Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Grishina's story

So, in this post I'll talk about Grishina and post a translation of her interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda. That was the first and the longest interview that all the other sources picked up. She later gave a few additional interviews/comments. I In some articles Grishina contradicts things that she said in the first interview. However, it might be that she had little control over the first interview and Komsomolskaya Pravda is known to be sensationalist and to twist stories somewhat.
First, some background on the story and explanation of some Russian cultural realities that I feel are necessary to understand the story better.

Russian gymnasts, unlike Americans, are normally paid a salary when they're on the national team - even as minors. The salary depends on whether they're on the regular team or reserves and whether they won any medals the previous season. In addition, they are allowed to take prize money from competitions (such as American Cup), since Russia has no NCAA and athletes are expected to go pro. Athletes in Russia often come from disadvantaged backgrounds, since many sports clubs and schools are still either free or have low fees, especially when kids are show promise. For many of them, the money go towards feeding the whole family, so Grishina's story of how her whole family lived on her money is not unusual. It's just that normally kids have better relationships with their families and consciously want to help them out.

While Russian athletes rarely get big advertisement contracts, they can receive good money if they win medals at the Olympics - the federal government pays a handsome sum for every medal, then the regional government adds some, and there are normally some other material prizes such as cars.
Russians are pretty obsessed with owning property, even though the mortgage rates are crazy in the country. It might be because before USSR fell apart renting wasn't really that common (it was technically prohibited), so people are used to live in their own apartments (even though the government was technically the owner during USSR). People often live with their parents, several generation can live in one small apartment (so, here, too,  there's nothing uncommon in the fact that Grishina's mom lived with the couple). Grishina's from Moscow which is the most expensive Russian city to rent in or to buy an apartment. Many of my Moscow friends live with their parents well into their 30s trying to save on rent in order to buy property.
While it seems crazy to many Western people that Grishina at 21 is married and has a 8-month baby, it's actually also a pretty normal age  in Russia to get married and have kids.
Another comment: when the article talks about Grishina being "on the streets" or "thrown off to the street" it doesn't mean she's literally homeless. It's an expression in Russian that means someone lost the place they used to live in or they were thrown away from home, but it doesn't mean that they now don't have any place to live. It's sort of a poetic exaggeration. She actually rents an apartment. It's not an ideal situation and rents are sky high in Moscow, but she's not living on the streets, so don't worry about that.

Ok, so now to the interview.

The offices of Komsomolskaya Pravda received a letter from a famous athlete, silver Olympic medalist in London, a gymnast, Anastasiya Grishina. The young woman is asking for help and protection – and not from some stranger, but from her own family: father, mother and older brothers. “I am very ashamed, hurt and offended. I can’t believe someone close to me did this to me, that it was my own mother! She took all my money and property. Everything I earned during my gymnastics career. Even the car that I received as an Olympic champion from the Moscow mayor, Sobyanin. I don’t have anything left. So, now I’m left with a baby practically on the streets.”

A childhood earner
Silver medal. Heavy and respected. When you lift it, you can immediately feel how much work it took to earn such an honor. This medal is literally all that’s Nastia has left. She brought the medal to our office.
“Please, help me, I don’t know what to do!” – the young woman is crying.
Nastia is 21 years old. All she ever saw in her life – gym, training camps and competitions.
“I started gymnastics late by the sports standard – when I was 7. At first, I trained just for fun. Then the coaches noticed me, I started winning competitions, made the national team. I’ve been an elite athlete since 13 years old.”
In our country athletes receive a salary, even as young as she was. So, Nastia was earning money since her childhood.
“I never cared how much I earn. I knew that I had a salary from CSKA* and from the national team. After the Olympics I even received a car – Audi A7, and Sobyanin personally gave me a certificate for 2.5 million rubles. But I was a minor and my mom took care of all my bank accounts, and debit cards, and the cars, I trusted her completely. And what did I need money for? I was at camps all year round, they fed me, clothed me, and paid all the travel expenses. I didn’t go out. All I ever wanted was to own a place to live. Our family has four kids, I have three older brothers. We all lived in our two-bedroom apartment at Polezhaevskaya neighborhood. Several times I started talking to my mom about buying an apartment for me. But she didn’t hurry to buy it, she said: “you don’t need your own apartment, it would be better if you were registered in a communal apartment**, then the state would give you an apartment for your achievements”

*her club
**communal apartments – a legacy of the Soviet times. Several people, who are not related to each other, live in the same apartment and own rooms in it. You can read more at

And her mom made sure of it. As the girl was registered in a communal apartment since birth, she stayed registered there.
“Then mom bought another room at a communal apartment using my money – I don’t know why. She bought the room in her own name, not mine. She said this is a better way and that she would later give the room to me. She said the same when she and dad bought dacha* in Dmitrovskiy region. No one ever asked for my opinion and I was not present during signing any contracts. Everything was bought in my mother’s name. But I wasn’t worried, I never cared about all this stuff. My always told me: “don’t worry, we will buy everything you need when the time comes, I’m not spending your money, I’m saving everything”.

*dacha is a country house mainly for living in the summer, but some are re-made to live all year round. Don’t imagine grand country houses that rich people summer in – it’s often a one or two-room tiny building with no insulation and an outhouse for toilet. Many Russians have dachas. Although, from the article it seems Grishina’s parents bought a dacha that is suitable for living in winter as well.

Love and other circumstances
Elite athletes retire early. At 21 Nastia achieved all she could in the sport. Besides the Olympic silver she has multiple European medals. In addition, she has has an Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” and honored master of sports title. Unfortunately, she also has injuries which prevented her from continuing the sports career.
“I had several surgeries already, but nothing is helping. After London I was competing for a couple of years, however, the results weren’t as high as before, unfortunately. I had strong pain in my knee.”
Last time Nastia competed was in 2015, she was only 19 then. After leaving the sport, Grishina had to embrace reality. The reality wasn’t so great – only one of her three brothers works, two others are unemployed and alcoholics. They live in the room in a communal apartment that was bought with Nastia’s money. She didn’t have money for her own apartment, so she stayed in her childhood room in her parents’ apartment. She didn’t have time to be sad, her adult life has started – the athlete started studying journalism at the Moscow State University.
“And then I fell in love” – the young woman is smiling – “You wouldn’t believe it, but I met my future husband, Victor, in a traffic jam.”
Vitya is a regular guy, he moved from another city to conquer Moscow. In the first months after they met he had no idea that his girlfriend is a famous athlete, she was just a regular girl to him. He only learned about her career after he came to visit her at home and saw all the cups and medals.
“My parents have always wanted me to marry a famous football player. But they liked Vitya at first and weren’t against the marriage when he asked for my hand half a year after we met.”
The young couple started wedding preparations. They wanted a big wedding, with a lot of guests, a dress, a photographer. They needed money.
“I asked mom to return my debit cards. She made a scene. At the end, she gave me the cards, but turned out there was only about 100,000 rubles in my accounts. Well, ok, nothing to do, Vitya paid most of the wedding bills. We got married. And almost immediately I realized I’m pregnant.”
The question was where the couple would live. And so Nastia started talking about buying an apartment again.
“My husband doesn’t own any property, so he moved in with me at my parents’. My brothers and parents were always scolding him about the fact that he has no apartment to bring his wife to. I had no idea how much money my mom was supposed to have saved for me. I only knew for sure about the 5 million I got from Putin and Sobyanin. I also had a car that I could sell. We listed it and it was immediately sold for 2 million. That was the only money I ever held in my hands and not for long. My mom took it almost right away, simply took from the drawer when we were at work, she explained: “I’ll keep the money so you wouldn’t waste it”. Ok, she can keep it for now, we thought. We finally found a studio apartment in Podrezkovo, it cost 3,7 million. But mom also insisted on buying it in her name, otherwise she wouldn’t give us money. She said it’s for my protection, so that my husband would have no rights to this apartment in case of divorce”.
But the couple never moved into this apartment in Moscow suburbs. Her mom interfered again and persuaded the daughter to put the apartment in her brother’s name, put two rooms in communal apartments in her other brothes’ names and give the dacha to her parents, especially since her dad was already living there. In turn, her parents promised to give her their own apartment in which she already lived.
“I was ok with this plan and Vitya and I started renovating the apartment before any legal changes took place. Our baby was due and the apartment was in bad shape with rotting window frames, old wallpaper, bad electrical wiring…”

All the masks were taken off after a trip to the bank

The apartment was still not in Nastia’s name. The renovations were moving quickly, though. Victor was in charge of all the works and he also paid for it.
“We didn’t have any savings, we were spending what we were earning. We found cheap workers, bought materials on sales, we took loans from banks and from our friends. Neither my parents nor brothers helped us to pay for the renovations. We didn’t care, we just wanted to have a nice apartment. It turned out really pretty. Although, my mom didn’t like it, she was always talking about her old furniture that we dismantled.”
Their son, Dima, was born in July 2016. Nasita’s mom wasn’t in a hurry to move to the dacha, she stayed to help with the baby. Nastia had to go back to work right away because they needed to pay back the loans and she appreciated her mom’s offer to help.
“But our relationship with mom wasn’t going so well. Mom was always fighting with me and Vitya, she was scolding him saying he lives in her apartment, she was always trying to control how much we spent and was complaining about babysitting our son. My brother almost killed me once when he came to the apartment drunk at night, carrying a knife. He banged on the door of my room, trying to open it. I was very scared, since Vitya wasn’t home. It was a complete nightmare.”
Nastia couldn’t take it anymore, so after another fight in January 2017 she packed her bags and left.
“I was at work when my wife called and asked me to come home right away” – Vitya remembers – “I came home and there was a fight there, the baby was crying, Nastia and her mom were arguing. At the end, we packed our bags and went to spend a night at our friends’. We weren’t able to return to our newly renovated apartment, because my mother-in-law changed all the locks.”
Then Nastia went to her bank.
“I got my accounts’ history from all the years and I was horrified” – she is crying – “Turns out all this time I had a very decent salary – around 100,000 per month. I was also getting monetary awards for winning medals and only in 2012 after the Olympics I received about 5 million rubles to my accounts. During all these years I earned around 20 million plus the car. However, my mom withdrew all this money right away. The last big sum of 2 million was withdrawn right before the wedding, a day before she gave me the cards and said we don’t have any money left. This is literally fraud. I got almost nothing from all this money. I don’t even have any rights to the room at the communal apartment where I’m registered. All the property that was bought is not in my name. My mom could make my son homeless. I was training for so many years, I wasted my health, and I can’t even have a maternity leave with my hard-earned money. My husband is working, but most of his income goes towards the apartment rent. We still haven’t paid all the loans we took for the renovations. I’m looking for a job even though I have a 8-month baby*.

*Russia has a 1,5 paid maternity leave, so mothers of babies that age are generally not expected to work. Although, I’m really not sure why is she not getting paid by her previous employer. I think she was officially employed by the gymnastics federation and should be still getting paid.

“Nastia is showing us the bank statements as a proof. We can see that cash withdrawals were done in ATMs, usually 50,000 or 100,000 rubles, right after the money arrived in the account. Nastia knows only about 3 big purchases – dacha (2,1 million), a room in a communal apartment (2,5 million), a studio in Podrezkovo (3,7 million). But that doesnt make up 20 million.
“I guess, they all lived on my money. And when I had no more money, when I was on a maternity leave and needed their help – they just threw me away. Even more, my brothers and father are calling me now saying that they will make things worse if I won’t stop talking publicly about this issue. Mom writes that she will take my money to her grave. But what am I supposed to do? I’m asking you, give me just one of the properties you bought with my money, I don’t need anything else. I don’t care about the rest of the money, even though I don’t understand where it all went. We’ve always lived quite frugally.”
Grishina is suing her family and filed a police report about the threats. She also asked Putin and Sobyanin for help.
“I had to do it, because my parents won’t even talk. We’re in a lot of debt, we had to take another loan to pay our lawyer 160,000 rubles. My family never loved me and now I’m going to be an outcast for the,. But I have to do it for my son. I need a place to live”.
So, that’s how Grishina went from a whirlwind of sport events to grim reality where family members are at each other’s throats because of square meters. There are no rules in these new games and no fair fight. How can a small and fragile 21 year old girl deal with it even if she’s an Olympic champion?
I called Nastia’s parents but they both refused to comment. Maybe they don’t have anything to add, maybe they’re ashamed. We are going to follow this story and give our support to Nastia.

A lawyer’s commentary:
“The athlete got into a very difficult situation” – says Andrey Akulov, lawyer – “She actually had a right to be in charge of her own money according to the law. First, she has to cancel her mom’s power of attorney. There are indications of embezzlement in this situation, so she has a case. All the property that was bought with Anastasiya’s money should be arrested by court and then returned to her.”


  1. Didn't her mom live with her at the gymnastics training center too?
    Anyway poor kid... her mom's a scumbag

  2. It´s sad to see how her story is turning out, I just hope everything gets better and she gets what belongs to her, or whats left of it.

  3. She was really wasted by her mother!!