In the words of Carsten
It’s Saturday, the 24th of April, 2004, and it looks like an ordinary afternoon in the little village of Skopin in Russia, but in reality, a miracle is about to happen. From the street, we can see a garage. At the side of the garage, at ground level near its foundations, a metal plate covering a camouflaged hatch is carefully moved aside. A man in his mid-fifties emerges and jumps out with ease. The man is tall, muscular, and wears worn-out black trousers and a shirt.
A moment later, a small and skinny teenage girl follows the man. For a little while, she struggles to get out of the hatch before covering her eyes, trying to get accustomed to the light. The girl’s skin is as white as paper and she has black circles under her eyes. Her body is strangely proportioned, with long arms, a flat chest and skinny legs. She is dressed like a teenager on her way to a party, but her clothes are dirty and moldy. In every possible way, the girl looks like she has just risen from the grave. Once out the garage, she stands still, staring longingly at the small forest nearby while awaiting the man’s orders.
Considering the circumstances, the girl should be afraid, but in this moment, she is not. While eagerly drinking in the beauty of nature, she is excited and full of hope. For the first time in almost four years, the girl is not only going to meet a new person, but she also has a realistic escape plan. Nothing is more important to her than avoiding raising the man’s suspicions. In every possible way, she is trying to show the man that she is willing to cooperate. When the man grabs her firmly by the arm, she compliantly follows him. Together, they walk around the garage and proceed toward and old, shabby, red wooden cabin just 50 meters from the garage.
Upon reaching a door on the other side of the cabin, they come to a stop. Behind this door, there is something the man desperately wants. Mustering all of his self-confidence, he knocks. His prisoner stands still beside him, showing no sign of emotion. A moment later, a beautiful girl in her twenties opens the door. The man smiles nervously before turning to his prisoner, expecting her to initiate a conversation. The prisoner is apathetic and does nothing. For a moment, the man hesitates, and the silence quickly turns awkward. At last, the man stutters a greeting and the beautiful girl stands aside, letting the odd couple in.
Twenty minutes later, the man and his prisoner emerge from the cabin’s doorway. The pretty girl looks upset. When she closes the door, she locks it securely. As the pair proceed back to the garage, the prisoner’s heart pounds. Her escape plan has just been set in motion and only time will tell if it will succeed. As he opens the hatch near the foundations of the garage, the man is completely unaware of what his prisoner has done. Forgotten and presumed dead for nearly four years, she is confident that she will soon return to her home and her family. As she descends through the hatch, she smiles.
There is nothing she can do now but wait and hope…
I have just finished reading the book you wrote about me. It was a very special experience, getting to follow the little girl I was when Viktor abducted me—a girl with a lot of power inside. It also dawned on me why Lena does not want to give interviews. She went through so much more horror than I did, and she needs peace to put all these painful events behind her. To be impregnated through rape three times by an insane man and to have to go through three pregnancies and give birth twice in a small underground cell was hell on earth. I could never have survived what Lena endured. While reading and seeing the whole story from the outside, I was reliving my painful past, and it was a harrowing and tearful experience. It is a miracle that I managed to survive this horror and stay sane.
Reading your book also allowed me to answer many of the questions that I have been asking myself repeatedly since our escape. For instance, I never understood who my rapist and kidnapper really was. I never tried to analyze him as a human being and never had the bravery to go into his story and mentality. It was surprising to see how deeply you were able to describe the feelings, thoughts, and motives of Viktor Mokhov. Before reading your book, Viktor was a two-dimensional and insane criminal who committed a monstrous sex crime. Now, I see him from a different perspective. I now understand what lead him to do what he did. He is cruel, purposeful, and had a clear plan that he implemented very consciously. While reading, I was terrified that I was under the power of such a man. I learned that a man like him would stop at nothing to achieve his goals. I cannot believe that he only got 17 years in prison for what he did.
I feel that this book became another milestone I had to pass before putting my terrible story behind me. Thank you, Carsten, for making this possible for me.
In the words of Carsten
“I have a remarkable story to tell you,” my friend David said when he called me from Moscow. “Have you heard about Viktor Mokhov?”
David is an American author with a specialty in Russian history. When I picked up the phone, I was sitting in a café in London, writing on my laptop. David sounded eager, and since he is usually very calm and laid back, I was immediately intrigued.
“No,” I said. “The name does not ring a bell.”
“Mokhov is the most famous rapist in Russia,” David said. “Before committing his crime, he spent almost four years digging out a dungeon for his victims under his garage. After its completion, he captured two random teenage girls in a nearby city and put them in the dungeon. For more than three and a half years, he kept them there while raping them on an almost daily basis. During that time, one of the girls became pregnant three times.”
“That sounds incredible,” I said. “Are the girls still alive?”
“Yes,” David said. “Not only did the girls manage to escape, but today they are both married and have families of their own. One of the girls is named Katya Martynova. It took her many years to recover, but now she feels ready to talk about all the details of what happened. Currently, she is looking for someone who can help write her story. You have worked a lot with both rape victims and hardcore criminals. I believe you are the right person for the job. If you come to Moscow, I will pick you up at the airport and we can go visit her together.”
After my conversation with David, I took a closer look at Katya’s story online. While sitting in the dungeon waiting for her kidnapper to return for sex, it seemed that Katya had spent most of her time engaging herself in painting, drawing, and writing poetry. Some of her paintings were available online and looked like impressive works of art. Looking at them made it hard to believe that they had been painted by a teenage girl under dreadful conditions. After her release, Katya seemed remarkably open-minded and able to talk about any topic. According to what I could read, she never had trust issues or fear of intimacy with men after her release. In one interview, she even expressed that she no longer felt anger towards her kidnapper.
As I browsed the internet, I could see that the story of Katya had been followed by journalists from all over the world. Even though Katya had been released fifteen years back, many of the articles and interviews were brand-new. For some reason, this story never seemed to become outdated. In one of the biggest newspapers in England, I found a news article saying that the kidnapper would soon be released from prison.
Why this story still had such a strong appeal to the press and the public was not hard to see. What happened to Katya has all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster. It is a thrilling drama filled with incredible conflict and endurance. It took place in a setting that not only engages the senses but also takes you outside all conventions of normal reality. The characters in the story are both captivating and intriguing. There is the lonely man leading a double life and struggling with his awkward relationships with women. As a popular craftsman in his village, he spends years preparing a dungeon in a twisted attempt to find a wife. Besides that, there is the strong, beautiful, and reflective heroine. When everything is taken away from her, she never gives up hope. While living under dreadful conditions, she spends her time progressing as a painter and poet. The story also has all the classical elements of suspense, drama, and surprise. When Katya is kidnapped, she is a naïve child and a defenceless teenager, but through her endurance and honesty, her strength grows. While in captivity, she never gives in to her tormentor and gradually the balance of power changes. After years underground, Katya and her friend eventually manage to outwit their kidnapper. This leads to Katya’s escape. When she finally escapes, she transforms and unfolds like a butterfly. Ready for life, she embraces both love and sex, and after much struggle, she finds happiness with a man who loves her and accepts her for who she is and what she has been through. The story is truly powerful, and the fact that it really happened only makes it more fascinating.
In the following days, I reflected more on what had happened to Katya. This made me consider the freedom that I take for granted in my own life. I had numerous questions that I was curious to ask her: How do you find meaning and purpose in life if you are taken away from the people you love while being stripped of your dignity, future, and freedom? What happens to your relationship with nature if you are no longer able to breathe fresh air, walk in the forest, or simply enjoy the rays of the sun? How does it influence your relationship with life if you’ve spent years living so close to death, never knowing if your current day is your last? How do you find meaning if your only purpose in life is to stay sane and alive, and how does this kind of captivity influence your perception of freedom? In Katya’s paintings, she had depicted beautiful and sensual women in provocative positions. What was the idea behind these paintings, and how did painting these women help her in her process?
Another aspect of Katya’s story that made me curious had to do with her rapist and kidnapper Viktor Mokhov. Mokhov was clearly a man in severe pain, but his dream of owning women and using them to escape loneliness while gaining sexual release is quite widespread among men. Many men have thought about having a harem devoted to fulfilling all of his needs. In fact, many men can disconnect their sexual urges from their emotional life and can, therefore, engage in sex with a woman as if she was a doll. Perhaps it is part of the masculine nature to perceive sex as something that can be domesticated and consumed. Mokhov had taken this approach to sex far beyond any ethical limit. While doing so, it appeared that he was mirroring a grotesque caricature of male sexuality in its darkest imaginable form. While telling Katya’s story, it would be interesting to explore sexuality further while trying to understand what would drive a man like Mokhov to do what he did.
The more I thought about Viktor Mokhov, the more I understood what he had been trying to achieve and why he never achieved it. Like most men, he wanted to be admired by women, wanted to take care of women, wanted the respect and love of women. What he got was the exact opposite. In his dungeon, he kept two girls who feared and hated him. Any tormentor who wants to stay in control cannot bond emotionally with his victims. By doing so, the victims will take over control, and in Victor’s case, I am convinced that control had been a huge problem. How do you keep two prisoners in a dungeon, forcing them into sex, without connecting emotionally? With the girls in his possession, I imagine that this problem gradually became his downfall. With time, he became more and more lonely and fearful. In the end, he lost all connection to reality and was driven to a higher and higher degree of madness. What influenced Viktor is also more widely known as the law of Karma. Life will not let itself be manipulated, and intimacy cannot be forced. You can never put a flower in a vase and see it thrive. Whatever is captured and taken outside its natural element by force is forever lost, and the perpetrator will be punished one way or another.
Even though I have spent most of my adult life exploring taboos and painful emotions, I had no doubt that Katya could teach me many things. Almost all victims of horrendous crimes become scarred for life, but in some rare cases, the victims dissolve their pain and become empowered. When someone can do so, I define that person as a true survivor. A true survivor is equipped with emotional flexibility, extreme honesty, and great inner freedom. Besides that, a true survivor rarely considers themselves a victim. They are aware that they need to use what they have learned through their pain for the good of others. From what I had read about Katya, I was confident that she was a true survivor. Without a doubt, she had gained special knowledge. Knowledge that could provide new and beneficial insights to the millions of people suffering from the aftereffects of all kinds of trauma and violence. Besides that, it would certainly be interesting for the general public to also understand the kind of mindset that is required to stay sane and pure while living in hell for almost four years.
In the words of Katya
Most people think about their first sexual experience as being exciting, erotic, and sometimes romantic. They might largely forget about their second or third experience, but they will always remember having sex for the very first time. I will never forget my first sexual experience either, but it was in no way romantic or erotic. When it happened, I had just turned 14 and was raped by a stranger in his dirty garage. While he was using me for his pleasure, I was convinced that I would never survive. The disgust I felt from this experience will never be possible for me to express in words. During the following 1,312 days, he imprisoned me in a damp, underground dungeon and raped my friend and me more than a thousand times. Still, I will always remember the first time as the scariest and most repulsive experience in my life.
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Published 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022