In the parenting world, there are lots of theories about how to handle troubled teens. Counseling. Rehab. Boarding school. One-way trip to Siberia. The latter is frequently threatened, but infrequently used. But Natalia Roberts of Chantilly apparently doesn’t believe in empty threats. She sent her 15-year-old daughter from Chantilly over to Siberia and left her there.
Two years ago.
I was out of town when this story first broke last month, and it was apparently uncovered by WUSA-9′s Andrea McCarren, who did the video piece above after Skyping with now-17-year-old Sofia Petrova Roberts, and exchanging e-mails with Natalia Roberts to get her side. The mother says Sofia was way out of control, using drugs, stealing money, running away, the standard teen issues that make parents tear their hair out. Sofia says some of that may be true, but two years in Siberia?? The Siberian Times then found her and interviewed her in the town of Novosibirsk, which is 100 miles from, well, nothing, where she is living and working in a youth hostel. More recently Gregg MacDonald of the Fairfax County Times exchanged e-mails with mother and daughter where they rehashed their views: Mom, kid needed a [MAJOR] change of scenery; Daughter, not THIS major.
Sofia was born in Russia, has Russian passports, and her mother left her father when Sofia was 2 and moved them to the U.S. After allegedly reaching wit’s end with her daughter’s behavior, Natalia Roberts apparently told Sofia in March 2011 that she was going on a three-week trip to see her father and his family in Siberia. Sofia said she was hesitant at first, but then decided it was an adventure and a chance to see another part of the world. Once she landed in Siberia, Sofia said, her mother called and said there was no return trip. That must have been a heck of a conversation.
Sofia speaks no Russian, knew no one, and it turned out Dad wasn’t exactly the Russian Ward Cleaver. Sofia claims he tended to drink quite a bit and assaulted her, so she eventually fled his hometown of Berdsk and ended up in Novosibirsk, which is the third-largest city in Russia. But “unbearably cold,” Sofia told the Siberian Times. “I do not walk around.”
Sofia said she has reached out to the U.S. Embassy, but gotten no response. Siberian Times reporter Anna Liesowska posted a comment, in response to a reader, that Sofia only has Russian passports, which may pose a problem for any American intervention. Sofia acknowledged to MacDonald that she is “not legally an American citizen.” Sofia, and her friends in Chantilly, are begging for her mother and stepfather to bring her home for Christmas. Her parents told McCarren that might happen when she recognizes her mistakes and shows them that her behavior has improved. But after Sofia turns 18 in March, her chances of getting a visa to get back into the U.S. diminish significantly, she told McCarren. Not sure how Virginia’s child protective services would view a mother who ships her daughter to Siberia, but it was probably a consensual custody shift between parents and not an obvious endangerment of Sofia.
Will Sofia be home for Christmas? For her 18th birthday? Looks like it will take a combination of lawyers, immigration officials and her mom to make that happen. We’ll see if that materializes.
UPDATE: Here is a petition at Change.org to bring Sofia home. Also, Sofia has her own YouTube channel, titled “Countrygal276,” on which she has posted numerous videos from Siberia. The video “Motivational Mondays #2 My Story” has her version of things in cue-card format. Sofia also has her own Facebook page and there is a Committee to Assist Sofia Roberts Facebook page.