Olga Suvorova is a traditional Russian woman, wife and mother living with her family in Siberia.

But she is also an activist dedicated to ending a long-standing pattern of indifference facing families, especially women, plagued by domestic violence.

Through her work, Suvorova struggles to overcome the neglectful attitudes of local officials. When she interferes, to try and provoke action or change, she often faces threats and sometimes even violence.

Despite this she continues serving as a lone voice responding to the needs of her community.


FILMMAKER'S VIEW

By Richard Goodman and Evgenii Rudnyi

Olga Suvorova is a human rights campaigner in the city of Krasnoyarsk in the heart of Siberia.

Against all odds, she has made it her life's mission to defend the rights and interests of the inhabitants of her city. Like Robin Hood she runs around town responding to distress calls from local citizens - poor people living in public housing, victims of injustice and victims of domestic violence.

In Krasnoyarsk, as in many parts of Russia, indifference of public authorities and abuse of power are widespread and for many, Olga is their last hope.

One of her main tasks is to force authorities to respond to the problems of people living in public housing. In one instance, Olga intervenes to have an aggressive schizophrenic women who terrorises her neighbours taken away for care.

Olga is a strong, colourful and "pushy" personality regarded as a troublemaker by authorities in Krasnoyarsk. For her efforts, she has made many enemies and been beaten numerous times - by the husbands of the women she protects or those she gets in the way of when defending people’s rights.

Above all, Olga, having suffered from domestic violence in her own family, seeks to help women who are its victims.

Violence against women is epidemic in Russia today. An ancient Russian proverb says, "If a man beats you, this means he loves you".

Unfortunately this bit of "wisdom" still permeates modern day Russia, especially in small towns and cities like Krasnoyarsk. According to Amnesty International, one woman every hour is thought to be killed through domestic violence in Russia. As Olga explains, this is mainly the result of the lack of men in Russia due of its war torn history and because so many post-Soviet men turned to vodka and despair.

Determined to do something, Olga opened a crisis centre where women living in fear can seek refuge and help in dealing with their problems. Her crisis centre is staffed by volunteers and survives on donations.

Since the crisis in Ukraine began, independent Non-Governmental Organisations and activists like Olga have come under increasing pressure from the authorities. As a consequence, filming Olga was difficult at best, as she is constantly harassed, and dangerous at worse, as our team was the object of much suspicion.

When Olga was attacked by unknown assailants she had the presence of mind to call us in the middle of the night to come and document her ordeal. By the end of filming we came to admire her courage and desire to carry on alone in spite of all the obstacles placed in her path.

Since her beating, Olga has been recovering and fighting attempts to shut down her crisis centre by her enemies. She is constantly receiving visits from prosecutors and other officials trying to find something to use against her. But Olga will not give up and is ready to fight.

 

Source: Al Jazeera