And Nadya’s beautiful hand acquired a long ugly scar.

It was after that incident that my mom told Nadezhda that next time her husband would simply kill her. “It’s time for you to take the kids and run for your life,” mom said decisively. Nadezhda agreed. They carefully planned the escape and in about two weeks mom had people at work arrange for the husband to go on a business trip for about three days. When he came back Nadezhda and the kids were long gone. My mom personally took her to the train station to put them on a train to Krasnoyarsk with a transfer to Blagoveschensk where her grandmother lived. She then wrote to mom every month or so about their life there. It was not as good as in Bishkek but at least they were safe.

Her husband became obsessed with finding her. He kept asking my mom where Nadezhda had run away but mom kept telling she did not know. He lost weight, became even gloomier and angrier at the whole world. It took him five years to figure out where Nadya went. When he did, he drove his old beat-up car all the way there (4,000 miles) and found the grandmother first. He somehow convinced the grandmother to take him where they lived and axed her before entering the house. After he was done with his family, he drove about 30 miles away and hung himself on a tree.

My mom found out about this gruesome murder-suicide years later when the news reached her through the slow work grapevine. I was already working on my doctorate in the US, so we both wept on Skype as mom told me the details. I still cannot believe that beautiful family is gone. I try to think of them as still living in the Far East, with the kids all grown up and living their young lives to the fullest. Sort of my own fairy tale of the first battered woman in my life. There’d be many more, with remarkably similar patterns of abuse and violence escalation. Some needed to be literally extracted, some stay with their abusive husbands for the kids or in the hope they’d change. The truth is that most abusers never change at their own will. To do so requires determination, hard work and professional help the abusers almost never seek.


About the Creator

Lana V Lynx

Avid reader and occasional writer of satire and short fiction. For my own sanity and security, I write under a pen name. My books: Moscow Calling - 2017 and President & Psychiatrist

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