Girl, Taken - A True Story of Abduction, Captivity and Survival
Gold Literary Award Winner in the Memoir category at 2019 Global Ebook Awards
"Gripping story." -Radio America
"An unimaginably horrific ordeal." -Mirror
"Story of survival is inspiring others and raising awareness." -WCPO Cincinnati
"This book will astonish and inspire you. One woman's shocking true story of abduction, war and survival." -B. Whitney, author of SUBVERSIVE
"A riveting read! I began reading this in the morning and finished before noon! Each moment of terror, agony and eventually, apathy were described in such detail that I began to acquire the same feelings. There were definitely moments in my life where I felt as if I couldn't possibly take one more trial; however, I have never had my freedom taken from me. The very thought is enough to pick me up and place me back to my place of comfort and opportunity to enjoy sunshine, hug loved ones or be alone, etc. What an amazing journey to take with this author in one morning! The mere fact that giving up was not an option because she couldn't bear the thought of not taking one more step, then another, and another-all for the love from her mother. This is true love to the bare bones. It is not just about how much we love someone, but the realization of how much we are loved that produces the unbreakable hope to fight. A truly inspirational story!
In addition, I thought the way the author ended the story was brilliant. I am very honored to have the ability to leave this review for such a wonderful story. I am so thankful that she survived-MORE than survived-she exclaims VICTORY." - Marie L
"This was a captivating read that was very well written. Even though she was a prisoner for eight months, the story moved along quickly.
Sometimes when reading about this type of event you wonder about the details - where did they toilet, wash, what did they eat, etc. This book discussed those things in a modest way from her perspective so that one could understand how she survived. It made the story live because those details were her life for eight months. Another thing that I enjoyed about it was that she did not appear to be bitter about what happened." -Jadaros
“The fear settled inside me... It was excruciating... It was rapidly destroying me.”
Imagine you are walking home alone one evening. Suddenly, you are assaulted, drugged and kidnapped. Strange men drive you through the night and keep you prisoner in a dark, tiny room. You don’t know who they are. You don’t know what they want. They speak a language you don’t even understand.
This happened to me.
When I was 21, I was abducted off the streets of my hometown in southern Russia by a group of criminals. My abductors kept me prisoner in a tiny room at first, then later in a dirt cellar under a house. I was utterly alone – no friends, no family, nothing... Every day, I had to knock on the door to my room, so that a blank-eyed gunman with an AK-47 would let me out and walk me to the bathroom under his supervision.
Soon, I learned that the men were holding me for ransom. But a few weeks after my kidnapping, a brutal civil war broke out, and all contacts were cut off. The country plunged into darkness. There was no electricity, and no telephone service. There could be no negotiations for my release. I was one lost soul, powerless, and at the mercy of hardened killers in a land where innocent people were dying every day.
I saw decapitated young soldiers, their heads decorating the trees like Christmas bulbs. I saw bloodstained city streets, the bombed out wrecks of tanks and jeeps still burning. I saw things I have trouble thinking about.
Through eight horrifying months of captivity – witnessing atrocities, surviving bombings and sexual violence – I fought desperately to stay alive, stay sane and to not lose the one thing that kept me going: hope.
October 4th, 1994
I did not know where I was.
For a long time, I drifted in darkness. Then a thought came, unbidden.
Another thought soon followed. Then another. They had a mind of their own, these thoughts. Gradually, they began to lead me up and out of the abyss.
They were confused, a mad jumble of images and ideas, and sensations and disembodied voices, all superimposed on each other. I recovered slowly, crawling through the buzz of a malfunctioning electrical wire that seemed to be inside my head. I felt how my lungs were filling with air; I began to do it consciously and with pleasure. I was breathing!
More clearly now I heard the revving of a car engine, and mingled with that, the sound of unfamiliar voices. Several men were speaking in a language I did not understand. My body, which had gone as limp and as soft as a fresh corpse, gradually began to stiffen and take form again. It twitched, then stretched, legs and arms lengthening – all of this as involuntary as the beating of my heart.
I tried to open my eyes. My eyelids seemed glued firmly shut until this point. They were so heavy it was almost unnatural to lift them.
In the first moments, my vision was out of focus. It was like a photograph taken at night, through a rainy, foggy window. Everything was smeared and hazy and very dark. But with each successive moment of consciousness, my wounded brain began to put all the puzzle pieces together. Soon enough, the picture became clearer – resolving itself, slowly and inexorably, into something I did not want to see.
I yearned to dive back to the darkness, the unconsciousness, back to where I was not able to feel the fear. But it was too late. I was awake now, becoming alert, and unable to retreat from reality.
I found myself in a car full of strangers, driving through the night.
Inky darkness flew along outside my window, shadowy landscapes passing formless and empty. The rickety car moved too quickly over rutted and pitted roads, shuddering and banging the entire time. I could make out nothing about where I was. The car seemed to be passing through an unpopulated countryside – there were no lights out there at all. Inside the car, a dim yellow dashboard light was on. The light cast a reflection on the window – showing me a distorted funhouse version of the men I was too afraid to look at directly.
I was in the back seat of a car being driven away from my life. The full horror of it began to sink in.
What has happened?
Where are they taking me?
Who are these men?
My body had gone numb from the uncomfortable position I was in, and instinctively I moved again. Now I noticed my tongue. It felt thick in my mouth.
I produced a sound, like a shout, but also like horrible animal groaning.
The men ignored me. They were talking incessantly. Their language seemed to me like the language of a lost jungle tribe. I rolled my eyes from side to side, trying to understand. Impenetrable darkness made it impossible to see their faces, but there were definitely four of them: a driver and three others. To my right, two passengers were squeezed in the back seat next to me.
My body was still under the influence of some kind of poison. My head felt like it weighed a ton, and my tongue refused to listen to my commands. It groaned again.
I grew more alert. The unconsciousness, fatigue and stiffness faded, leaving open a place for an increasing sense of all-consuming fear. At my left side, there was nothing but darkness. It sapped my confidence and my hopes. The idea struck me like an arrow – they had taken me. No one knew where I was.
Will these men rape me?
Will they sell me into slavery?
Will they kill me?
* * *
The last thing I remembered was the fight with my boyfriend. I argued with him and then I decided to go home.
It happened at night, three weeks past my 21st birthday.
That night, there was a party at the restaurant across the alley from my home. The restaurant was called Corvette, the newer place in town where my friends and I had parties all the time. It was a sweet, romantic time of life, and Corvette was our place.
It was a typical Russian hangout for young people. Loud, alive, buzzing, full of smoke and strong drink. The inside, true to its name, was decorated like a battle cruiser from the days of sailing – it looked like a pirate ship on the high seas – complete with rope rigging hanging along the walls, portholes, crossed swords, and deck cannons.
The restaurant was crowded that night, tables full of beautiful young people, drinking and talking and laughing and shouting. They were beautiful, and I was beautiful.
I can still see Sergey’s angry face as we argued. He was a handsome guy, and I loved him in that way people love each other when they are 21. Intensely. Gigantically. Our love was all consuming. It was so huge, it was impossible. It was the biggest thing on planet Earth.
How could the world go on if Sergey and I were to break up? It must stop, at least for a moment, to acknowledge with its own heavy heart the passing of a relationship so beautiful that the poets would weep to think of it.
Yes, our love was like that.
Sergey was a sportsman. He was a boxer, and his training made him thin and strong, and vital, and full of energy. It was as if a current of electricity was passing through his body at all times. We made an attractive couple, and we enjoyed that about ourselves. We were made for each other.
If our love was gigantic, then so was our anger. It was anger appropriately sized to a love as enormous, and emotions as powerful, as ours. In my memory, Sergey’s hazel eyes are on fire. He is yelling at me, but I am so angry, I can no longer hear what he is saying. All I can hear is the laughter and celebration all around us. All I can see is the color red. Sergey is gesturing with his long arms, like a great bird, a crane, but even as he flaps his wings, he fades from my view, backward into the cigarette smoke and the red haze of my anger.
I felt a sudden urge to leave the party. I had to get away. The first floor apartment that I shared with my mother was just steps from there. I wanted to escape the ugliness of the fight, escape the self-important flightless birdlike flapping of my boyfriend, escape the god-awful smoke and the cacophonous noise of the merrymakers, and exchange it all for the warm hugs of my mama and the quiet coziness of our flat.
“I’m leaving,” I told Sergey.
He dismissed me with a violent flap of his wing. For a second, he reminded me not of a bird, but of a symphony conductor contemptuously demanding a crescendo from a third rate orchestra. “Do whatever you want, I’m staying.”
He turned away from me, and I moved toward the door. I left the restaurant.
I was wearing a little black dress, my favorite piece of clothing. It was so tight and sexy, it fit like a second skin, like the skin of a snake. As I walked, the dress treacherously tried to ride up, exposing my already barely covered legs. In the doorway of the restaurant, I pulled the hem of the dress down and stepped outside.
The long boulevard was empty. Everything was quiet, and the alley was dark. In my youth, the nights were always dark.
I started walking, in a hurry to get home. I needed probably ten steps, maybe a couple more than that with my high heels on, to reach the corner of the building and then make a right turn to enter the front dooryard.
“This dress again!”
It was my favorite. I loved that dress, and as much as I loved it, I also hated it because it always rode up when I walked. I stopped for a second to fix it. I pulled the hem of the dress down with both hands, took a step and fell into sudden darkness...