Family chooses death over unemployment

One family from the small village of Argayash in the Russian Urals decided to starve themselves to death after the father found himself unemployed.

In December last year, the mother and father of 15-year-old Tanya Zaytseva locked the door of their house from the inside and did not go out for almost three months.

For months, the Zaytsevs drank melted snow. Tanya wouldn't have survived if her mother hadn't secretly fed her with her few remaining raw potatoes.

Nikolay Zaytsev, Tanya's father, died of hunger, while her mother, Irina Karaush, is now in hospital, diagnosed with a range of diseases, including pneumonia. She says the decision to lock themselves in came after they failed to find a job to provide for the family.

“There was no one who would care, who wouldn't betray us. It was the choice of each of us – death. No one made us do it,” says Irina.

She can't walk, but she's looking forward to recovering so she can take her daughter back. Asked if she would do the same if she could turn back time, Irina says ‘yes.' Doctors say she's now under psychologists’ surveillance, and could soon be diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Tanya now stays with the family of Irina's brother, her uncle Sergey. Sergey and his wife Lilia haven't communicated with the Zaytsevs for five years after a bitter quarrel between the two families.

Lilia Karaush is perplexed by such behavior: “I can't even explain why they couldn't find a job. Why they didn't apply for unemployment benefits? What did they count on?”

The house of the Zaytsev family does not stand in a deserted place. There are dozens of houses around. But for a few months, people passed by, and nobody had a clue – or maybe didn't even care – that inside of it, a man and a woman had signed a death sentence to themselves and their fifteen-year-old child.

It was quite by chance that the story surfaced. Local police officer Vasily Golchenko was on his shift in the neighborhood when he noticed there were no footprints in the snow around their house.

“When I came up to the window I heard a woman's feeble cry for help. They were in a critical condition when we found them,” Vasily recalls.

Neighbors say the Zaytsevs were a closed family. Nikolay was a professional driver, but thought himself a healer and didn't work.

“I think they just didn't want to work. Nikolay once told me, 'We're doctors, why should we do something else?,'" one of the neighbors said.

Tanya's new family says she yearns for food every fifteen minutes, out of panic rather than hunger.

Tanya is mentally retarded, and doesn't fully acknowledge her father's death, but her uncle is the one she now calls ‘father.' Lilia and Sergey, who have two children of their own, say they will keep Tanya no matter what.