Russia: 'I couldn't speak, I couldn't walk' — Child abuse victim with 50% burns becomes model

SOT, Svetlana Alekseeva, model (Russian): «I got different reactions. Some said offensive things — of course, it's not to everyone's taste. Some write to me in admiration things like keep going, continue doing what you're doing.» SOT, reporter (Russian): «How did you meet him?» SOT, Svetlana Alekseeva, model (Russian): «I met him online. We started to see each other and now we live together... Еще.» Russian teenager Sveta Ugolyok's burns cover some 50 percent of her body and are a constant reminder of childhood trauma and abuse. Now she’s turned 18, she’s ready to take on the modelling industry — footage filmed in Moscow on Thursday 5 July reveals. «I've wanted to be a model, I thought that it [my appearance] can be in demand. Yes, I have non-standard parameters, but this doesn't mean I cannot be a model. Conversely, it catches attention, when it comes to being a body-positive model,» said Sveta, whose real name is Svetlana Alekseeva. Reaction to her modelling venture has largely been positive. «Some said offensive things — of course, it's not to everyone's taste. Some write to me in admiration, things like 'keep going', 'continue doing what you're doing',» she acknowledged. The future didn't always look so bright for Svetlana. When she was four years, a simple accident left her with 50 percent burns to her body, scars she carries to this day. «My mother went to a supermarket to buy pelmeni. Meanwhile it got dark and I decided to light a candle, as I was scared of the darkness.» «I remembered how my mum used to get rid of loose threads on her clothes by burning them. I decided to do the same with my nightgown — it was synthetic fabric. So I wanted to take off a loose thread, but instead of burning it off, it continued to burn.» By the time her mother returned, the clothing was already fused to her skin. Svetlana was rushed to hospital, where she remained in a coma for two months. «I couldn't speak, I couldn't walk. I had big scars that looked like sort of webbing that some animals have. And I couldn't feel my hands or straighten out them and my legs either,» she recalled. Throughout the entire ordeal, Svetlana’s mother did not visit her daughter in hospital once and was unable become a skin transplant donor due to alcoholism. The young girl continued to suffer years of neglect at the hands of her mother, before being sent to an orphanage. It was not the end of her problems as Svetlana was singled out for her appearance. She has since come to terms with her body, believing: «If society puts pressure on you and is bullying you just because you have some individuality, this doesn't mean they're right.» Svetlana now lives in Moscow with her boyfriend, whom she met online.

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