Dina Azizova
© vk.com / Dina Azizova
No school, no IDs and constant CCTV surveillance. Nobody in town knew that they existed. Three kids were locked up behind the fence of a private home for a decade, as their mother tried to protect them from the 'cruel world.'

A week ago, a phone rang at the police station in the town of Ust-Katav in the industrial Chelyabinsk Region in Russia's Urals. A panicked woman was calling, claiming that her three children - two girls aged 20 and 11, and 15 year-old-boy - were kidnapped.

The police acted fast and found the trio only a few hours later, but they opted against returning them home, as the story the kids told stunned even the experienced operatives. The shaken children revealed that there was no abduction and that they themselves escaped from their mother, who kept them under hatches for a whopping 10 years. They did nothing wrong, but were basically forced to serve a prison term that could be handed for a murder in Russia.

When social workers contacted their mother, Dina A., she reportedly rebuffed them by shouting: "If you want to put me in prison, you're free to do so, but I only wanted the best for my children."

What happened the next morning became another shock for the small town as the woman set the hut where she kept her children on fire, and took her own life. Her body was later discovered by the firefighters, who were called on site by the neighbors.

The blaze went out all by itself, leaving the house mostly intact and allowing for a glimpse into the daily graft of the three inmates. The conditions they had to endure were miserable. The photos reveled that they were held in a tight, dark and dirty room with wooden walls, deprived of any wallpaper. The hut was littered and furnished with old and broken sofas and cupboards. An outdated TV set with a picture tube, connected to a DVD player, seemed to be the only entertainment available to the children.

A video by Russian broadcaster showed the exterior of the house and the aftermath of the blaze at the 'child prison.'

The runaways told the social worker that their mother strictly forbade them from leaving the premises of their home, which was located in a quiet spot on the outskirts of town and surrounded by a tall solid fence. The woman put CCTV cameras atop that fence, as well as inside the house in order to always keep an eye on their children. The yard was also guarded by a huge dog.

Internet and any contacts with the outside world were banned. The eldest sister, Darina, owned a smartphone, but it was a little consolation, since she could only use it under mom's supervision.

Dina might've been a tyrant, but she was surely a loving one. She really tried carrying about her kids and went outside to buy food, clothes and all other necessities for them. She was actually well known in town due to being a skillful tailor and made her living out of it. But the 55-year-old never invited her clients into her home.

One of the items she purchased in large quantities was hair dye, which the woman used to turn her daughters into blonds like herself.

With the children skipping school, the mother also had to become a teacher. "My youngest sister could count till 100 and new the alphabet by heart when she was three," Darina said in an interview with the local media. The social workers confirmed that the girls and the boy could read and write, but still lagged behind their peers significantly.

It seems really unbelievable that neither the authorities, nor the neighbors knew about the cruel treatment of the siblings taking place right under their noses. But Dina turned out to be a truly great conspirator: she didn't hide her kids when the family arrived in in Ust-Katav in late 2000s, but a few years later the woman just told everybody that they returned back to the neighboring Republic of Bashkortostan to live with their elder sister. That was the moment when the unprovoked imprisonment for the trio began.

Even their father, who divorced Dina years ago, was fooled. When the man called his children they always told him about the good marks they got in school and the theatre plays they took part in - just like the mother instructed.

The reasons for the woman's actions may never be known, but some locals speculate that the bizarre behavior could've been provoked by what happened to her first daughter. She had a normal life, but made some bad acquaintances in her teenage years, and ended up getting involved in manslaughter. After serving her time, the girl moved to Bashkortostan and settled there.

The mother apparently wanted to protect her other children from the same fate, but her love brought her in the wrong place. They said she persuaded them that "the outside world is cruel; that it will spoil them" and that she was the one to provide them with everything they needed.
Dina Azizova
© vk.com / Dina Azizova
But the siblings were suffocating from the exaggerated care and planned an escape, which was eventually realized thanks to Darina's smartphone. The girl was somehow able to use the device without Dina knowing.

The children fled when their mother went to the store and found shelter in the home of a young man, whom Darina met on social media. They remained there until the police picked them up.

"Morally, we just couldn't withstand staying indoors all the time and fearing that our mom will catch us with the smartphone," Darina explained. The prosecutors said there are traces of physical violence on the kids, which may serve as an explanation to why they were so afraid of their mother.

The siblings currently remain in hospital, where psychologists are trying to help them overcome traumatic experience. It's yet to be decided if they will move to live with their father or their elder sister. The children may also stay in Ust-Katav. After all, they are the legal inheritors of the house and local authorities vowed to provide them money to rebuild after the fire.