Saint Petersburg


The prison has intruded into Nina's life when she was only 26 years old. And it just won't let her go. Nina was in jails several times. Now, being already out, she is waiting for her daughter's release, who was sentenced to 8 and a half years.
The prison has intruded into Nina's life when she was only 26 years old. And it just won't let her go. Nina was in jail several times. Now, being already out, she is waiting for her daughter's release, who was sentenced to 8 and a half years. By the way, the girl was born in detention. Nina's son was in prison too, he is not alive now. Nina tells about herself: «I have my own established morality». Ex-cons respect Nina for commitment to old thieves concepts. For the first time Nina was incarcerated in 1987 under the 88th article of the Soviet Criminal Code – «violation of the rules of currency transactions» — because of 1500 Deutsche Marks.

During Soviet times black marketeers lived very well. They were able to afford themselves long trips, imported clothes and other attributes of «luxurious life». But for that independence from circumstances they sometimes had to pay very expensive: the Criminal Code provided for severe punishment for currency transactions — from three up to fifteen years incarceration with confiscation of property or the death penalty.

«Once we wanted to go to Jurmala. We bought tickets and drove to a variety show. There I was caught and put away. I was pregnant. The time of delivery I served my sentence in a «model» Riga area (Leningrad was assigned to it). But conditions there (in a colony for women with children) were worse than in an ordinary prison. After serving sentence they conned me with housing. I had gone to steal. Then I disliked pickpocketing, I began doing swindling. I was condemned to 3 years on the 147th article.

The periods at large began to decline. The last time I was in the colony in Ivanovo».

«Dastardly» and «halves»
«All of them are dastardly. You see, people have no value there, they are estimated. They are estimated highly if they have a big «trunk» and they are «heated» (get consignments from the family — ed.), or inmates are afraid of them.

Generally they live together with someone. A woman (there it is called a «half») lives with a woman (the other «half»). It is like at large: a person lives with a woman or a man — they are a couple, they are two halves of the whole.

Are there a lot of such couples there? Yeah... ALL. Because no one wants to be betrayed. It's important to understand, that there is the only person, the woman, who you can trust. And so couples are created.

Someone starts same-sex relations by inclination, the others change in a colony, but as soon as they leave the colony — long hair, high heels... There are a lot of courageous women there and they enjoy popularity.

During the years in prison orientation changes anyway. After all, everyone wants warmth, wants to talk to. First relationships start with friendship and communication, then you look in a different way at the woman — you see that she is appealing.

A new generation of inmates is weak
Yosia and I are from the other generation. My acquaintances have been living together for 20 years. One of them is 68, another — 61, both are ex-pickpockets. The first goes to a prison — the second goes to appointments to see her and vice versa. The other example is about my inmate, who had relationship with a woman controller. They made friends and began their relations. It was pleasant for the woman-controller and it was convenient to her friend-prisoner, who needed «legs» (ed.: for bringing prohibited things into the zone). They were betrayed (ed.: the administration was reported about violations), the controller was dismissed, but she came to the prison, brought the parcels. After the woman's release they have been living together.

Yeah, everywhere is the same. In my opinion, in Sablino (ed.: colony in Leningrad region) is more comfortable. Many people know about same-sex relations between women, but administration has a blind eye to a certain point, especially if a prisoner works for authorities — let them live. Even in 81: there one «half» was put in a pretrial detention center. Then she was taken out to a «krytka» (ed.: the regime of detention in a camera, more severe sentence). Her second «half» was running after the bus and did everything to be taken to the same «krytka», can refuse to work (ed.: administrative violation for which a punishment is imposed). This generation is weak: someone founds for blessings, the other deals with «musora» (employees). Purchasable relations.

Really, in three years I wanted the intimacy

My first experience happened when I was sitting in Sablino. I was 28 years old. Firstly I said: «Oh, no! It won't be possible! Couples?! Not this! I have the other policy!». But I was told: «You'll change your orientation». Really, in three years I wanted fellowship, I realized that the woman was actually beautiful. I just liked her at first. I didn't know what to do, so I told it to my friend. She answered: «I'll teach you». After that I went for my first date at night. It took place in the other building. I had to wait for a while because of overseers, then come into the other part of building. That was a violation which was punished by imprisonment into the punishment cell. Thus my first relationship began. It had lasted for almost three years. Being free, we had lived for a year, after that we remained friends. She got married later, but we were still like sisters. We saved kind, warm relations and very warm memories. She died 10 years ago. And now, thinking about her, I imagine that such a fragile little woman used to bring parcels for me. Whether a blizzard or a frost, I knew she would appear on the road at 6 o'clock and throw prohibited parcel over the fence of a colony (it was strictly forbidden). You could set your clock by her.

Later I had another relationship, but not like this. She was younger than me, but it seemed as love. She was jealous, we fought. Silence, they sleep all, and we fight. Nothing but muffled sounds are heard: bang, bang…

One time each three months a convicted prisoner is entitled to extended several days visit. By the law, the Correctional System allows to visit them only by close relatives, family members (children, parents, spouse). If we expanded the list, I think it would make it easier for friends or girlfriends to come to those who don't have close relatives. Including partners. This stimulates a person to social connections, it would be easier to adapt for him, he wouldn't lose contacts.

We must clearly understand that marriage we are talking about is not made in heaven. And it is not a religious ceremony, like we are always explained. Marriage is a civil condition. It solves purely legal issues of relations: to inherit, to donate, to divide common property, to adopt children, etc. Including the allowance to visit close people in prison. During the first year of imprisonment, the majority of convicted women lose contacts with their common-low husbands, because they don't have the right for an appointment without the assistance of the administration. Although under the same conditions a common-law wife can get on an appointment with her husband. It's a women rights violation.

An egregious situation. The imprisoned women are seldom visited, they are often abandoned by their husbands. And still say – wait until we register your marriage. Common-low wives are allowed to visit male prisoners, and common-low husbands are not. It's widespread. In that sense women are much more difficult. What if she hasn't got a man? The situation is normal if someone is ready to wait, to support, and there is a place where you can come back. Being in a contact with someone close is a kind of socialization. It reduces the risk of recurrence after all. But if no one comes to see her, or if it isn't allowed – the problem is getting worse for everyone.

Леонид Агафонов

Allow extended visits

Nina: A woman will give much more than a man. I'm a woman and I know how to please a woman, how to congratulate, how to say, and I do everything to her, she does it to me, and I want to do much more for her. Women's relationships are stronger. If they are normal, not purchased, they are more reliable, more honest, more orderly. Women do not betray like men. You see, if a woman goes to a jail, no one needs her anymore. The gypsy women are sitting in jails, and their gypsies are all in white socks walking at large. To gypsy women this (ed.: homosexual ties) is forbidden, but they do it, they have fights and emotions. I call them «Italian women»».
«Women are turning into men: they cut their hair, walk like men, dress like men… When a girl comes, she sees a natural guy. When I arrived, there was a brigadier. I was even embarrassed to go to the shower room with her – so much she looked like a man: and a voice, and a gait...»
Vika, an ex-prisoner
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