Olga, 49 years old, former prisoner: “I was thinking I would never be free again”

UNDP in Moldova
Nov 4, 2021 · 5 min read

Her name is Olga*, survivor of gender-based violence. A year ago, she was released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for killing her husband, in self-defence, according to her. She believes the years of humiliation and violence made her fight back against her aggressor. All these impacted her personality and made her stronger. What empowers her even more is the communication with her daughter and granddaughter.

“I am 49 years old. I live in a village near the town of Slobozia. I work in the field. It is the second year since I returned from prison, when I was convicted for the murder of my husband. Our village is small and everyone knows me as a murderer. I have a daughter and a three-year-old granddaughter.

As a child I had a very difficult relationship with my parents. When I was 5, my father passed away, and two weeks later my mother also died. They were divorced, so I stayed in my stepfather’s care. I didn’t have anyone…

I got married at 21 and a year later my daughter was born. I lived for five years in Chișinău, in a civil marriage, at his parents’ house. In ’92 we broke up. He now has another family and two children. I still love him.

I lived with my second husband for 12 years. He was a military and participated in two wars. At the beginning he used to beat me when he got drunk at the holidays, but then the beatings became more and more often. He beat me hard, in a military manner, with his feet. And in the morning, when he woke up, he didn’t remember anything. He even was asking me what had happened to me, where I got the bruises. I was like a slave to him. He constantly humiliated me. At that time, I worked as a milkmaid, sometimes in the field. I had to endure it, because I was afraid of him and I had nowhere else to go. In time, he began to hit my daughter, to swear at her, to harass her.

He came home drunk that fateful day, because he was partying together with his friends. I told him to go to bed. He didn’t listen to me and instead got angry. He started swearing at me. He wanted to go to the kitchen and continue drinking. I blocked the doorway and wouldn’t let him through. I could see that he had enough. He grabbed me by the neck and hit my head on the wall… He injured my temple, I was bleeding. At that moment I lost consciousness. My daughter was not at home. When I regained consciousness, he was very-very drunk. He was struggling in the kitchen to set the radio and, being angry that he couldn’t, he accidentally touched the bottle of alcohol with his elbow. It fell on the floor and shattered to pieces. Enraged, he turned to the door and saw me on the doorstep with a bloody face. Like a hunted animal, I instinctively felt what would happen next. To defend myself, I grabbed the knife off the table. He rushed at me and you can imagine what happened next… I called an ambulance, but he died in hospital. The first year, he hunted me in my dreams, as if he was strangling me.

I was sentenced to eight years in prison. My daughter was placed in a boarding school for a year. After that, as a daughter of a survivor of domestic violence, she was taken under the guardianship of the organization “Детство детям” (“Childhood for Children”) and lived at the crisis centre. She was counselled by the organization “Взаимодействие” (“Interaction”) and, with the help of their lawyer, sent letters to the authorities requesting amnesty. After four years in prison, I was amnestied.

Only the strongest ones survive in the prison. Sometimes it seemed to me that I would never get out of there. There are no limits to anything, you stand up just for yourself. Most of the women, who stayed with me in the cell, were serving time for murdering their husbands or partners.

When I was released in 2020, a relative, who moved to the right bank, left me the house to live in it and to take care of it.

My daughter is married, she has a little girl. She helps me a lot. I am very grateful to her.”

The CSO “Interaction” from Tiraspol, together with other partner organisations, offers Olga and her daughter psychological and humanitarian assistance, and helps them to get a job.

The One UN Joint Action “Cross-river Support for Human Rights”, funded by Sweden, strengthens the institutional capacities of the CSOs “Interaction” and “Childhood for Children” from the left bank of the Nistru river, which are also members of the Sustainable (Community) Development Platform.

The One UN Joint Action is implemented in partnership by six UN agencies: IOM, UNDP, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNICEF and UNODC.

* The real name of the protagonist has been changed to ensure their confidentiality.

Access here the article in Russian.

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