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Safe at Last. Meet Sofia.

Meet Sofia, she is 42 and lives at the women's crisis centre with her two boys. When we first met her, she was guarded and quiet....her harrowing story is filled with pain and violence from the start. It was hard for her to speak about it as her memories are extremely painful...

"When I was five my parents divorced. The courts decided I should live with my father as he had a job and was a hard worker, but, he was rarely at home to care for me and I had no female role models or grandparents. Soon after, he used physical punishment and regularly kicked and used his fists on me. I ran away many times but with nowhere else to go I always returned. Age 15, I ran away for the last time. I was terrified that his next punishment would be so harsh I would not survive. Aged 16, I had a baby boy.. At 18, I had a second. I was homeless and I had no money or means of providing for them so I had no choice but to leave my new baby at the hospital. Soon after my other child was taken to an orphanage too. I was broken, but resolved to work hard and stop being homeless. I did several jobs at once and rented a flat and started living what I believed to be a normal life. I told myself I didn't want children because the pain of losing them had been too much and I was so fearful of being homeless again and going through all the terrible things I'd experienced in my teenage years. Many years passed and the desire to be loved and have family returned. I still felt damaged by my past and didn't believe anyone 'normal' would want to be with me.

I began dating an ex drug addict who'd been in prison. He'd been in an orthodox rehabilitation programme and had plans like me to start again. I'd never done drugs and didn't realise he had much deeper problems.

When I was expecting our child Timofey, I discovered my partner had started using drugs again, I was devastated. When I was just two weeks away from giving birth he violently assaulted me. I had nowhere to go, I could not support myself and I was terrified of losing my child like before... so, I had no choice but to stay and hope he would change.

He didn't, I just got used to it. Because he was controlling, he made me feel sorry for him saying he had no family or friends who cared about him. I didn't want him to be alone. He was crazy and would stay awake all night on drugs. The violence only worsened when I pleaded with him to stop. Eventually he told me he would on the condition that I had another baby. Foolishly I believed this and became pregnant again. He did stop doing drugs... but instead he turned to drink and the violence continued. I was scared he would kill me. One night, while he was beating me so hard, I prayed to God to save me from being killed, and that this time, if I didn't die, I promised to leave. Although I survived I didn't know how to escape. I spent a year searching the internet and watching documentaries on domestic violence to see whether I could find a way. I'd heard of centres where I could get help but I was very suspicious and scared they could be guises for human trafficking networks.

Then I found Alina and her women's crisis centre. Scared of everything, it took me a while to believe this was real. I researched their social media over and over before I could make the call. I did, and the same day I arrived here. Soon after, my partner found us and tried to convince Roman (Alina's husband), that he'd changed and he wanted us home. When Roman said that would take time and he needed to prove himself, my partner returned and tried to attack him. The police were called, but thankfully my children and I were safe at last behind the locked gates at the centre."

Sofia is traumatised from a lifetime of abuse. However, after one year at the centre, her son Timofey is happy at school, everyone loves little Nikolai and she is becoming more relaxed. Her faith is growing too and she has asked to be baptised in the next few months!

The crisis centre relies on Love Russia's support to keep doing their work. It costs over £1000 to support the 50+ women and children every month. Would you consider sponsoring a family like Sofia's so the crisis centre can keep doing this valuable work restoring families?

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