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Story by Meduza. Translation by Emily ShawRuss.
On September 29, 2022, former RBC and Vedomosti journalist Oksana Goncharova struck her ex-common-law husband and father of her two youngest sons, Alexey Samusev, with scissors while defending herself. Several hours later, he died in intensive care. Goncharova has admitted to wounding Samusev, but maintains that it was a necessary act of self-defense. Since September 30, she’s been in a detention center in the Moscow region, awaiting a trial that could put her in prison for 15 years on charges of premeditated murder. Meanwhile, Alexey Samusev’s brother has filed a case to deprive Goncharova of her parental rights. Meduza spoke to the journalist’s oldest son, 23-year-old Pyotr Goncharov, about the family’s life before Alexey Samusev’s death and about how he’s trying to help his mother while simultaneously seeking custody of his younger brothers.
‘We had a wonderful home environment until Samusev came along’
My mother, my two younger brothers — Matvey and Arseniy — and I all lived together. Their father, the late Alexey Samusev, didn’t participate in family life at all. At first, he lived next door with his mother, Lyubov Samuseva — we were in apartment 41 and they were in apartment 40. Then they got an apartment in another district of Electrostal, and they moved there. But that didn’t stop him. Samusev constantly stalked and terrorized my mother. He was manic — it wasn’t love. He’d cut the wires for our lights and Internet service. Mom couldn’t work without the Internet, and Alexey knew that.
We couldn’t move, because mom was still paying off the mortgage at the time. It was only later that she received maternity capital benefits and paid it off. Before that, it wasn’t even possible for her to save money. And, by the way, Alexey Samusev owed her around 1,000,000 rubles ($12,939.96) in child support.
My mother worked all the time, sometimes even at night. You could say she almost never had a day off — there were constant articles, comments, and phone calls. She’d sleep for two or three hours, run errands and do chores, and take care of us. When mom didn’t have time, I helped her with the kids — picked them up from day care, took them out places. Mom loved her family, did everything for us. We did extracurricular activities and were in clubs, visited our hometown — both my mother and I were born in Mikhailovka, Volgograd region, and I lived there with my grandmother until I was 10 [before moving to live with my mother in Electrostal]. In Mikhailovka, in the countryside, the kids could relax, unwind — and so could my mother.
And the Samusevs… At first I socialized with Alexey’s mother. Not closely, but I went to their house. While things were still normal [between Goncharova and Samusev], my mother sometimes asked Mrs. Samuseva to watch me. I was 11 at the time, and my mother worked at Vedomosti. In 2019, when Arseniy came along, she switched to freelancing.
The Samusevs didn’t acknowledge Arseniy. His grandmother [Lyubov Samuseva] said that mom cheated on Alexey and he wasn’t the father. But Arseniy looked just like [Alexey] Samusev! Grandma only talked to Matvey (Editor’s note: Matvey is six years older than Arseniy). Whenever he’d been with her, he came back all worked up. She’d tell him: “Your mom is so bad, so terrible, she doesn’t take care of you” — when mom was both working and taking care of the kids as much as was humanly possible. She didn’t just halfway help Matvey with his homework — she gave him extra assignments so that he’d be ahead of the curriculum. She drew with him, helped him fill out his cursive workbook, and corrected his handwriting.
We had a quiet, wonderful home environment until Samusev came along and started terrorizing us all. Mom put up with it for a long time, and then tragedy struck.
‘They’re not allowed to talk about mom’
I don’t judge my mom, and I don’t think she’s to blame. [Before Alexey Samusev’s death], she wrote statements all the time, but the police refused to open a criminal case because “there was no crime.” “He didn’t kill you, did he?” they’d say. Of course, they could’ve put him in jail for 15 days — sometimes they even put him in jail for a day or two — but then what? He’d come back angry and start beating her again because mom “snitched.” He even used to beat his own mother when he was drunk and would trash their apartment. I’m not making this up — that’s just life. And that’s what it was like. Unfortunately, it all led to this.
When my mother was arrested, my brothers immediately moved in with their grandmother in the next apartment, and I started looking for a lawyer. At the time, I had no idea what to do, how to do it, or where to turn. I decided to write to my mother’s close friends and fellow journalists, who’d surely support her — and they did.
Everyday tasks weren’t so hard. I realized: if not mom, then who [would be responsible for everything]? Me. It was more that it knocked me out mentally. In those first weeks, I was exhausted, as if all my energy was expended on thinking. I was working, talking to the kids, trying to make sense of everything in my head.
And then Pyotr — Alexey Samusev’s brother —showed up on our doorstep. He lived with his mother and brother for a bit in that other apartment, working as a sales assistant at M.Video, I think. Then he got married. Mrs. Samuseva also pestered him and his wife, saying that she wasn’t a good match for him. He lost his patience with her and told her off, and he and his wife left for Anapa — this was in 2015 or 2016. Even though Pyotr is Arseniy and Matvey’s uncle, he wasn’t a part of their lives. He didn’t have any contact with them or even wish them happy birthday. And then the man suddenly shows up when we have a situation like this.
I wouldn’t have been given custody [because of my financial situation], and sending the kids to an orphanage wasn’t a great option. Pyotr taking them was the lesser of two evils. We agreed that everything would be fine, that he would take the kids for a while, and that I could talk with them, as Pyotr said, “so they wouldn’t forget that you’re their brother.”
Then this man sued to terminate mom’s parental rights — even before a verdict. Before that, in late 2022, he obtained [temporary] custody of Matvey and Arseniy very quickly — literally in two or three weeks [and took them to Anapa]. Yunis Digmar, [Goncharova’s lawyer in the parental-rights deprivation case], says this was completely unjustified. We filed a guardianship application and a lawsuit with the prosecutor’s office on February 27 to have them check whether the children’s transfer was legal, whether Pyotr went through guardianship training (which is required).
Before filing for termination of parental rights, Pyotr Samusev told me that I could no longer communicate with my brothers because Matvey’s a witness in the murder trial — he saw what happened and testified. Everything’s in the case file. Pyotr Samusev felt that I might “influence” Matvey. I immediately called Alexander Garanin [Goncharova’s lawyer in the murder case]. He said that it was all nonsense and that this man was just trying to cut me off from the kids.
I was in touch with my brothers all the time — they showed me their toys and their room. But when I asked Matvey if they remembered mom, he’d give me a “shh” sign, holding his finger to his lips. They’re not allowed to talk about mom in that family. Of course, they love her and remember her, especially Arseniy — he can’t live without her at all. You could say he was very clingy, always cuddling up to her. But it’s possible that something is changing in their heads, which is very frightening. I don’t know what they talk about in private [with Pyotr Samusev and his wife], but the main thing for me now is that they are fine, fed, going to school and kindergarten — like normal children. What’s more, this is Anapa — the sea’s nearby. The kids don’t realize yet [that Goncharova may have her parental rights terminated]. Arseniy just turned four on February 2.
‘No one cares about the circumstances’
My goal isn’t to take the kids away from their guardian and fight with him — I'm doing everything legally. In any case, I’ll stay in contact and visit them. I haven't talked to Arseniy and Matvey for probably more than a month [after Pyotr Samusev forbade them to talk to me]. I’m waiting for March 6 — there’ll be a trial in Anapa. Samusev filed a lawsuit there, but my mom, who’s in a detention center in Moscow, wasn’t notified in any way, even though this is required by law. I wasn’t notified either.
I understand where this is leading and why it’s all happening — losing her custody means my mom will be ordered to pay child support. And who will she pay it to? Pyotr Samusev. There’s also our apartment, where we’re all registered — my mom, me, Arseniy and Matvey. There’s a chance that Pyotr will be able to take it as child support. Plus, by law, there are social payments [to a guardian] of about 20,000 rubles ($258.80) per month per child, and I’m sure Samusev wouldn’t mind the money. He has some kind of motive — otherwise, he wouldn’t have filed to deprive her of her parental rights.
On February 27, my mother’s arrest was extended until March 29. The preliminary investigation is over, and the lawyers have the right to look at the case file. [Lawyer Alexander] Garanin is doing that. I can’t say yet what will happen next. The case has been dragging on for six months: there’s been some suspicious turnover in the court — first there was one prosecutor, a woman, now another, a man. I don’t know why that is. They need to close [mom’s] case — it’s a stick system. Our country doesn’t deal with criminal cases.
No one cares about the circumstances. Not that he [Alexey] was drunk and beat her badly before everything happened. Not that it was self-defense. Not that there were children nearby who could also have been hurt. No one cares — there’s a dead body. But we’re fighting to make sure justice is done in this case. I’m fighting for that — and for my mom.
And we’re also working to make sure I get custody of the kids. I’ve gotten a new job and am looking for additional remote freelance work, and I’m rearranging my whole life in general to get Matvey and Arseniy back. I wouldn’t have been given custody before. It’s important to the authorities that the guardian has financial means. I was earning 60,000 rubles ($776.40) a month and couldn’t feed two kids on that money. Plus, I worked on a two/two schedule — two night shifts, two day shifts. I wouldn’t count on [help from] their grandmother, who used to babysit them.
‘I don’t think I’ll be afraid of anything anymore’
I’m full of emotions right now, but I’m trying to approach everything with a cool head. Of course, I want to get in touch with my brothers as soon as possible, but I’m well aware that this could hurt [in the parental-rights deprivation case]. If this is how Samusev behaves, then we’re going to work according to his methods [and solve everything through the court]. And it’s a lot of work — I’m constantly collecting documents, communicating with lawyers and with my mother’s colleagues. I just pass out in the evening. But if I don’t help my mom, I could never forgive myself.
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My mom motivates me to keep working and reminds me constantly that my main task right now is keeping the kids in the family and making sure that she isn’t deprived of parental rights. She says: “Stop, Petya, there's no time for emotions, you have work to do!” And that’s what the lawyers and I are doing. We can’t make any predictions, but something will come of our work.
We wrote to the prosecutor’s office [about the guardianship] — they’ll investigate it. They’re required to! We’ll see how the guardianship authorities react when my lawyer and I go to them after we get an answer from the prosecutor’s office. I’m sure they understand that this isn’t an ordinary case. It’s not just taking away a person’s human rights and washing their hands of it. No, it’s not going to be like that. I’ve seen some of these agencies — the Interior Ministry, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Investigative Committee — and I’ve gotten an idea of how they work. These people are robots. But even robots can be scared of things.
This situation has caused me to look at life differently. If I’m able to solve these kinds of problems, I don’t think I’ll be afraid of anything anymore — even living in our current country. It’s better to let this give me extra motivation. I feel like I’ve matured, and I know for a fact that I don’t want to be someone like Alexey Samusev. I want to be an example to my friends and my future family, to love my loved ones. It’s strange to say that I value what happened, but, in a way, it’s a huge amount of experience that’s helped me see what’s going on around me. My mother instilled part of this in me — that’s how, at 23, I was ready for what happened to us.
Meduza was unable to reach Pyotr Samusev for comment.
Translation by Emily ShawRuss
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