‘Break­ing my bil­lion-year con­tract’

THIS for­mer Scien­tol­o­gist shares her hor­ror story.

People (South Africa) - - Contents -

AFORMER mem­ber of the Church of Scien­tol­ogy – who min­gled with celebri­ties such as Tom Cruise, John Tra­volta and Kirstie Al­ley as part of her job in the ul­tra-ded­i­cated Scien­tol­ogy sect, the Sea Or­ga­ni­za­tion – was made home­less af­ter she was kicked out for be­ing ‘raped’. The now-mom-of-one is shar­ing her story in the hope that it will cre­ate ‘an­other dent in Scien­tol­ogy’ and maybe one day al­low her to have a nor­mal re­la­tion­ship with her mom. Ka­t­rina spent most of her child­hood in Bar­naul, Siberia. Her mother Ye­lena was only 17 when she had Ka­t­rina, still ‘wanted to go out and party’, and went through a suc­ces­sion of bad re­la­tion­ships. Her grand­mother, Nina, got in­volved with the Church when she went to a con­fer­ence in the US and then re­mained in the coun­try, stay­ing at the In­ter­na­tional HQ called Flag, in Clear­wa­ter, Flor­ida. When she fi­nally re­turned, she urged her daugh­ter Ye­lena to get in­volved.

“My grand­mother told my mom about Flag and the Sea Org, and how you can live in the US. It was like the Amer­i­can Dream,” ex­plains

Ka­t­rina. “We lived in a third-world coun­try. Our ex­is­tence was up and down; we lived in a wooden house, no heat­ing, no plumb­ing, no elec­tric­ity. I’d have to haul the wa­ter from buck­ets. It was a pretty mis­er­able ex­is­tence.” Six months later they joined their grand­mother at the Moscow Scien­tol­ogy HQ and signed up to be Sea Org mem­bers. De­spite her be­ing only 11 years old, the Scien­tol­ogy’s strict con­tract hand­cuffed her to the Church for­ever

– or ‘she would face huge fi­nan­cial and emo­tional penal­ties’. “It was a lit­tle dis­con­cert­ing that it was a bil­lionyear con­tract. I just thought, ‘It must be a fig­ure of speech,’” says Ka­t­rina, adding, “But I was ex­cited about go­ing there. You’re 11 years old, you see stuff on TV about the United States. We ar­rived at Tampa In­ter­na­tional Air­port and I re­mem­ber see­ing the au­to­matic doors – it was like, ‘Wow, this is awe­some!’ Weather, palm trees, Flor­ida, it is par­adise.”

Her ex­cite­ment was short-lived as soon as she was driven to her berthing, called The Ha­cienda Gar­dens, made up of rows of

di­lap­i­dated and over­crowded hous­ing for mem­bers. was Es­tates equiv­a­lent Sea forced Org Project Ka­t­rina of onto an Force the ex­treme (EPF) ap­pren­tice­ship im­me­di­ately – for the new enough fill out Sea per­sonal to Org make re­cruits forms the grade. to ask­ing see Ka­t­rina if ev­ery­thing they’re had tough to from sex­ual had per­ver­sions. she ever taken drugs to hav­ing any

“They wanted to know all my fam­ily mem­bers, their oc­cu­pa­tions; had I ever been sick, surgery, ever taken drugs, al­co­hol, been mar­ried, had sex­u­ally per­verted en­coun­ters’ am I a spy, do I work for the CIA, am I with the KGB?” says Ka­t­rina.

“I was liv­ing in a one-bed­room apart­ment in The Ha­cienda – the liv­ing room had three bunk beds in it, then there was one in the din­ing room, and three more bunk beds in the bed­room. The apart­ment was so old, it was filthy, dis­gust­ing, there were cock­roaches – ab­so­lutely huge things – mildew was ev­ery­where be­cause of the hu­mid­ity, tiles com­ing off the wall. You’re only there to sleep for six/seven hours, then you leave to work and study.”

Over eight years Ka­t­rina stayed in The Ha­cienda and liv­ing con­di­tions hardly ever changed. Break­fast, lunch and din­ner were ex­actly the same ev­ery­day – oat­meal and liq­uid scram­bled eggs, which came out of a

‘THEY wanted to know all my fam­ily mem­bers, their oc­cu­pa­tions; had I ever been sick, surgery, ever taken drugs, al­co­hol, been mar­ried, had sex­u­ally per­verted en­coun­ters; am I a spy, do I work for the CIA, am I with the KGB?’

The Ha­cienda Gar­dens from above, where Ka­t­rina lived and worked can; tuna sand­wich or salad at mid­day; then rice and roasted vegeta­bles in the evenings. She ex­plains, “On the EPF, we had to study five hours a day. Ev­ery­one is lined up and there’s a head­count to make sure no­body had ran away. You work un­til lunch, study af­ter lunch, then go back to work af­ter din­ner. On the EPF, work is all the dirty stuff – I was do­ing heavy duty man­ual labour.”

Barely able to speak English, Ka­t­rina was of­ten bul­lied, es­pe­cially as her mom had cut off all her hair and she ‘looked like a boy’.

She barely saw Ye­lena, who mar­ried an­other Scien­tol­o­gist called An­drey six months later, and moved to a Church-owned ho­tel 30 min­utes out of town. She’s still with him to­day and they re­main at the Church’s base in Clear­wa­ter.

“I was only 11 but liv­ing in­de­pen­dently. All I wanted was her to be a mother to me, but I was used to it from back in my child­hood. By the age of six I was cook­ing my own meals,” she says.

Af­ter a year Ka­t­rina fin­ished EPF and was made a ‘Tech Page’, which meant she or­gan­ised the ros­ter of pub­lic Scien­tol­o­gists who were com­ing in to be au­dited.

Mem­bers are en­cour­aged to tell their in­ner most se­crets through hours and hours of ques­tion­ing. These were top-level Scien­tol­o­gists, pay­ing up to $1 000 an hour to be au­dited, so Ka­t­rina had to en­sure that the au­di­tors were work­ing ev­ery minute of the day and earn­ing the Church the max­i­mum amount of money. Ev­ery week they had to break new rev­enue records, which reached $3-mil­lion a week, $156-mil­lion a year, just from au­dit­ing. It was al­ways about the money.

Ka­t­rina con­tin­ues, “I knew deep down that I didn’t want to stay, I just didn’t know how or when I could get out. Peo­ple es­cape, but I knew that wasn’t a way for me to go, and it was re­ally hard any­way. At The Ha­cienda we had a perime­ter fence, and when I once touched it three se­cu­rity guys on bikes im­me­di­ately sur­rounded me. I re­alised it was mo­tion-ac­ti­vated.”

She adds, “So I couldn’t leave through the gate, jump the fence; I didn’t have a car to drive off, I didn’t have any fam­ily in the United States – I was only 16, so where was I go­ing to go any­way? I knew it was just a fan­tasy in my head. I thought I’d only leave if my mother left.”

As Ka­t­rina was work­ing in the Ad­vanced Org, where she’d only deal with Scien­tol­o­gists who were do­ing the very high Scien­tol­ogy Lev­els – Op­er­at­ing Thetan Four and Five – she’d of­ten see celebri­ties com­ing in for cour­ses and au­dit­ing ses­sions. The likes of Tom Cruise, John Tra­volta and Kirstie Al­ley

would stay for months at a time, with Cruise

hav­ing the pent­house suite in the Osce­ola Inn, one of Scien­tol­ogy’s bet­ter ho­tels. He’d have his own entourage flown in from the HQ in Cal­i­for­nia.

“You weren’t al­lowed to go near Tom Cruise.

You weren’t al­lowed to speak or look at him,” she says, adding, “But we knew when he was com­ing to Flag, as we’d have to white glove ev­ery­thing – it was a huge op­er­a­tion. We had to clean all the wait­ing ar­eas, au­dit­ing rooms, then it would be in­spected by some­one who puts on a white cot­ton glove and touches ev­ery sur­face. If some­one flunked in your depart­ment, even if you passed your own area, then the whole depart­ment has to clean it all again.” She adds, “He would stay at the pent­house in Osce­ola. He had his own per­sonal chef, his food would go straight to his own suite, he wasn’t too so­cial, he was re­ferred to as ‘TC’, and it was like, in the build­ing.’ He rented two black Cadil­lac SUVs and they brought a spe­cial au­di­tor from Cal­i­for­nia, as I never heard of Flag ones be­ing al­lowed to au­dit him. With TC he had this huge entourage, he wouldn’t even look at you. When I saw him once, I just froze and held the door open for him and his group. I didn’t dare look at any­one in the eye. No one said thank you, noth­ing.”

Ka­t­rina adds, “John Tra­volta was a bit more re­laxed – he was lovely. I would pass by him in the hall­ways and restau­rants, he would look you in the eye, say ‘Hello, how are you?’ I saw Kirstie Al­ley a lot in the restau­rants – she stayed in the nearby Sand­cas­tle Ho­tel, she was do­ing her OT [Op­er­at­ing Thetan] lev­els. My mother worked at the Sand­cas­tle, and told me she had to have a whole new fur­ni­ture set up for Kirstie; it had to be com­pletely re­dec­o­rated, and she wanted orange Egyp­tian cot­ton sheets. When you’re a celebrity in Scien­tol­ogy, there’s noth­ing that can’t be done for you. The thing I re­mem­ber about her was that she was al­ways dressed like she’d been to the gym: wear­ing sweats, hair tied back, un­brushed, but she was a hot mess! The celebs would be there for weeks or months at a time. They’d be study­ing and be­ing au­dited for four to five hours a day. I’d see them all come in, like Ja­son Beghe, Cather­ine Bell, Gio­vanni Ribisi and Tom Cruise’s sup­posed girl­friend at the time, model Nazanin Bo­niadi.”

It’s hard to for­get that Ka­t­rina was still only a school­girl, but she barely had an ed­u­ca­tion, which was just on Satur­days, with one su­per­vi­sor to 30 kids. If there was work to be done, school would be can­celled. Ka­t­rina had on av­er­age a day off ev­ery six months.

Although life was unimag­in­ably hard, it was to get worse af­ter a trip back to Rus­sia in Oc­to­ber 2006, when she was only 18. Af­ter an ar­gu­ment with a fam­ily mem­ber she went to a lo­cal bar with some old friends and re­mem­bers smok­ing a cig­a­rette, but the rest is vir­tu­ally a blank. She woke up in pain and blood­ied af­ter be­ing the vic­tim of the date rape drug. “Some­body had ‘roofied’ me. I was 18 and woke up in a strange apart­ment with two guys naked in bed. It was ob­vi­ous

I’d been raped. I was bleed­ing, I was in pain ev­ery­where, you could see what had hap­pened,” she ex­plains. “I couldn’t do any­thing. The rules in Rus­sia means the onus is on the woman to prove she’s been raped. Also, my big­gest fear was Scien­tol­ogy – it was against the rules of the Sea Org. You can’t have any sex­ual in­ter­ac­tion un­til you’re mar­ried. I had only had two re­la­tion­ships in the Sea Org, but it was never more than hold­ing hands or a kiss on the cheek. When I got back I didn’t say any­thing for a week, then all of a sud­den I re­alised I could be preg­nant, I could have STDs – that fear trumped the fear of get­ting into trou­ble. I told the se­cu­rity what hap­pened, I asked

to see the doc­tor. In­stead I was locked up in a sep­a­rate apart­ment from ev­ery­one,

I had se­cu­rity watch­ing me 24/7 and I wasn’t al­lowed to speak to any­one. They in­ter­ro­gated me about the rape. It would go on for days.”

Scien­tol­ogy has been crit­i­cised in the past by for­mer mem­bers for be­ing ob­sessed with sex and it be­ing used to con­trol its mem­bers. Ac­cord­ing to founder L. Ron Hub­bard, sex that is ‘mis­used or abused, car­ries with it heavy penal­ties and pun­ish­ments’.

Ka­t­rina was cas­ti­gated for be­ing sex­u­ally abused, but she was also pet­ri­fied. At

18 she knew no one on the out­side. She even wrote a let­ter beg­ging to go onto the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Project Force (RPF), which is the Scien­tol­ogy prison. But it was re­fused. She was in­ter­ro­gated one fi­nal time – ‘Have I mas­tur­bated? Have I done any­thing sex­ual against their pol­icy? Have I had any sex­ual en­coun­ters with boys? Have I had any sex­ual is­sues that are bad in my fam­ily? Had I been sex­u­ally abused as a child?’ I even­tu­ally told them that when I was grow­ing up my step­fa­ther would abuse me as a child back in Rus­sia. I got three wrong an­swers in maths one time and he told me to strip naked, and whipped me three times with his belt. The next ques­tion was, ‘Did you en­joy it? Did you do things wrong on pur­pose so that your step­fa­ther would do this?’”

Fu­ri­ous, Ka­t­rina said, “I’m not tak­ing this any­more. If you want to kick me out, do it,” – “It was all video­taped, sev­eral cam­eras were in the room. Two ex­ec­u­tives came rush­ing in, they’d ob­vi­ously been out­side feed­ing the ques­tions all this time. They shipped me off to Moscow. I had two suit­cases, my mother gave me some small money she had, so I had $80 in my pocket.”

Her grand­mother, who was then work­ing at the Moscow HQ, hooked her up with a Scien­tol­o­gist and she was able to af­ford to rent a couch in her bed­room. She then got a job with a Scien­tol­ogy front group called Ap­plied Scholas­tics, which taught English to non-Scien­tol­o­gists.

Ka­t­rina says, “Since my English was so good, they hired me. But I was es­sen­tially home­less, so I would sneak into the Ap­plied Scholas­tics class­rooms at night and sleep on the floor or put the chairs to­gether to sleep on.”

Her luck changed when she found a job va­cancy as the per­sonal as­sis­tant/trans­la­tor for the Star­bucks chief ex­ec­u­tive in Moscow, who’d moved there from Amer­ica, and he liked her hon­esty when she told him the truth about her plight. The work paid well and, in a few months, she had enough to move back to the States. But Ka­t­rina was also pay­ing Scien­tol­ogy off – they claimed for leav­ing she owed them over $21 000, but she got them down to just over $5 100.

“I had lots of con­di­tions to get back into the good books of Scien­tol­ogy. But I just wanted to re­turn to Clear­wa­ter. I wanted to be close to my mother,” she says. “I had to make up the dam­age, I had to vol­un­teer at the Moscow Org, teach English to Rus­sian Scien­tol­o­gists – this was all stuff I did free. Af­ter ev­ery­thing, it was still the only life I knew.”

On the flight back to the US, as Ka­t­rina was chang­ing planes in New York, she went out­side for a smoke and asked a man for a light. They started talk­ing. His name was Jose, he was in soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing and worked a lot in Or­lando.

“If you’re ever there, I don’t know any­one – here’s my card if you ever want to hang out,” he told her.

Ka­t­rina thought noth­ing more of it. Her main fo­cus was to not be de­clared a ‘Sup­pres­sive Per­son’ (SP) whom the Church per­ceives as an enemy and Po­ten­tial Trou­ble Source (PTS). She would never be al­lowed to speak to her mom again.

But, it didn’t take long for her to fall foul of Scien­tol­ogy rules, when she ran­domly bumped into two Sea Org mem­bers in a bank. They took of­fence at Ka­t­rina be­ing there and she was hauled be­fore Scien­tol­ogy se­cu­rity.

Thank­fully her mom got her work as a nanny for a Scien­tol­ogy cou­ple in Or­lando. That’s when she made the call. “I just thought he was a nice guy. I hap­pened to be in the area, I also knew no­body,” says Ka­t­rina. The pair be­gan dat­ing and Ka­t­rina slowly got back on her feet, but Scien­tol­ogy was still has­sling her to go on cour­ses if she wanted to ‘redeem’ her­self.

She moved to New York with Jose in 2008 and set up her own day­care busi­ness. Both were sick of the calls, day and night, but she didn’t want to rock the boat be­cause of the del­i­cate re­la­tion­ship with her mother and she knew one anony­mous call to child ser­vices could ruin her busi­ness.

But, in 2010, she watched Scien­tol­ogy de­fec­tor ac­tor Ja­son Beghe’s video and his ex­pe­ri­ence in the Church – it was just what she needed. “I knew him from when I was in the Sea Org. I wrote him a mes­sage say­ing that his video was eye-open­ing, my per­spec­tive had changed, and thanked him for it,” she says, adding, “He reached back out to me and we talked about Scien­tol­ogy black­mail­ing me and he opened up my eyes to my mother, say­ing, ‘What re­la­tion­ship do you have now? You hardly see her. Is it worth sacri­fic­ing your free­dom for a whole lot of has­sle from Scien­tol­ogy for the rest of your life?’”

Ka­t­rina kept the peace long enough for her mother and grand­mother to at­tend her wed­ding to Jose in New York in 2013, but Scien­tol­ogy seemed aware of her new friends. They’d seen her Face­book friends list even though it was set to pri­vate. Now the Of­fice of Spe­cial Af­fairs, the Church’s ‘se­cret po­lice’, were onto her. “They started call­ing af­ter they’d seen my Face­book list.

I was friends with [for­mer Scien­tol­ogy se­nior ex­ec­u­tive]

Mike Rin­der, Ja­son Beghe – They called them Num­ber One En­e­mies to Scien­tol­ogy, so they were afraid that I was go­ing against the Church,” ex­plains Ka­t­rina. “They tried to reel me back in, and said I couldn’t talk to them, they’re Sup­pres­sive Peo­ple. ‘If you speak to them, then you’ll never be able to speak to your mother and you’ll be de­clared an SP.’ They were black­mail­ing me. My mother called two weeks later. It was the last time we spoke. She had a print­out given to her by the Of­fice of Spe­cial Af­fairs. She read out a list of all my friends on Face­book that were Sup­pres­sive Peo­ple. She felt I’d be­trayed her. But I wasn’t go­ing to let any­one con­trol me any­more. I told her that it wasn’t me that was dis­con­nect­ing from her and I’ll never, ever change my cell­phone num­ber and, if she knocked on my door in 20 years time, I would al­ways open it. My hus­band to this day asks why I still love my mother af­ter ev­ery­thing she’s done. It’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal thing that if you’ve never re­ceived any love from your par­ent, you crave it even more, you’ll do any­thing to get that love.”

Although Ka­t­rina had left in Oc­to­ber 2006, she’d been ha­rassed for nearly a decade af­ter­wards, un­til she was fi­nally sent a let­ter in Jan­uary 2015, which de­clared that she was a ‘Sup­pres­sive Per­son’, be­cause of her ‘crimes to Scien­tol­ogy,’ ac­cord­ing to the let­ter.

Now she was free to get on with her life, even if it meant she was still es­tranged from her mother.

In May 2016 Ka­t­rina had a son Nolan, and, in Oc­to­ber last year they moved to Austin as ‘New York is too ex­pen­sive to raise a fam­ily’.

Ka­t­rina says, “I am now brave enough to come out with my story and not fear be­ing ha­rassed or de­stroyed. But I thank the peo­ple who came out first with their sto­ries, I’m grate­ful that they mo­ti­vated me to do it.”

She adds, “I’m do­ing this so that more peo­ple will come out with their sto­ries, and there’s a big­ger dent to Scien­tol­ogy, and then there’s more chance my mother will leave. I’m still hold­ing onto that hope.”

‘I HAD lots of con­di­tions to get back into the good books of Scien­tol­ogy. But I just wanted to re­turn to Clear­wa­ter. I wanted to be close to my mother.’

Flag Build­ing in Clear­wa­ter, Flor­ida, the In­ter­na­tional HQ of Scien­tol­ogy

Ka­t­rina as a young Sea Org mem­ber

‘TC’s In July 2017, Ka­t­rina, Jose and Nolan took a trip to Moscow, this is them out­side the Krem­lin

Ka­t­rina and Jose on their wed­ding day in 2013 with Ka­t­rina’s mother Ye­lena and her hus­band An­drey, left, and her grand­mother Nina, fur­thest right

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