To celebrate the release of Elena Nikitina's new book Girl, Taken, she tells us a little about herself.
I was abducted by a Chechen gang. Then I got trapped in a war.
The year was 1994, and I was 21 years old. I lived in Astrakhan, Russia, the city where I grew up. Every woman’s nightmare – I was simply stolen off the street, drugged and driven through the night to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
I was held captive in a tiny room.
The gang was trying to ransom me back to my mother. This was a common occurrence in Russia after the Soviet collapse. The room I was locked inside was small – perhaps 10 feet by 12 feet. There was a narrow bed, and a chair. The sole window was painted black – on the outside. Strangely, there was a tape cassette player in the room, with a cassette in it – The Gypsy Kings. That beautiful music was my only companion.
While I was being held, the First Russian-Chechen War broke out.
Kidnapped and held captive, I started to believe that my situation couldn’t get any worse. Naturally, it almost immediately did get worse. Much, much worse. In a case of very bad timing, war broke out between Chechnya and Russia. All communications collapsed. There could be no negotiations for my release.
I witnessed the horror of war.
The mighty Russian military invaded tiny Chechnya while I was there. More than 100,000 people were killed. I saw and experienced horrible things – wrecked war machines on the blood-stained streets of Grozny, the decapitated heads of young Russian soldiers decorating the trees like grotesque Christmas bulbs. I wish that was all of it.
I believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I am tougher because of what happened, and I thrive as a result. I am like the green plants that push through the concrete and grow in the middle of the sidewalk. You are not a victim unless you agree to be one. You can be a survivor instead.
I was an excellent student in school.
Russia had a very good educational system when I was young, and I was a good student. My favorite subject was a military class, but I wanted to become an actress one day. Instead I went to the teaching university after high school.
I love America.
I emigrated to the United States in 2000, where I raise my teenage daughter. It is a different world from the one in which I was raised. I wish with all my heart that the political situation between our countries will change for the better.
I love fitness and I love to dance.
I have been a Zumba teacher for 5 years. I often dance Salsa. You should join me sometime.
I love art of any kind.
As a teenager, I graduated from art school. I love fashion and my dream is to one day create a fashion clothing line.
I'm obsessed with taking pictures.
A photograph I took was chosen as a finalist for Best World Photography, 2012.
GIRL, TAKEN by Elena Nikitina is available now. Watch for it in paperback December, 2017.