The Liminalist # 151: No Atheists in Foxholes (with Elena Nikitina)

Conversation with Elena Nikitina, author of Girl, Taken, on when the Soviet Union collapsed, when structures dissolve, growing up in Communist Russia, banking collapse, mobsters moving in, victims of the system, Elena’s kidnapping, telling her story, meeting Patrick Quinlan, working on Smoked screenplay, Natasha Kampusch, Grasshopper script, trauma, being a survivor, the survivor community, Adverse Childhood experiences study, human trafficking, high-level child sexual abuse, a book about hope, a negative miracle & a positive, a feeling of powerlessness, summoning the resolution, despair and prayer, an intimate relationship with the divine, no atheists in foxholes, no real communism in the USSR, living in the US.

Songs: “I’m Going Insane,” “15 Bistro 2” by Lee Maddeford; “The Days of Our Summer” by Sasha Miskin;

2 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 151: No Atheists in Foxholes (with Elena Nikitina)”

  1. Even though you’ve spared us the finer details of Elena’s book – that was the 2nd-most heartbreaking story I’ve ever experienced on a Horsley podcast – the first being the Sandzer-Bell SWEDA breakdown from 2010-ish. I like that writing helped Elena get the feedback that REALLY helped her – “true therapy” – I think she called it. I’m glad that they’ve both come through it.

    Anyway, Elena mentioned not knowing about certain societal issues when she was younger, drug addicts and the like. So on that note – I spent a month in Moscow back in 2015. After about a week I asked my host where the “autistic” or “mentally disabled” people were. As far as I could tell there weren’t any within Moscow city limits. She mentioned that just a few weeks before I arrived there was an incident at a cafe with a famous model and her sister who has cerebral palsy. ( She said that it was not common to see these people out-and-about on their own or with their caretaker. Believe it or not, it was one of the most interesting things about my time there.

    “I do believe in God, for sure. Because I think, this is the only thing no one can take from you.” – give the Ill-Lumineers some time.. a fucking nightmare.. 😉

    Thanks to you both. As someone who has spent a lot of time talking to Russians it was funny when Jasun would use an idiom or something like clique, or atheist in a foxhole. Those tend to drop out of the conversation after awhile.

  2. I enjoyed the interview, thank you. Elena’s book Girl, Taken, is not only well-written and wonderfully descriptive, it is an awakening. It is a reminder to the world of the value of hope and the danger of indifference. Elena is not a hero, she is a survivor. Through reading of her struggle we are reacquainted with words like faith, and courage, and we are reminded of their relevance. What a curious thing is life. For through Elena’s adversity and her triumph over it, I am reminded of “the better angels of our soul.” She is an inspiration, not a celebrity; a symbol of strength, not luxury. I wish her all the success in the world, knowing that she is “one acquainted with the night,” though not defeated by it. She is confident, yet humble, and I am grateful to have been blessed by her harrowing story evil, and of her refusal to bow to it. She has strengthened my soul, even as I look for the good in man, nevertheless awake to the baser truths of humanity that have led to cruelty, war and Holocaust. God bless Elena, even as she bravely shares her story of the worst of man, even as she believes in the best. She has made the world a smaller place, for we are united in this truth: that evil begets evil, even as faith and hope precede the dawn.


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