Born on 30 July 1988, Anastasia Orlova lives with the constant fear that the worst will happen. At any time.
Originally a child of the USSR, she doesn’t know what communism was like, but she is knee-deep in its aftermath. The relative of a Russian oligarch, she enjoyed wealth when the country turned into a chaos. The oligarch made tons of money off the privatisation of state assets and her family joined the party to enjoy the spoils.
When Vladimir Putin was made Prime Minister in 1999, it seemed like “just another day” in unstable Russia. It had no immediate implications for the pre-teen, who saw the news and thought: another guy has a crack at running the country for a few months.
What a difference a few years have made. Putin later became president, grabbed power with a firm grip and cracked down on oligarchs. He put a few of them behind bars and made the others feel terribly insecure from both fortune and physical security. Seized assets, greater surveillance, shameful trials… nobody felt safe. Anastasia’s family was no exception.
This life experience greatly shaped Anastasia’s mindset. It gave her political ambition. In school, she became president of the political club, which actively fought for the ideal of greater democracy.
At the same time, Ana was also deeply involved in sports. She learned karate, judo and boxing. She was good at the first two and excellent at the third one in the list due to her great reach. With a packed schedule, she favoured boxing over the other sports. She wanted to have amateur fights, but the Russian boxing federation prevented her from competing for “administrative” reasons.
This only hardened her resolve. She turned pro, benefiting from the favours of an oligarch-friendly executive at the professional federation. The beginning was difficult. She lost two of her first five fights despite having a reach advantage over opponents, simply because she lacked the experience of her opponents.
Anastasia hit the road in Europe to find better sparring partners. She improved her boxing and started winning fights.
Everything was coming together until 21 February 2012. That’s when her friends from the Pussy Riot band staged a performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. They were protesting against the Orthodox church’s support of Putin during the election campaign. Anastasia helped the band to organise and broadcast the “event”, putting a target on her back.
The state fired back. It didn’t just crack down on the band. Helpers were placed under heavy surveillance. Dodgy characters made multiple death threats. Well aware of mysterious state-sponsored murders from recent years, Anastasia took the threats seriously. She moved to Berlin, where she feels safer, applied for a work permit and kept on boxing professionally.
A side effect of the move to Germany was finding quality sparring on a regular basis. This helped her skyrocket. As we speak, she has a record of 27 wins (10 KO), 5 losses and 3 draws.
Life remains uncertain at the most basic level, though. Anastasia rarely eats at restaurants, out of fear that a secret agent from Russia will poison her food. If she dines at a friend’s house, she’s the one cooking. Thanks to the family’s money, she lives in a highly secured rental building in downtown Berlin. Any unusual figure would draw attention and face several security agents at once. Our fighter also walks around with a massive guard to discourage foolish attempts on her life.
Despite the troubles, Anastasia makes her successful boxing career her crown jewel. She is one of the top fighters in the Super Lightweight division.