Interview with Chris and Olga Brine, Publishers of “My Whispers of Horror: Letters Telling Women’s True Tales from ex-USSR Nations”

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My Whisper of Horror Revised

Q: Thank you for this interview, Chris and Olga of Brine Books Publishing. Can you tell us what your latest book, My Whispers of Horror: Letters Telling Women’s True Tales from ex-USSR Nations, is all about?

A:  We had wished to help bring a real voice to the victims of human trafficking and domestic violence in Ukraine and Russia. It is not all that often that we hear what women that part of the world truly have to say, or get a first hand representation of why their lives are so difficult. What we had done is reached out to various women to tell their stories, and what we had received back was surprising, shocking, and devastating. So we had translated their stories to english from Russian and Ukrainian, and then published them into this book.

These women are telling their stories of mostly domestic violence from spousal abuse, economic oppression of the wife, or even child abuse. There was a even case where the father had tried to kill his own daughter for standing up for her mother. Then there are cases such as where police officers in Ukraine force a woman into prostitution.

And what happens to these men that treat these women in such inhumane ways? Often nothing, or at least very little. When women stand up for themselves often they are the ones punished for it there. This is exactly why their voices are so important to be heard.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?

A: Chris: I’ve often talked about going into publishing, although I wanted to come up with something different rather than just “publish anything and everything”. When my wife had told me about what she had experienced and seen while growing up in Ukraine, it had made me decide to use that goal to do some real good. So with our premiere book we had gathered many letters from women telling about their experiences, in which we had decided to use to raise awareness and funds for what is going on there for half of the population.

Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

A: Olga: I had grown up there. I’ve personally seen and experienced what this book explains about. So, for me, I can say with absolute certainty that this book is accurate. In fact, there is a common saying amongst both Russians and Ukrainians that states “If he hits me, then he loves me”. While I had never believed in such nonsense, this mentality is unfortunately the norm.

Chris: Also, we had both read a considerable amount of information on the history of women’s issues in both Russia and Ukraine. Did you know that there are only three shelters in all of Ukraine for abused women? There aren’t any that are actively taking in victims of human trafficking that we were able to find. Russia isn’t much better either. What makes things worse is that domestic violence is only a misdemeanor in Ukraine, whereas it is not a criminal offense in Russia, and human traffickers often don’t get much more than a slap on the wrist.

Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?

A: Chris: An understanding of what women experience in that part of the world, and to feel a need to help in bettering their livelihood. No woman should ever have to live in fear of being beaten, raped, or forced into prostitution.

Olga: I hope that after reading this book that people can realize the immense size of the problem, and then walk away with a wish to better the situation in the world.

Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?

A: I will provide an excerpt from Julianna of Ukraine. She tells the story of her childhood and what she had experienced from witnessing the abuse of her mother and being abused herself.

Here is a piece of her letter:

The majority of what I wish to tell you about is not of the multiple times that men tried to rape me. These attempted rapes occurred when I was eight and again at age of sixteen. Both were by people that could be pointed out, but nobody believed me when I actually spoke up. Except for my mother, but nobody else came to my defense.

No, it isn’t about those two situations. In fact this story is entirely about my own family. While many others in the world grow up in a family held together in security, and many can say that they had a happy upbringing, well, the norm where I grew up was often quite different.

I grew up in a middle class family in the ex-USSR. In the beginning my father was a military man, and my mother had achieved a highly respectable job. I shared my upbringing with my younger sister along with my older brother.

As far as I remember, there really weren’t many smiles that came to me during my childhood. Nor was there very much laughter. But considering how my father was with his family, there was a very good reason for this. What some readers may call domestic violence was a frequent everyday occurrence in a family like mine. It was like our own little family tradition.

There came a time while I was still a child when my father moved on from being in the military. He felt lost as a man at this point, and every job available he considered to be beneath his abilities. My father thought it better to drink a boatload of alcohol all day, all while structuring his own family as if it were his own private army. This would all be done to avoid taking orders from someone he had thought to be worth less than himself.

It wasn’t difficult to find something he would disagree with, as everyone soon discovered. Day to day, our traditional rows ensued whenever he felt the need to demonstrate his dominance over his family. The rules and orders must always be his. And most days, he chose to remind us how we should be happy and thankful to have a father like him.

My mother, though, was not a happy wife. But she couldn’t escape her husband due to a lack of support available to her. And having three children to raise made matters far more complicated. Looking back I honestly feel great sorrow for what my mother went through while trying to be a shield to us from our own father. But, at the same time, I am very thankful for how much she loved and cared for us.

Eventually, we were forced to move, which resulted in my mother losing her job. So in our new home, she attempted to find any kind of job to support the family as my father, her husband that should be there to stand up and provide for his family, had no wish to work. As I mentioned earlier, he felt any job was beneath him and all far too dirty work to even consider. That, and it would interfere with his drinking, along with his important ability to do whatever he wished.

For us, this awful tradition continued with all of the tyranny, the disrespect, the abuse, and constant alcoholism. I was convinced this was all a part of my past, my present, and probably the entirety of my future. This was how I viewed things back then due to the sickness of the whole situation. To those that believe staying with your abusive husband for the sake of your children is the right thing to do, you are wrong. I can say this from personal experience, with complete and total confidence. Children are not happy in this environment, feeling like silent prisoners doomed to live forever in the depressing culture they see before their eyes. So, I will say this again: children are not happy in these families! It is sad, but true. I really was not happy that my parents were still together.

My dreams at that time were that I would eventually grow up and finally escape the tyranny. Or else, if I were to catch my father again kick or beat my mother, that I would end up killing him myself. Even as a child, my imagination lent itself to killing my own father in defense of my family. Of course, that would have landed me in jail, even if it was defending our family from his brutal behavior. Where is the justice in that?

That dictator had total control over every single step my mother took. He cut her beautiful hair, dressed her in the ugliest clothes. If she went outside for anything, even if it was for grocery shopping, work, or just for a walk, he would call every ten minutes to check on what she was doing. My father practically cut her off completely from her own family. Perhaps there was a certain amount of fear that she would leave him for another man, so he did what he could to keep her from appearing attractive for anyone else. Either way, she was removed from everyone in her life, so as to make it nearly impossible for her to escape from his dictatorship.

By the way, even while I was growing up in this family, I knew this was not right. Just because it was the normal thing to do, it didn’t mean this was how it should be. Perhaps I was strange, but it disgusted me how there was such a complacent attitude toward domestic abuse.

So, at the risk of becoming the black sheep, it was my own decision to stand up for my mother. But, as a result, I was also beaten by the brute. Even so, I continued to stand up for her whenever possible. The beatings I received from my father would not deter me from doing what, in my heart, I believed was right.

But I was alone in this. Whether they were neighbors, relatives, friends… none of them saw anything wrong with our family situation; to them it was all normal. So I was alone as a black sheep in a country of simple-minded sheep, all complacent to the family dictatorships as they all grew up in them themselves.

There was not enough money in my family, since, as I will repeat once more, my father refused to work to feed and clothes his family. And my mom was consistently trying to find a more jobs, but even so there was still a lack of money. Because of this, my mother decided to work in a central European country, and our family’s dictator was surprisingly supportive of this idea. My mother hoped that this would provide a better environment. She hoped her husband would raise us right while she became a better provider for our family. But she was wrong.

To start off, my father never told us the sacrifices my mother made. He actually told us how she had run off to chase after men instead of raising her own children, that she had abandoned her own kids. There were even more disgusting statements he made, not appropriate to write about here. But I never believed him, despite how confusing this time was. She had to leave her own children to earn enough to provide for our needs. And yet, this bastard showed such disgusting disrespect for a woman that had sacrificed so much for her own family.

It doesn’t end there either. At the time, I didn’t actually notice any money coming in. But suddenly, my father had gotten ahold of expensive alcohol; he surrounded himself with young women, and was living the high life. All through this, his own children received nothing. I only had one pair of trousers to fit myself into over a few years, even though they were getting to be far too small for me to wear. And I never received even a single birthday gift during this time.

Despite all of this, my mother called home every single week. She would count the days to every vacation that she could take, which she would always spend by returning home to be with her family. I can only imagine the anguish she must have gone through being separated from her children, only to return to see myself and my siblings still having nothing to show for it.

It is not a rare thing to see women in ex-USSR countries working multiple jobs, raising the children, cooking, and cleaning. All of this is often done, the only repayment being their alcoholic husband knocking them down to the ground with a fist, foot, or chair. For me to see my mother plow through everything like a bull and then return home to be treated like shit by her own husband was heartbreaking.

One day my mother returned, having decided to no longer work abroad, a decision made as, no matter how much she worked, she noticed her children didn’t have any money. My father was not impressed with this decision.

My mother’s daily bruises to teach her appeared almost as soon she returned home from her work. In fact, I remember one day in particular when my father was incredibly drunk, so his decision was to instruct her in how to be a proper wife for her husband. After closing the door to their bedroom, he took off his belt, and, well, I don’t know all of the details of what happened behind the door, but what was heard were my mother’s loud screams and crying. The sounds penetrated through the walls, hammering painfully like nails into my ears.

So again I returned to my ways of the black sheep, and with knife in hand I managed to open the door, to see my mother crying and weeping on the floor, all while my father towered high above her with his fist shaking in the air like he was some kind of tyrannical monster.

My mom would never have pleaded for my help, as she would often prefer to be the shield than have me receive any kind of harm on account of her. I was thin in structure, and my height wasn’t tall for a girl of my age. My father, though, was a tall man who could easily knock down most opponents. So for anyone to stand up to this brute, it would take a tremendous amount of courage. But for my mother, this courage was an absolute necessity, so I gathered it within. Then I lunged.

I lunged toward him, all while screaming for him to let her go. I pleaded and jumped onto him in attempt to draw his attention away from her. But my efforts were not in vain. He was angry, frantic. To cut a long story short, I ended up finding myself on the sofa with my father shoving a pillow hard into my face. My breath could not escape my lips, as I found myself choking on the pillow pressed incredibly hard against me. My mother managed to persuade the crazed man to let me go though, thankfully before I had completely stopped breathing.

Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today?  How did you do it?

A: Chris: It isn’t that it is hard to public a nonfiction book. It is difficult to get it noticed. There are numerous issues already that people take interest in reading about, and we are trying to add yet another to the list for people to take notice in. But considering the size of the Ukrainian populations in the United States and Canada, I would think that it is doable.

Of course, mind you it does take work to publish of course. But the marketing aspect is that much harder. The publishing itself is easy with all of the ebook publishing services and printer on demand wholesalers available on the market today. But then you have your copy editing, content editing, proof reading, layout, website design, blogging, and so much more. If you want to do a professional job then you can’t be lazy with any of it.

For the marketing side, we are still working on this and we always will be fine tuning this aspect of our business. Right now our marketing utilizes sites such as twitter, Facebook, and other similar sites.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

A: Chris: Get up early. Usually around 4:30am or 5am. Work a bit on our marketing and advertising through social media, or make sure that our sales are going okay. Read up more on marketing, news, and more. Then eat breakfast with my wife, and go to work.

Yes, I have another job at the moment. But as soon as I’m home I get to work on the publishing business right away. In a typical day I do work on the publishing business around 5-7 hours a day. We also are on the hunt for submissions for our next publications, which takes up plenty of time.

Olga: Thankfully we have two people handling this business, and for me I work on it during the day while my husband is at work. Often much of the social media and blogging throughout the day is handled by yours truly, while I’m also investigating into causes in Ukraine. We would like to do more for the women and children there in the future, and would like to find something big.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: For our next publication it is in our wish to combine short stories and poetry from outside authors into an anthology. This is in our attempt to raise more funds for any organization we decide to assist with their human rights cause.

We do have more and bigger plans for our publishing house, although everything is preliminary at the moment. For now this book is to put us on the map to help us get moving on everything that we plan to do.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Chris and Olga.  We wish you much success!

A: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity.

ABOUT MY WHISPERS OF HORROR

Women search for happiness no matter where they live. They want to build a life, family, career in order to insure a wholesome future. But in much of the world the patriarchal cultures women are born into simply nip at a woman’s potential and brutally guards the slave-like position that women occupy.

Women struggle as they are bought and sold as property. Their inheritance of an unequal and corrupt system that works against them. All while being enforced by domestic violence which women must deal with alone.

These issues, and so much more, are addressed by the voices of real women in ex-USSR nations. We included anonymous letters that will touch and terrify you on a personal level, while learning what women still have to deal with today.

 

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Author Interviews

One response to “Interview with Chris and Olga Brine, Publishers of “My Whispers of Horror: Letters Telling Women’s True Tales from ex-USSR Nations”

  1. Laura Brine

    Great interview guys!

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