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Ielizaveta – Domestic Violence Survivor

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Ielizaveta

Domestic Violence Survivor

My name is Ielizaveta Haluf. I was born and raised in Ukraine. At the age of 22, I got married and moved to the USA in 2013.

My parents were very angry at each other and could hardly communicate with each other so they used me as a correspondence device. They got divorced when I was 6. Since then my life has drastically changed. I decided to stay with my mom most of the time but she was so depressed I seldom got any love or attention from her. Only my grandparents are the sweetest memories I have from my childhood. They have always been nice to me, never abused me verbally or hurt me physically as my parents always did. They slapped my body with palms or belts whenever I was having tantrums or not wishing to obey their commands.

Underwater portrait session was an amazing experience. It took me a while to prepare myself for a photo shoot since at the beginning I could hardly spend a second in the pool without air. Something was bothering me so hard that I started immediately suffocating even though I knew I was fine. Maybe that was some fear of water itself, I’m not sure. Slowly but gradually the time I could spend in water not breathing increased and this preparation helped me a lot during the photo session with Erena.

I was feeling very excited the days before photo session as I had so many ideas I wanted to bring into life. I remember I couldn’t even fall asleep the night before this event as I was constantly thinking about this and that pose I wanted to try.  The day of a photo session I had to leave my house early to drive all the way from Sacramento to Pacifica Bay Area where I met Erena at the swimming pool. This 2-hour trip gave me what I needed – I calmly prepared myself for being in the water with the help of yoga meditation. Water in the pool was very warm so I could relax and try one pose after another. I wasn’t nervous at all – somehow the fear was gone. I remember how calm I felt being underwater. After the photosession I was feeling tired but very happy. I don’t remember me being that happy for a very long time.

I believe water had some healing effect on my body and soul as it brought calmness and peace into my life.  Since then I started going to pool once a week and I’m convinced that being underwater is what makes my life a bit happy these days. I always try to stay in water as long as I possibly can and I notice that bad memories from my past start to fade away. Hopefully, I get rid of them one day.

Erena is an amazing professional photographer who treated me as a friend from the very beginning. It was so easy to work with her and she did a wonderful job with all the photos she took of me underwater. I hope we have new underwater sessions in the near future.

Domestic violence is not easy to forget but I believe that water helps a lot during the recovery period. It helped me to ease the pain I was bearing all these years and I am strongly convinced it will help all other survivors too.

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