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Sofia Roberts: Young girl shipped to Siberia by her parents

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Who is Sofia Roberts?

Teenagers can be a real pain in the ass. They do obnoxious things in the naive quest to be cool. In response, parents confiscate their cell phones, impose socially humiliating curfews and declare, “You’re grounded!” And in the end, the teens stomp off in a rumpus of angst.

But Sofia Roberts has it worse. Far worse. When the then-15-year-old crossed the line in her posh Virginia town, her parents sent her thousands of miles away…to Siberia.
Yes, that Siberia. The notorious region of Russia where for decades the Soviets would exile political dissidents and other undesirables. The remote and snowbound land known for its dreaded Gulags (now closed). A place so bleak that its name is a catchphrase for exile and misery.

It has been two years since Sofia’s parents sent her to Siberia for adolescent shenanigans. She still has no idea when she can go home.
“I love you so much and I miss you,” she wrote to her mother recently in a teenager’s distinctive bubbly script. “I want to come home. To come back to you. I ask you one more time, please take me back. Please find it in your heart to forgive my mistakes that I made as a pre-teen.”
Before being shipped off, Sofia attended high school in the wealthy suburb of Chantilly, Virginia. Though born in Russia, she’d moved to America with her mom Natalia at age 2. She grew up in Virginia with her mom, sister and American-born stepdad. She knew little of her biological father, or of the frigid, industrial city where he lived in Siberia. She spoke no Russian.
Her Virginia family exiled her in what Sofia says was a grand ruse. She says they told her she was taking a brief trip to icy Novosibirsk, Siberia, to meet her biological father.

But after Sofia arrived in Novosibirsk, her mother said she’d changed her mind. Sofia must remain in Siberia until she’d forsaken her disobedience and shamefully headstrong behavior.
Lost in a city 6,000 miles from home, where she knew no one and didn’t speak the language, Sofia slipped into a deep depression. She claims she also tried to kill herself. But her Virginia parents refused to budge. Sofia has since poured her heart out on Facebook
A year and a half later, emotionally fatigued and fed up, Sofia left for a foster home. She tried to contact her mother to explain what was going on, but she kept ignoring Sofia’s calls and messages. Sofia was about to move to an orphanage when her mother finally reached out, but her words only made things worse. “She told me to return to my father or she would never take me back.” Her hands tied, Sofia complied, but she was forced to leave again six months later when her father kicked her out. With nowhere else to go, she slept on a beach for three days. “But it was summertime,” she says, “so it wasn’t that cold.”
Eventually a woman who worked at the local church opened up her home. Sofia lived there for the summer until she got a job at the Fine O’Clock hostel, where she worked for six months. The hotel director was kind enough to give her a bed in one of the rooms, which she has been sharing with strangers backpacking through the region. But even that glimpse of hope recently ended with yet another blow. Sofia was fired from her job late last week because of her involvement with the Russian media. She updated her Facebook status moments afterwards: “Feeling completely lost.”
As bizarre as Sofia’s life seems, the central theme is familiar. She is the neglected child of a selfish parent, and has long been starved for familial affection. Even if her parents’ charges are true, Sofia was 14 at the time of her alleged misdeeds. To expect perfect behavior from a child with such a difficult family dynamic would be absurd. She hardly had time to mature before they shipped her off.
Today, she has grown wiser, but remains just as lonesome. I asked her how she manages to hold on to such a tiny sliver of hope.

“When I look at all that has happened, I see a much bigger picture,” she says. “There is a huge thank you to the media for spreading my story, but this isn’t just about my story. It’s about children in general, because kids don’t have a voice. And I want to change that. One day I would love to become a motivational speaker or something.”
She backpedals, embarrassed by her own bravado. “I don’t know. I guess I sound kind of silly, but I still dream.”

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