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December 20, 2014

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"The people we thought were Misha's friends disappeared after his arrest"

Inna Khodorkovskaya

Inna KhodorkovskayaKhodorkovsky's sentence is being awaited by most Russians. To say the least, this decisive event will predetermine Russia's development for years to come. For the Khodorkovskys, however, it will be primarily a personal drama. Inna Khodorkovskaya, the spouse of the billionaire who has fallen from grace, talked to Izvestia journalist Larissa Kallioma about the recent changes in her life.

Izvestia: How did you and your children take the news of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's arrest?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: It was a shock; it was difficult to believe, and we felt as if the world were crumbling around us. The whole family spent the day of the arrest in front of the TV and radio, awaiting news about Misha; we couldn't keep the kids in the dark, we didn't even try to. They saw everything on TV. Anastasia was 12 then; she was shocked just like all the adults. She wept like all of us. She was in shock until we went to our first meeting at the jail and she saw her father was alive.

Izvestia: How did the children take it?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: The twins Gleb and Ilya were four years old then; they read the emotions from the looks on our faces rather than from TV. Their own response to the word "jail" came later. At first, for about five months, we had to tell them that their father had gone away. They were four years old; they didn't understand the word 'jail'! Now the word has become quite common in our household. Sometimes we go somewhere in the car with them, make some plans and Gleb, for example, says, 'Yes, we'll do this and that but only when Dad comes back from jail'. I am horrified to hear that from a child. You know that all of us are waiting for him to return from jail, not from a business trip. Our children are growing up with this [concept].

Izvestia: What was your first meeting with Mikhail like?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: When the lawyers told me that a meeting was permitted, I went straight to the detention center. In a narrow, 20-meter long room full of people I found two windows. Many people were waiting in front of one window; the other had a small queue in front of it. As a Soviet person, I joined the big queue; I was number eighty-one. Fortunately, the people in the queue were quite friendly; in fact everyone tries to help each other at the Detention Center. "Is your relative in the first or the fourth detention center?", I was asked. "The fourth one," I said. "That's the other window". I handed over my documents and was granted a meeting. At first I was appalled by this room divided by a glass wall, phones on both sides, security guards and signs displayed everywhere stating This discussion is being recorded'. But I did not have any choice, and now I am used to that as well.

Izvestia: Have the children seen their father in the detention center?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: The first meeting with her father was Anastasia's salvation. In the first months after Misha's arrest, I was really afraid for my daughter. She was totally distraught until she went with me to see her dad. He was alive and jovial behind the glass, with his usual jokes. When she saw that he had not changed, when she giggled at his jokes there, [it was as if] she was reborn.

I took the younger kids to the center once. I don't think I will do that again. They had too many painful reactions, they really could not understand that this talk through the glass on the phone was their meeting with their father. It was stressful for them, particularly for Gleb. Now every time I go to the Detention Center, I ask them, 'What shall I tell Dad from you?' 'Nothing, just bring him back. We'll tell him everything [ourselves]'.

Izvestia: What do you usually discuss during these meetings?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: We only have one hour. The discussions are recorded and there are security guards all around us - it's impossible to detach oneself from that even now, a year and a half later. Of course, we discuss Misha's health, the children and their schools. The last time we met was on April 21, several days before the first scheduled reading. We were unable to discuss anything on that occasion - we were too nervous in view of the upcoming sentencing. But our hopes are still alive.

Izvestia: How did your life change after your husband was arrested?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: The pattern of my life changed dramatically. Now I manage the household; I plan, organize and make the decisions. There was no need for that before - Misha organized our life so that we were totally comfortable. I certainly appreciate it, although I almost lost my reality check and any development stimuli. In a way, it was beneficial for me to have to manage everything and solve all the problems as they came along on my own. For example, I discovered that our children had no residence certificates so I had to recover and file some documents. I obtained medical insurance papers for them. I exchanged my passport, restored my work record book. The women at the Housing Department women complained a lot about me. They whispered among themselves, said nasty things and rejected my documents. Everyone watches TV. But the people in the queue were always very friendly to me - young and old people sympathized with me and helped me to fill out the forms.

My whole life changed after the arrest. I had to reinvent myself and restore my life. I have some new feelings now - I never thought one could feel like a nobody. That's what I felt like when I first met this new reality of the Detention Center, the court, packages, etc.

Izvestia: What did your family friends do after Mikhail's arrest?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: The people we considered his friends vanished somewhere after the arrest - that came as a shock initially. Now I don't regret it or miss them. At the end of the day, it was good thing since our old life had been destroyed and we have to build a new one. A new life has to be created with new people who come to fill in the gaps. We ourselves have also changed.

Izvestia: What will you do if the court sentences your husband to imprisonment outside of Moscow?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: What do you think? I will certainly go to his penal colony, take a look around. We'll shuttle there and back to see him more often. Then we shall wait and see. Our children go to school here, we cannot miss that... Although recent events show that it is unlikely that Misha will leave Moscow soon.

Izvestia: Do you have any family traditions? How do you keep them up now?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: We never had any special family traditions except for barbecuing sausages together. We tried grilling without him, but they do not taste as good...

Izvestia: Did you plan to send your children abroad for their studies? Have you changed those plans?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: All three children have been attending Moscow schools. We never considered the possibility, let alone the necessity, of going or studying abroad. They might go there later if they want to learn something special. But this is our motherland, our system of education is very good. We never planned to leave [the country], particularly now that we can only see Misha here.

Izvestia: They say that 'money changes a person'. How did it influence you and your husband?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: We never had a cult of money in our family. My mother was the only bread-winner for my sister and myself, she was a chief accountant at a factory. We shared an apartment with other families, ate tangerines once a year, on New Year's Eve, Russian salad on holidays - just like everyone else. My mother used to tell me 'Inna, you have to go to college, you need a higher education'. She did not have the opportunity to have a higher education herself, because she came to Moscow on her own when she was 14 years old. She managed to finish secondary school [high school] and took accounting courses. That's why education has always been her desire, whereas money was secondary to her. Similarly, I never tried to profit from it. I wanted my life to be interesting, I wanted development, not stagnation.

Misha was not altered by money either. His hobbies and habits have not changed since college days - gadgets, electronic novelties and backpacking. The only thing that changed is the amount of free time. The time he spent with the family diminished every year...He must have been engrossed in his work. We never splashed money around, never tried to beat the Joneses in terms of consumption, whatever Forbes thinks.

Izvestia: What will your life be like when he is set free?

Inna Khodorkovskaya: It is difficult to imagine. We must live here and now. I am certain that he has some thoughts and ideas already - he always plans ahead. We shall always be by his side.

According to the sentence of
the Moscow City Court,
Mikhail Khodorkovsky
will be released in
-1153 days

Mikhail Khodorkovsky 4073
Platon Lebedev 4188
Svetlana Bakhmina 3665