When I Escaped

Vika is from a small village in Dagestan, one of Russia's predominantly muslim republics in North Caucasus. She was forcefully married at 17 years old to a man who was never interested either in her or a family life. After the first escape from the authoritarian family, Vika was kidnapped by her father and brought back home where she was subjected to punitive psychiatry, exorcism and physical abuse. Despite the threats of honour killing, she makes a choice to escape again.

  • Zlata Onufrieva
    My Friend from a Care Home
  • Zlata Onufrieva
    My Friend from a Care Home
  • Yulia Umnyakova
    My Friend from a Care Home
  • Zlata Onufrieva
    My Friend from a Care Home
  • Maxim Lomakin
  • Prokhor Kuznetsov
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Когда я сбежала
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 4 minutes 27 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 17, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    Georgia, Germany
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Zlata Onufrieva

Zlata Onufrieva is a London-based documentary filmmaker with a particular interest in socially conscious stories. Originally from a small city in Siberia, Zlata worked as a journalist in Moscow till 2016 when she moved to Prague to study filmmaking at FAMU. Her previous film “My friend from a care home”, the story of two young women confronting the cruel institutional care system in Russia, was broadcasted on BBC News and BBC World TV, was released on the BBC iPlayer, and was seen 500k times on YouTube.

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Director Statement

While the plight of LGBTQ+ community in Russia’s North Caucasus is well-documented, there is little awareness of the fate of many young women who are trapped in the religiously conservative communities and authoritarian families.

Some of them had been subjected to FGM, aged as young as six, and are later forced into early marriages, having to leave school. Refusal to be coerced into a lifestyle they didn’t choose, is punished - by physical or psychological violence, restriction of freedom of movement (some are falsely diagnosed with mental health disorders and put away) or worse.

These women have no-one to turn to – the local community and local authorities would always side with their families. Decades of conflict in the northern Caucasus, resulted in the isolation of the region and the neglect of the supremacy of law. Sometimes the only way out for women is an escape from their own families which not only means cutting ties with everything they know, but also poses life threats.

At the time when Russia has started the bloody war in Ukraine and is trying to invade its territories, the dialogue on human rights inside the aggressor-country may seem off the table. However, I strongly believe that neglect of the law and human rights in Russia's northern Caucasus has made it possible to let the violence from one region spread all over the country and let authorities to believe that who is stronger is right.