(the second forced suicide in February 2019)
within the framework of the Decree №18
Unfortunately, we must report on the second case of a mother’s suicide resulted from the authorities’ actions towards taking away her children. The description of the case is based on the materials of independent media.
Decree No. 18, intended as an instrument of protecting children, eventually became a punitive and repressive instrument and brought about tragedies for both children and mothers. Instead of assisting families in difficult life situations, the authorities, with their punitive actions, worsen the situation so much that it becomes critical. In February 2019, this is the second forced suicide of the mother driven to despair by the harassment of state agencies.
We strongly demand to stop applying the removal of children from their parents as a pre-emptive measure and using it as to pressure parents. The removal of a child must always be a last resort, but it must not serve a preventive measure in dealing with families in difficulty.
On February 7, 2019, two days after the suicide of Olga from the village of Buda, Gomel Region (what with the threats of officials to place her three children in an orphanage), Tatyana, the mother of four children, from the village of Vaikuntsy of the Voronovsky District of the Grodno Region hung herself. Tatiana committed suicide on the day when officials removed her four children and placed them in an orphanage.
Tatiana was 30 years old. She and her husband Andrei raised their four children: 13, 12, 11 and 4 years old. According to Andrei, officials took the children away in the afternoon of February 7, and in the evening of the same day he found his wife dead in the summer kitchen.
In 2014, the family was registered as one in a socially dangerous position (SOP, after the Russian abbreviation) because Tatiana was “intoxicated” while giving birth to her youngest daughter – says Anna, a teacher of Pogorodno School where Tatiana’s older children studied.
The family was thrice registered in SOP office and it was thrice removed from the register.
“Lack of hygiene, the empty refrigerator. They both drank a little, both were registered with a narcologist. But they didn’t quarrel, they didn’t fight,” so Anna explains the reasons for registering the family.
As a result, officials applied the removal of the children as a preventive measure and in order to force the family to move from the old house to a new one.
In December 2018, Andrei and Tatiana, as multi-children parents, received an apartment in Voronovo. However, they did not have enough money to buy furniture and transport it, so the relocation was postponed. At the same time inspectors insisted that the family move faster, and began to pressure, threatening to take the children away. When Tatiana and Andrei were last summoned to school, it was agreed that the move would take place until February 14th.
Andrei has another explanation of why the children were taken away. Inspections got more frequent in January, he says. He remembers only one instance of inspectors‘ complaint about his wife‘s drunkenness: it was on the 2nd of January, right after the New Year. The main complaint was, in his opinion, a certain mess at home.
He also told that his wife, apart from doing her main job, replaced a colleague who was hospitalized. So, they both were often at work from the early morning to the late evening and there was simply no time to clean up after four children.
“Sometimes, we did not have time to wash the dishes. They [inspectors] come and see: the dishes are dirty or something else. And so they picked on us,” says Andrei.
“I won’t put up with it,” – says Andrei and begins to weep.
Cheslava, a neighbour, said the family of Tatiana and Andrei was a normal village family. According to her, Tatiana was a hard-working person. Whenever fellow villagers were in need, she was the first to help out.
“Maybe they drank. It’s hard to say if you don’t live together,” the woman comments.
Another neighbour, Irina, noted that the family kept a large farm: three cows, pigs, a garden. They would sell their potatoes, milk. To buy furniture for the new apartment, they sold a cow and a calf.
“I don’t think they were a lost cause. Maybe they sometimes drank a little bit, but I can’t say they were dead drunk. They never fought each other, never was the police called because of them,” says Irina.
She notices that Tatiana and Andrei were good-natured, ready to help out with husbandry. The children were mediocre at school, but polite, and always dressed and shod.
Irina agrees the house in which the family lived was old, with an outdoor toilet and water in the well. However, the couple corrected the shortcomings that inspectors pointed to: they put up wallpaper, painted the walls.
Tatyana was buried on February 9. Children were allowed to come to the funeral from the orphanage.
“Children, of course, cried. It’s impossible to put into words the state of the children,” says Irina.
Tatiana and Andrei were regular churchgoers. The priest, despite the suicide, allowed to bring the coffin in the church and he prayed for the deceased.
Now the children are in the Radun Social and Pedagogical Centre. The father is planning to move to the new apartment, find a job in Voronovo and take the children back as soon as possible.
Sergei Shershenevich, the official representative of the Investigation Department in the Grodno Region, told that an inquiry into the death of the resident of the Voronovsky District has been started.