I cannot forget: a massive fight between them during which my mum ran towards me with a large hunting knife with a deer horn handle. (It was legal at that time to have knives such as this at home; in fact, it was a gift to my mother from a Georgian sports team.) I saw how her arms were covered in blood as she prised the knife from Daddy’s hands after he’d attacked her with it. I witnessed all this frozen in place and feeling like a tree rooted to the ground. Mother put the knife in my hands and shouted – ‘run, run, run; he will kill me and then he’ll kill you.’ Arriving at DND station, I handed the knife to them and explained what had happened. I know this will come as a surprise to you, but remember, this is the Soviet Union with Latvia under occupation and living under Soviet laws when what happened behind closed doors was left to the family to deal with. The DND officer just looked at me and said: ‘Thanks for the beautiful hunting knife. This will be useful to the Soviet army. If your Daddy acted this way, we are sure your Mother deserved it!’ And then they sent me back home. I was no more than five-years-old. From that day onwards, I’ve done all I can to avoid going home.
I was born in Latvia during the days of the Soviet occupation to a dysfunctional family. As a young child, I suffered a great deal of violence due to alcoholism, mental, physical and sexual abuse. My mother also endured many traumatic experiences during the Second World War and in its aftermath.
In the case in point, the girl’s father divorced the young mother, who was already struggling with her mental health and undetected PTSD from her own childhood experiences. The young woman had already lost her own mother when she was four-years-old, and her father had been sent to a Siberian death camp as a political prisoner.
The newborn girl became the subject of all the blame for what had happened to her mother. Mental abuse became the norm in the girl’s life, and within a couple of years, physical abuse was the way in which her parents expressed their love. This girl was me.
Now, I have almost a half century’s worth of extraordinary experiences to share with you. I can testify to how great the influence of parents is and to what extent their children’s behaviour is their responsibility, not school or state education, but actual familial experiences. Scientists have proven that the first seven years of human life are the most formative, as values, belief systems and perspectives, what I call “spunch time” develop during this period. Information learned during the first seven years provides the building blocks on which all future decisions will be made and serve as the programming for all unconscious decisions.
I will never forget the closing ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. This feeling, which was experienced by all the people in the arena and those watching on TV around the world, is always with me. For ten minutes, everybody had the same emotions, no matter their background, skin colour or country of origin. We all have the same basic needs – to be respected, loved and understood.
I remember undertaking long and arduous physical exercises every morning. Without any my personal desire – or choice – I started performing athletics routines. This became a daily routine for me, expanding until they were executed twice, and then three times a day. As wrong as this might sound, this regime elevated me to a high standard at an early age, and I understand now that the way we trained – not only physically but mentally – led to my becoming an Olympic athlete. However, I had no desire to win medals at the Moscow Olympics and to be honest, I don’t recall ever wishing to have one. Why you may ask?