Lately I’ve seen claims that 20 Russian adoptees have been killed by their forever families. That sounded a little high to me so I went back and looked in the extensive files I keep for Nikto Ne Zabyt-Nichto Ne Zabyto–Nobody is Forgotten-Nothing is Forgotten my memorial page for Russian adoptees murdered and abused by their adopters.
There are indeed 20 Russian adoptees that we know of who have been murdered by abuse or neglect. in the US, but the “official” count is 17 (though that can be disputed due to a couple of acquittals, even if the evidence showed otherwise) because the deaths of the other three do not follow the pattern of Russian adoptee murders. Their deaths had nothing to do with their adoptive status, nor were they abused, neglected, or isolated from the community.
On October 20, 2002, Yana and Toli Kolenda, more than five years after their adoption, and their adoptive mother Gienia, were murdered by their depressed out-of-work adoptive father Richard Kolenda who then committed. suicide. In 2010 Kirill Kazankov, (adopted name Jackson Atusso,) 8 was brutally murdered by a teenage stranger during a family outing. Neither the Russian government nor media has cited these cases in their condemnation of the American adoption system.
I am writing about the Kolendas tonight and Kirill Kazankov in a day or so. They are not footnotes and deserve their own separate entries.. I will also add them to In Memoriam.
Yana Kolenda was born December 31, 1990 in Russia (unknown location). Her brother, Anatoli, was born May 20, 1991 in Russia (unknown location). Their birth names are unknown. They were not biologically related but, it appears they were adopted together from the same orphanage (unknown location).They lived in Westfield, Massachusetts when they died.
Yana was a 5th grade student at Holy Trinity School in Westfield, where she was a member of the school choir. She attended Daggett Gold Medal Gymnastics of Agawam.
Toli was also a 5th grade student at Holy Trinity and an altar server at the church. He was a member of the Westfield Youth Soccer team.
Their adoptive parents Gienia Baczek Kolenda and Richard Kolenda, a retired Air Force major, were both born in Poland. Richard came to the US in 1964 and attended college in Western Massachusetts. He had a Master’s Degree, but his discipline isn’t published. The Kolendas had been married 23 years at the time of the adoptions and lived in Jacksonville, Florida.
In a November 25, 1994 article in the Florida Times-Union about National Adoption Awareness Month, Richard Kolenda, described the adoption as a “tremendously positive experience” for everyone” Gienia said, I think our life is a lot more happy,” It is complete.”
The article continues:
Knowing the condition of the Russian economy and the limited resources to help orphaned children, the couple said they decided to adopt two children who desperately needed a home and a chance for a future.
”In other countries it is terrible; there is no hope,” he said.
The couple had to choose the children, who were not related to one another, from photos and videotapes. They described the task as being the hardest thing they had ever done.
”You want them all, and you know you can’t; you have to choose two,” he said.
The Kolendas were well known as cat rescuers. A July 9, 2001 article in the Florida Times Union covered their work in saving and adopting out 150 stray cats on the Mayport Naval Station at that time over-run with an estimated 800 abandoned and feral cats. They reportedly spent $5000 of their own money on the project.
The motive for the killings was not “officially” determined but it’s clear that finances were the issue. After retiring from the Air Force, Kolenda invested his life savings in a General Nutrition Center franchise in Jacksonville, which he operated for 4 1/2 years. In December 1999, he closed the store and with other disenchanted GNC franchisers sued GNC, in a very public dispute over what they claimed were unfair business practices that favored company owned-stores over franchisers. Kolenda, described as obsessing over his treatment by GNC and the suit,. must have lost about everything because he ended up working in an autoparts store while Gienia cleaned houses. Around 2001 they moved to Westfield where Kolenda’s famliy lived. He remained unemployed, but must have been trying to get into the real estate business. Shortly before the murders he joined the Massachusetts Board of Realtors. The GNC lawsuit had not been settled yet.
Family members said that they had no idea why Kolenda snapped. Kolenda’s father Wladyslow told Boston Globe reporter Jessica Van Sack in a phone interview that he had seen his son for the last time only 12 hours before the murders and that everything seemed normal.
Saturday night, Richard Kolenda stopped by his parents’ house in Westfield, as he had every day since his mother’s recent stroke. He showed off pictures of his 11-year-old son, Anatoli, playing football in their backyard.
“He told me how proud he was of his son and said that his two children are his joy,” his father,… “He just was very happy, and that was the last time I saw him.”
Friends. however, had a different story. They told police that Gienia Kolenda was suffering from an unnamed chronic debilitating illness and that Richard, unemployed and supporting his family on a $2000/mo USAF pension was depressed and distraught over how he would take care of her.
On October 20, only 12 hours after visiting his parents Richard Kolenda murdered his family, stabbing his wife and children repeatedly then dragging their bodies out of the kitchen and into the basement. Police said that although the family died quickly, evidence indicated that they each put up a struggle. Kolenda called 911 and reported the murders, then walked a few blocks to the front of City Hall and shot himself in the head with a small gauge pistol. He left no note.
The Kolendas have not been forgotten. Just last month, on the 21nd anniversary of their deaths, members of Geinia’s family placed the following memorial in the Springfield (MA) Republican. Richard is not listed:
Gienia and Yana and Toli
6/7/1952 – 10/20/2002
12/31/90 – 10/20/02 – 5/20/91 – 10/20/02
Sadly missed by
Sophie, Don, Tania, John, & Krystyna –
I’ll try not to not play pop psychologist here, but it appears that the Kolenda deaths fall under the heading of altruistic murder and suicide; that is, intended to relieve or avoid suffering.
Police said that Kolenda had no record of abuse, violence, arrest. or psychiatric disorder. From all accounts he took great pride in Yana and Toli and found adoption a satisfying experience. He’d even learned tp speak Russian, rstudied Russian history and culture, and learned Russian songs to help the kids transition in the US. He was depressed over money the protracted lawsuit, and Giena’s illness.He probably felt humiliated at the treatment he received from GNC. Kolenda may have have been suicidal and took the family with him to keep them from suffering not only from his suicide, but everything that would go with it. He was afraid what would happen to them when he was gone.
The Boston area experienced two other altruistic-type family killings between 2001-2003. Boston Globe reporter Farah Stockman interviewed Charles Patrick Ewing, a forensic psychologist and attorney who teaches at SUNY Buffalo Law school and had researched “familicide” cases for (then) 20 years. Ewing, discussing all three cases explained:
Unlike men who kill their wives or girlfriends, men who commit familicide rarely have a history of battering, Ewing said. They are known as doting, controlling fathers who see themselves as the center of a family that can’t survive without them.
“It has to do with the perpetrator perceiving himself as essential to the lives and well-being of the people he’s killing,” Ewing said. “It is kind of a narcissistic, grandiose belief. . . . `You couldn’t possibly survive without me. You’re better off dead without me.’ ….Men who commit familicide “seem like family men, generally overly concerned with their families,” Ewing said.
We don’t know how controlling Kolenda was, but he fits Ewing’s profile. He felt responsible for his wife and children–whom he had adopted from a dis-repaired orphanage in Russia, I think he had a savouir complex and could have felt guilt for them over his failed circumstances. If Gienia was indeed seriously ill, he must have worried about what would happen to her, once he put the bullet in his head.
This is a sad ugly story. I am uncomfortable putting the Kolenda murders in with David Polreis Viktor Matthey, Nina Hilt, and Jacob Lindorf–all Rtussian children adopted tortured, and killed by their forever families.. If Kolenda were indeed an altrusitic killer (and I believe he was) , he was the polar opposite of the monster adopters His family was his forever family and he couldn’t see them any other way.