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24 Mar, 2009 10:02

Woman confined to a bunker two years after house fire

A woman in central Russia has had her life torn apart after her house caught fire and burned to cinders. Now she cannot rebuild her home because she has become a victim of bureaucracy.

Nearly 2 years later, Tatyana Karpova still lives in an underground bunker that was meant to be a temporary home.

The idyllic pastoral setting of winter-time Perm, a city in central Russia, became the setting for Tatyana Karpova’s personal drama.

It may be hard to imagine an underground bunker as a permanent home. Yet, this woman has lived in it for nearly two years, together with her two cows and a bull. She was forced to make do since her house went up in flames on a summer night.

Despite the fact that it's winter, she has to shovel hay for her farm animals. She is also forced to defrost her laundry as it freeze-dries in the cold wind. Her dogs keep an eye on their mistress and her few possessions.

As she walks into her underground residence, she begins to feed her cows. She tells RT that calves are on the way. Tatyana explains that these farm animals provide for her and are her only source of income.

“I sell the milk they give, and when the calves come, I will sell them too. They're my main providers. I take care of them and they take care of me,” she remarks.

She had to build her new home by herself after the fire accident. The only people who were ready to help her were the local homeless.

“When the fire began, everyone just stood around and watched. Only the tramps tried to help – and then gave me some clothes and some food. They also helped me dig this bunker,” Tatyana says.

She told RT of the fire’s aftermath and her bureacratic nightmare:

“I tried everything to get the papers in order. I need them so I can build myself a new house. But after knocking on dozens of doors, and talking to official after official I am still nowhere.”

In the dim light of the only light bulb in her bunker, Tatyana demonstrated the papers she carefully collected.

She has all but one, but this last one, an architectural project that she originally was told was for free now costs around $2000.

She says no help, material or any other kind, was offered to her throughout this time. But local social workers disagree.

Natalya Subbotina from the Perm Region Social Support told RT that “we work on an application basis. And we never received anything from Tatyana Karpova. It is possible that no one told her about us and that we can help. But we are still ready to offer her clothes or some money if she comes to us,” .

As RT’s team was leaving Tatyana’s abode, two well-dressed women appeared at her gate. It is quite unusual for government social workers to pay house visits at 6 pm on a Saturday, but Tatyana is reluctant to welcome them:

“Where the hell were you when I standing here naked as my house was burning down? Go to hell, you beasts! Get out!” she shouts

The help which has come appears to have arrived too late to be effective. Reluctant to accept clothes or food from government officials, Tatyana now only wants to rebuild her life, and her home.