On that sunny summer day, Valentina Tarasovna, a retiree, decided to hang herself. She cleaned up a bit, went to see her relatives and told them to come around in the evening. “Why?” they asked. “Come over and you’ll find out for yourself!” she said.
When Tarasovna got back from the bathhouse, she put on something nice and clean. But on her way home, a black cat crossed her path.
“That’s a bad omen,” she thought. Tarasovna felt worse, but decided against postponing the evening’s event. She pulled out the white noose out from under her mattress and hung it from the ceiling.
Tarasovna was known as a pleasant, talkative woman in her small village of Krasnoborsk in the Arkhangelsaya region. But at the age of 80 or so, she began to feel burdened by the discomforts of aging, and sadness came over her. Her husband had died shortly before. She also lived apart from her daughter and son-in-law.
Tarasovna lived alone in a large, wooden home that had once been confiscated from a priest. There used to be many icons scattered about the home, some in gilded gold frames. But several years earlier, she had gathered them and tossed them into the Northern Dvina River.
“That’s a mortal sin,” her relatives said when they learned what she had done.
“But I want to die,” she said explaining her actions. “What good is living when your health keeps going downhill. I don’t want you to have to waste your time on me. When I get around to ending it all, the money is in my chest. Take it.”
Suicides occur often in Krasnoborsk. Statistics show the Arkhangelsk region is among Russia’s leaders in terms of the crime. Hangings are the most common form of suicide.
Tarasovna’s relatives and neighbors told KP the following stories about recent local suicides.
Shortly before Tarasovna’s death, another local retiree went missing. Her friends and family thought she had gone to the city. But soon after, a soldier found the old woman hanging from a branch in a thicket. One shoe had fallen off and a single black toe protruded from her torn stocking. At the same time, another old woman came home from the hospital after an orderly had told her she likely had cancer. She cried and wrote a note to her daughter: “Eat when you get home from work. There’s soup waiting for you. Then go into the shed.” Her daughter ate and then went into the shed to see her mother hanging there… Sadly, the autopsy showed the woman didn’t even have cancer. And Krasnoborsk has lost count of how many men have hung themselves. One man was transporting apples in his car in the autumn when the vehicle flipped over. So the driver hung himself so he wouldn’t have to pay for the damages.
And so, on that sunny summer day, Tarasovna came back from the bathhouse, hung the noose, stood up on her chair, fixed her hair and started pulling the rope around her neck. But at that moment, her neighbor walked in…
“Thanks to that black cat! Darn omens!” Tarasovna said. “I guess I’ll just have to go and drown myself in the river like Nurka did not long ago.”
But her relatives told her not to drown herself. They wouldn’t find her body in the swamp and couldn’t visit her in her grave.
“But they found Nurka!” she retorted.
For some time, Tarasovna’s relatives didn’t take their eyes off her. They gave her medication and she seemed to calm down.
But the situation ended up unfolding so strangely that KP decided to head out to the region to study the chain of events.
Soldier back from the war
Vasily Buldakov, a native of these gloomy lands, returned from Israel at 40 some-odd years old. He had served in the Israeli special forces and fought the Arabs. His body had been scarred by shrapnel and scalpels. And his soul was so hardened that he even cursed young salesgirls who served him rudely. “They wouldn’t even let you and your cow of a mother work as toilet cleaners in Israel,” he would say.
But Buldakov wound up in Israel by happen chance. His second wife was a Russian Jew with two children and they decided to move to Israel as her whole family had emigrated. But it wasn’t long before the couple began having problems. Buldakov grew tired of fighting for the Jewish people and went back home. His oldest son (from his first marriage) rented a room at a local dormitory. And so, the Israeli soldier moved in with him.
Buldakov was a hired farmhand like many others in the area. He loved to put away the booze and didn’t get on well with his employers or the other villagers. He had been to jail twice for hooliganism and many feared him.
Two lonely people
Tarasovna had trouble getting to the store, but never walked with a cane like her relatives suggested. She didn’t want to look old. And so one fateful day, Tarasovna slipped on wet clay outside her home. And it just so happened Buldakov was nearby. He helped her up and the two soon became friends. Buldakov began visiting her regularly to drink tea and chat. And when his son brought his girlfriend home, Buldakov spent the night at Tarasovna’s apartment.
Tarasovna’s relatives advised her to keep away from him. They said she didn’t “know what to expect from Buldakov,” and she also had a sizable pension and savings. But Tarasovna threw caution to the wind. When Buldakov didn’t visit her for a long time, she went to see him herself.
Tarasovna didn’t care about money. Once she had paid local Roma to remove a curse from her home after she had received her pension. But the Roma went through her things and stole half her money. Her daughter insisted she file a police report. Tarasovna did and shortly after the thieves returned what they had stolen. But it wasn’t long before another Roma visited Tarasovna, pretending to be a girl scout. And she stole everything Tarasovna had. This time, Tarasovna refused to report the incident to the police. She simply told her relatives the Roma needed the money to live. That’s the type of person she was.
When visitors came to see Tarasovna, they often saw Buldakov sitting behind her table drunk, crying and rattling on about his cruel fate and fighting on the Arab-Israeli front. He said life wasn’t worth a damn.
“Did you kill anyone?” she asked her guest.
“Of course!” he said.It’s unclear how Tarasovna convinced Buldakov to help her leave this empty world. But the criminal case shows Buldakov initially refused and begged Auntie Tarasovna (case files say he referred to her as “auntie”) to live longer.
Retiree looked for a killer
When Tarasovna was found dead, no one knew she had been killed. She was lying on the sofa with her arms folded on her chest in a clean shirt (after going to the bathhouse). Only afterwards did the doctor find a small wound nearby her heart.
Baldakov was arrested the same day. According to investigator Pavel Vlasov and lawyer Nikolay Lukyanov, Buldakov confessed immediately. He said he didn’t want to kill Tarasovna, but she had insisted that he help.
Although one might think Buldakov killed Tarasovna for another reason and simply lied about her pleas to lessen his sentence, her relatives — even her daughter — are sure the accused is telling the truth. Her relatives say even before meeting Buldakov she tried to hire someone kill her on numerous occasions. She was told there just “aren’t any killers in these parts.”
When the two finally agreed, Buldakov told Tarasovna he’d have to get drunk before committing the crime. She gave him money for booze and placed 5,980 rubles on the table.
Afterwards, Tarasovna went to the bathhouse and changed into clean clothes. She waited at home, but Buldakov was nowhere to be found. Tarasovna then went to see him at the dormitory. Later she went home and Buldakov followed shortly after. According to investigators, Buldakov used a military hold to help Tarasovna lose consciousness. He then used a kitchen knife to take her life. He carefully placed Tarasovna’s body on the table.
Buldakov didn’t search her apartment as his fingerprints were nowhere to be found. About 80,000 rubles were left in Tarasovna’s jacket pocket for the funeral. Buldakov only took the 5,980 rubles that she had left him on the table as payment, a pack of macaroni, the victim’s comb in memory and a knife. Tarasovna’s neighbors watched as he headed home across the street with the macaroni and knife. READ MORE