Last Words

In his last words to the court on 8 July DMITRIEV explained his own background and how this influenced his work and his decision to adopt three-year-old Natasha. (Text first published by Meduza.)

This is already the second time I’ve made a closing statement in this endless trial. And I’d like to clarify my position, if it isn’t already clear to the court, as to why I am the man I am, why I act as I do, and why I ended up in this cage.

Your honor, I have made it plain that I am perhaps not an entirely ordinary person like most others. What I mean is, I was born a healthy, normal person, but I didn’t know my biological parents, where they were from and of what nationality, to what faith or culture they adhered. And this has fueled in me a great search for my own roots. I’ve been trying to find them for more than thirty years, so far without much success, but I think I’ll get to the truth of all this someday — I’ll find out what blood courses through my veins and what genes animate me. That is why, as a child adopted when he was one and a half, the subject of abandoned children is dear to me, something I feel as a personal experience.

Yury DMITRIEV at liberty in 2018
(photo by Vladimir Larionov, Reuters)

Yes, many crave to learn their own roots. Why? To find out which culture you belong to. Now, I’m not saying I’m a descendant of some princely line. What matters is to understand which people claim me as a son. What separates human beings from insects — from butterflies or beetles — is the fact that we have memory. And this memory of our ancestors, preferably going back seven generations or more, makes you more independent in your judgments, and it allows you to draw better conclusions because the memory of generations is concentrated in you. I lack such knowledge, unfortunately, which is why I strive for it.

Why am I saying all this? So that you can understand the motives that guided my actions, your honor, when I took in another child who had lost her parents and guardians. Whatever obstacles we faced (created out of thin air, at the request of one or two officials) they weren’t so insurmountable as to prevent my wife and I welcoming the child into our family. […]

During this trial, the prosecution said that we failed to keep an eye on [our daughter’s] health. That is the second clause in the agreement when you adopt, that I must monitor the child’s physical health. And that is why, as you have seen, your honor, everything is documented. Maybe I got ahead of myself, but I embraced the same recommendations made by government officials even before [Russia’s 2018] telemedicine law came into effect. […]

A woman came here and testified as an expert… I can’t say for certain what her position is because I don’t have the records of that hearing. But on the basis of a certain photo, she determined that the child was suffering from an illness. I can see when someone has broken bones or lacerations, and I can take certain actions, like bandages, splints, and ice. But what happens if I don’t understand what’s going on hidden inside the child?

Bringing up Natasha

That is why I repeatedly sounded the alarm about my daughter’s low weight. When we took in the child at three and a half years, she weighed 12 kilograms [26.5 pounds]. At 11, when she was taken from our family [in December 2016], she weighed 24 kilograms [53 pounds]: that’s what a first grader weighs, but she was already in the fifth grade. She was always 25-30% below average weight, and that really worried me.

When she was six and going to kindergarten, she was first referred to the endocrinologist. The specialists at the clinic spent a long time, carefully examining her neck area, her thyroid, and her lower abdomen (meaning, her pelvic organs). The other kids were examined for seven, eight or 10 minutes. We spent 30, maybe 40, minutes there. “It doesn’t seem there’s anything terrible, but there’s something there,” [they said.] “Let’s wait until next time and then maybe it will become clearer.”

The girl was pretty active in sports. She ate well. Forgive me for the details, but we ate meat seven days a week: beef, lamb, and chicken, plus good sausage and garnish at breakfast. We didn’t scrimp on food — there was enough money, thank God. And still the child was skin and bones. It really got me down.

Late in 2016, our doctors finally found something. First, they sent us to the children’s hospital in Petrozavodsk for further examination; then they proposed more tests at the children’s hospital for all Karelia. Sadly, I don’t know if she ever went for those tests because I was taken into custody on 13 December, literally a month before they were due to happen.

We met with all the other specialists. At the last medical examination, an eye doctor said her eyesight was getting worse because the child was playing a lot on her smartphone. I took a decision and gave her a phone without the games that would wreck her eyesight. “Hold on. Let’s see what happens before New Year.” I told her. “If your vision improves, I’ll give you back your phone.” I also promised, by the way, that I’d buy a new tablet for her at New Year if she finished the quarter without any low marks … She’d already broken two of my tablets.

Your honor, I want to say again that I have never commited any foul acts against my daughter. What they’re trying to pass off almost as “erotic touching” is just their interpretation of parental care. I didn’t fumble around, I didn’t look, I didn’t touch, I didn’t grope, and I didn’t caress or anything like that! Everything invented here by our friendly investigator, and zealously repeated by our beloved prosecutor, is false.

My own upbringing

Let’s talk about the reason I took in the child. I’ve explained why I did so, how we did it and the way I monitored her health. Now I’ll explain the reason I brought a child into my family.

I’m eternally grateful to my parents, to those who raised me. I mean Alexei Filippovich Dmitriev, a career officer who fought at the front [during World War II], and my mother, Nadezhda Dimina. They were both from simple peasant families. Dad was from the Tyumen Region in Siberia and mom was from Vologda, from some remote village. They met during the war and got married in 1946. Dad was wounded three times: once by a bullet, once by shrapnel, and once by a bayonet that left a scar just below his heart — the blade caught him too low and it was the German who died.

When they realized that the Lord would not give them their own children (due to the hardships and deprivations they suffered during the war, evidently), they performed what I regard as an act of civic valour by taking me from the children’s home. They nursed me back to health and raised me to be the man standing here now in this cage who could look them in the eyes without shame. [Dmitriev’s parents died in 2000 within five days of one another, Meduza note.]

Following their example, and remembering their gift of life to me, my wife and I decided to take in a child and raise her according to the same principles by which we were brought up. Everything we did, to bring the girl into our family and to ensure that she grew up healthy, active, and so on, is laid down in the laws of the Russian Federation, the Family Code and other statutes.

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