To me, age is a state of mind. Depending on the day, I can feel myself anywhere between 18 and 90.
What are you passionate about?
I’m an artist at heart. I enjoy writing, painting and photography. My other passions are Latin dance and shooting weapons at the range. I love to work out and create things as well. I love to design new stuff from scratch or transform ugly things into beautiful ones. I love fashion and my dream is to create a fashion clothing line one day. I’m also passionate about real estate – I’m a licensed agent in Ohio.
What human trafficking looks like and how does it affect American youth?
Human trafficking is illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. Behind those words there are many broken human lives. Each story is an incredible tragedy of a person who is torn away from his normal life and deprived of his freedom and human rights.
Young people are particularly vulnerable, as criminals can find victims and manipulate them through internet, social media and private chats. One report cited “13 years old as the most common age in Ohio for youth to become victims of child sex trafficking”.
What motivated you to write a book and more importantly what inspired you to get involved with bringing awareness to human trafficking?
The book Girl, Taken – is a true story about kidnapping and survival. The plot of my book took place in real life and I just described it in my own words.
I saw and experienced things no one should have to go through. I’m sure that right now, right at this particular moment, there is someone who is suffering from being a victim of kidnapping or trafficking or facing a similar ordeal in life. I wanted to deliver a message to those who seek hope or to those who are about to give up. Hope and faith should never leave you, even in the moment of total and all-consuming despair.
Every human trafficking story looks similar to mine. The incredible tragedy that involves not only one person – it’s an adversity for all family members. Unfortunately, most people consider human trafficking as a problem of the past or believe that it is limited to being outside the United States only. Only by bringing awareness and education about this problem taking place everywhere there will be a chance to fight this crime.
Tell us a few statistics concerning human trafficking in your city and the surrounding areas.
Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs in every state, including Ohio. Ohio ranks number five in the nation for the most human trafficking cases. Last year, 375 Ohio trafficking cases were reported based on calls to the national hotline–according to Polaris, a nonprofit organization that tracks human trafficking cases in America and across the world.
If any readers might think a loved one is in harm’s way what would be a few actions you would suggest so they can get the help they need?
The professional help from the therapist and a good family environment are the best sources, in my opinion.
What steps did you take to begin bringing awareness and getting involved?
I’m at the very beginning of my journey at the moment. I think social media is the best way to bring the awareness.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Through the horrifying months of my captivity – witnessing atrocities, surviving bombings and sexual violence, and trapped in a land where countless people were dying every day, I fought desperately to stay alive, stay sane and not lose the one thing that kept me going – my hope.
We never know what we are capable of until we are placed in a situation when you have to make a choice – stay strong or break down. Choose to remain a victim or choose to become a survivor.
At some point, I decided for myself – I wanted to be a survivor and not a victim. I like to believe we can all make this choice, no matter the hardships we face in life.
What advice would you give to parents of youth?
Pay attention and talk to your children. Be proud of what they are accomplishing. Love them.
So many people have dreams and want to start nonprofits or businesses because they have a burning desire to change the world. They want to be men or women of influence with a powerful message. Then doubt sets in or failure happens.
-What are your thoughts about this?
Robert Kiyosaki – famous American businessman and author – once said: “Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success”.
Pursuing things that truly matter gives people a sense of purpose and this, in turn, will help people persevere in their pursuits.
-What would your message to these people include?
Take a risk to make a difference. If you win, you will be happy. If you lose, you learn.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
This too shall pass.
My favorite of all times, meaning that nothing is permanent.
When everything is good, remember that it won’t last forever. So, enjoy and cherish it while you can. When things are bad, remember that it won’t last forever. Have faith, bad times eventually will pass.
What motivates you?
Achieving the desired results motivates me.
When was the last time you were out of your comfort zone?
A few days ago, I was honored to give a public speech about my book Girl, Taken. That was something I have never done before and had zero experience with. I was way out of my comfort zone.
What are your most important gifts you have to offer your city and state?
Every voice has an influence. Many voices have the power to change the world or to stop a crime. To be involved in the organization or a group with like-minded people – is a gift that every citizen should offer to their community to improve the quality of life.
If anyone is interested in contacting you further what would be the easiest way to reach you?
The best way to reach me is through one of my social media accounts:
Is there anything else you want me to know that will help me write this article?
As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a book Girl, Taken – A True Story of Abduction, Captivity and Survival. In 1994, just after my 21st birthday, I was drugged and abducted from my hometown in southern Russia by a group of gangsters. The idea was to hold me for ransom, but an unfortunate thing happened. Soon after my kidnapping, the first Russian-Chechen War broke out…
I would love to share my story with the readers of your blog.
Readers love Girl, Taken.
Here’s a small sample of what they are saying:
“This book will astonish and inspire you. It is the harrowing tale of a young woman who saved her own life through nothing more than courage, determination, and inner strength.”
“One of the best books I’ve read in the past few years…”
“Girl, Taken kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. She is lucky to be alive. Very intense, hard to put it down. I would definitely suggest you enjoy the book for yourself and feel what it’s like to be kidnapped…”
Girl, Taken – A True Story of Abduction, Captivity and Survival. You can check it out on Amazon