American Teen Girl Grounded.... in Siberia


Sofia Roberts is sent to hostel in notorious Russian wilderness, begs her mother to take her back

Teenagers can be a real pain in the ass. They do obnoxious things in the naive quest to be cool. In response, parents confiscate their cell phones, impose socially humiliating curfews and declare, "You're grounded!" And in the end, the teens stomp off in a rumpus of angst.

But Sofia Roberts has it worse. Far worse. When the then-15-year-old crossed the line in her posh Virginia town, her parents sent her thousands of miles Siberia.

Yes, that Siberia. The notorious region of Russia where for decades the Soviets would exile political dissidents and other undesirables. The remote and snowbound land known for its dreaded Gulags (now closed). A place so bleak that its name is a catchphrase for exile and misery.

It has been two years since Sofia's parents sent her to Siberia for adolescent shenanigans. She still has no idea when she can go home.

"I love you so much and I miss you," she wrote to her mother recently in a teenager's distinctive bubbly script. "I want to come home. To come back to you. I ask you one more time, please take me back. Please find it in your heart to forgive my mistakes that I made as a pre-teen."

Before being shipped off, Sofia attended high school in the wealthy suburb of Chantilly, Virginia. Though born in Russia, she'd moved to America with her mom Natalia at age 2. She grew up in Virginia with her mom, sister and American-born stepdad. She knew little of her biological father, or of the frigid, industrial city where he lived in Siberia. She spoke no Russian.

Her Virginia family exiled her in what Sofia says was a grand ruse. She says they told her she was taking a brief trip to icy Novosibirsk, Siberia, to meet her biological father.

But after Sofia arrived in Novosibirsk, her mother said she'd changed her mind. Sofia must remain in Siberia until she'd forsaken her disobedience and shamefully headstrong behavior.

In a statement to the Russian press (when Sofia's plight became public), her mother and stepfather claimed Sofia was "uncontrollable." They accused her of truancy, of bringing home boys, running away from home, using drugs and stealing more than $1,000 of their money. Their account, however, is disputed by Sofia's Virginia friends who are anxious for her return.

Soon after moving in with her biological father, Sofia says she discovered he was a heavy drinker (the Russian government classified beer as a food until earlier this year).

In Sofia's own words, published in a distressing Facebook post, "Igor is an ALCOHOLIC. Try to live with an alcoholic and tell me how you like it." She also claims he beat her and rarely fed her meals. "I learnt about him when I was 13 years old," she told a local Siberian paper. "I skyped with him three times, but he doesn't speak English. So really I did not know him, he was a stranger."

Lost in a city 6,000 miles from home, where she knew no one and didn't speak the language, Sofia slipped into a deep depression. She claims she also tried to kill herself. But her Virginia parents refused to budge. Sofia has since poured her heart out on Facebook:

Today, Sofia lives in the town of Berdsk (population 97,000 and once home to a Soviet bioweapons facility that used dissident slave labor). She lives at the Fine O'Clock, a pleasant-looking hostel where she works to fund her housing. She takes online classes from an American program, which she pays for herself.

"I want to graduate from an American high school," she says. "I want to do it quickly, to finish it within two years." Still, her attempts at self-sufficiency have failed to impress her stepfather back in Virginia, who has been posting frank comments on Sofia's Facebook page:

"Sofia. From the time that you went to Russia, we have told you that it will be very simple for you to return. Recognize that the path you were going down would end badly for you and try to change it. That's all. We told you that trying other ways would not work for you. You have not tried the one thing that will bring you back, but you continue to try others."

Sofia offers a retort: "Maybe you could do me a favor and stop messing with my head...what makes you think that you have the right to come into my family and do with my life whatever you please? I would hope that you (as a grown adult) would not justify your actions on the behavior of a 14-year-old girl... Oh, and thank you for finally accepting my friend request after how many years?"

Jim Roberts, ironically (or perhaps not) works as an immigration lawyer. He married Sofia's mother the year before she was sent away, and appears to have been deeply involved in the decision to exile his stepdaughter. "If he was not in the picture, my mother would never have done this," Sofia says.

In response, Jim has issued Vocativ the following statement via email:

"We love Sofia very much and would love her to return, but her destructive behaviour and the persuasion methods that she uses to achieve her goals make it nearly impossible. Instead of working 60 hours a day, she can return to her relatives and we will continue supporting her financially every month then as we did up-to the point when she decided this summer to leave her father's house. Meanwhile, we offered to pay for her online classes, provided that she can confirm her enrollment and courses taken, semesters needed, etc... Sofia did not provide that information yet. We are very hopeful that she can start making right choices."

Inquiries into what those "right choices" are were not returned. As far as the financial support Jim insists they provided, Sofia claims Igor took the money and spent it on booze. She also claims her father is a bit off his rocker. "The way he talks and behaves, it's very noticeable, not just by me," she says. "Even the psychologist at school concluded there was something wrong with him." At one point Sofia brought a local Siberian television crew to her dad's home and a fight ensued (local media has become enraptured by Sofia saga, with Siberians alternately intrigued and annoyed by the negative characterization of their home, which has long been trying to shed the stigma of gulags and exile).

Wow, if that chick didn't like stab her sister while blowing the neighbor, the mom should probably bring her back home.

For his part, Igor claims he has trouble dealing with her "American ways."

Sofia will turn 18 in March, making her situation increasingly urgent. For complex immigration reasons, it may be more difficult for her to return to the United States once she reaches her majority. So perhaps it's fortunate that Sofia appears to have found some Siberian love. And yes, the Siberian locals want to assure us, it does occasionally get warm over there.

How much would this cost?

They must be awful parents Phone Post 3.0

In soviet Russia...

Oh fuck, never mind Phone Post 3.0


Phone Post

*in Jeremy Clarkson voice*

...All we know is, it's not Yugoslob. It's Yugoslob's Siberian cousin!

We hear a lot of romanticized stories of how women are ferocious defenders of their children, but frankly I think they suck at it.

Stepfather sounds like a piece of work. Probably super manipulative type of guy. Phone Post

this sounds like the beginning to an epic tale of revenge.

Well, it must great being in Siberia and getting a horny young girl shipped to your town!

Hey, I'm sure some teens deserve this, but from the story we get a vibe of shitty, VERY intolerant adults. Who knows? But 2 years? Yep, probably shitty mom.

In Russia, child abandons you! Phone Post

panic686 - Stepfather sounds like a piece of work. Probably super manipulative type of guy. Phone Post

He's a lawyer. Of course he is a manipulative piece of shit.