‘Breaking my billion-year contract’
THIS former Scientologist shares her horror story.
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