Mila's story
The text was prepared by the renowned blogger Inna Sergeevna
I have always been fascinated by the deceptively fragile women, who after an unimaginable disaster, can not only survive, but from the ashes build a palace of her dreams and ambitions. This is an era of such strong, beautiful women who shape their own worlds. Girls from Mars, magnificent phoenixes. Passionate, impudent, energetic, charismatic fairies for whom the words "impossible", "you are taking on too much," "who do you think you are?" are simply useless. For these women the doors of the matrix believed to be made of concrete swing wide open.

Mila Anufrieva is the president of "Mila for Africa", a charitable foundation that helps people in Guinea Bissau.

This is a cosmic woman who, despite the malicious black envy of those who have methodically tried to destroy her for so many years, spread her wings and flew. She let go and forgave those who wished her demise and bribed her lawyers, who decimated what she had created with such love. She rose above the malice and jealousy around her and soared again.

My generation, alas, does not know her, because having expelled her from this country and stolen her business, the influential Petersburg mob tried with all their might to black out her name from the history of fashion. Those who now own her empire, still live in joyful ignorance and do not realize that they will be accountable for what they have done.

This is a story about a woman that long ago decided to bring beauty into darkness. Mila Anufrieva, an ordinary girl who became the empress of high fashion, said: "I brought all the big fashion brands to Russia in 1989 to my first boutique Joy, at the time no one understood what "collection" or "season" even meant. The whole school of successful and unsuccessful fashion projects passed through my hands. Likewise, people came from all over the country to my boutique Vanity – that kind of high standard and style did not exist anywhere else. "

Here it is important to make a small aside. Often a few key elements help make a "woman in fashion": an attractive woman whose rich lover, politician father, or diplomat husband gives her several million dollars, and with help from a handful of her family's or husband's connections she becomes a star. Mila did everything without taking handouts - she was not the daughter of a deputy or mayor, the wife of an oligarch or president, the mistress of an influential man. She simply made the decision to surround herself with beauty. This is a special kind of gift. It is important to understand that what motivated this woman was not the desire to peddle expensive garments, but the desire to give beauty. These are very different objectives. In order to understand this woman's values better, here is a part of her story in her own words: "My parents were very busy with work, and neither one of them had time for me. As a child, I was sick, very scrawny, skinny -everyone always exclaimed: "She is not very pretty!" My mother was always on my case, although she was not a tyrant - she was just a tired woman. From an early age I wanted to escape ordinary life and create something to get rid of my own complexes. "I wrote to "Murzilka" and "Pionerskaya Pravda", "Take me in, I want to shine!", but they answered back, "Sorry, we don't have dormitories".

While studying at the Pedagogical Institute, I worked part time in a kindergarten. It was very difficult because the kindergarten belonged to a local shoe factory, where mostly alcoholics worked ... Again, I wanted to break free, change my life, make money. I began to buy and resell things. One day a black "Volga" entered the courtyard of the kindergarten ... They brought me to Liteiny (Police Special Investigation Headquarters in Saint Petersburg), I went there several more times for questioning. At the time speculation in goods could land you 10 years in prison, and I lived in constant fear. Then I was left alone, I left work and turned my fullest attention to business. Soon, at age 21, I bought my first car and got involved with the black-market insiders.

And then came Perestroika - 1991. All my friends moved abroad, I was almost the only one left - I looked around and said: "I'm not going anywhere, there are opportunities here!"
Once, when I came home, several people burst into the apartment. They tied me up and took everything - I had over $ 50,000 worth of merchandise in the house at that time (the apartment cost 4,000). I knew from a friend's boyfriend who was an inside man, that usually at the end of these robberies a person got killed. They started looking for money, and I am sitting there and thinking: "Should I tell them about the $ 500 I have hidden or not?" I said nothing. They did not find any money, but they promised to return. After a while, I saw them again in the courtyard, and they saw me, but I immediately ran between the courtyards to the police. I had to change apartments, although I understood then that I must change my life as well.

One day a friend of mine came and told me that we need to open a shop, she had a perfect place all picked out. "With what money?" - "We'll find money!" With my 500 dollars I decided to go to Rome, bought some things and oddly enough they are sold right away. I went back again, made contacts and met a representative from Moschino. So that is how I ended up opening my first boutique. Then a hotel needed Duty free merchandise – we took care of that; the next store I opened was in the Nevsky Palace. An architect designed the place for almost nothing, and we decorated with fancy furniture. A representative of Gucci told me once: "If it were not for you, we would not give away the brand to anyone here!", because all around there was chaos and everything was ruins ... devastation in the minds of people like in the novel "Heart of a Dog" (an early 20th century novel by Bulgakov).

People said: "We are standing in line for toilet paper, and she opens a boutique." The whole city is looking at me and asking: is she crazy?" I felt so strong that I did not need any investments or advice. I was not afraid of anyone or anything. And I took care of myself every day - my morning would start with a 10 km run.

I had an exclusive distribution contract with all the big brands. So that is how the Vanity empire began. The annual turnover was 20 million euros. The representatives from Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana came only to me. I was able to promote any brand. Of course, it wasn't easy – to design the program, market it and put on elegant shows with top models. At the shows we had guests such as Bill Clinton, Sting with Trudy, Elizabeth Hurley, Elton John, Eva Herzigova, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista. All Russian stars and politicians were dressed by me. Customers bought cars full of clothes, whole collections! I remember when I was on the train or flew in the plane and saw the bags with the Vanity label, I was overwhelmed with pride. And when I had children, I opened a children's store. It featured all the best and most beautiful clothes you could find, chosen only by me and two buyers, because I did not trust anyone else.

It was hard work, but I learned a lot and taught others a lot too. In 1992, after the opening of another boutique, my friends asked me: "Who are you paying off?" - "What do you mean?" - "Well, who is your protection?" Somehow, I knew how to negotiate and went to talk to these gangsters myself. I would come and they would say: "Well, we have to figure how this is going to work", and I told them: "Let me talk to my husband" - although there was no husband at all. And they could not understand who I was working with. All these gangsters tried to get to me, and then they began to respect me and even came to be dressed by in in my stores. They were all killed later... during that time Petersburg was a gangster paradise.

Once I was sitting in a restaurant and suddenly heard someone behind me say "Do you know this beauty from the Nevsky Palace? I'll take her out. What the fuck-she makes so much money and doesn't pay anyone off. " I looked around and saw people I know, guys who come into my store every day ... But then they did not touch me.

We survived the gangster period, but then the cops started to control everything. They did not understand what it was like to create something from nothing, that I wasn't doing this just for the money. I did it all by myself, I worked all the time. Having opened one boutique, I opened a second, a third ... In 2002, my profits were 2 million euros a month.

We had so many clients because people found in my stores an island of beauty, a new pastime. They did not go to the Hermitage, but to the Nevsky Palace. I was the center of a new lifestyle. I made shows, Rostropovich came to see me, I became an integral part of the city.
When you are working at such a pace, breaking a leg is already dramatic, because you can lose everything. I began to feel unwell. It was in 2005, I had a temperature of 37, and I just ignored it. I would come to work completely out of it and couldn't understand what was going on: they blocked my accounts, they blocked the goods for 1.5 million euros, that is, they began to destroy me. I kept up the fortress as I well as I could, I did not give in to anyone. And suddenly the bank where I had to take out a loan, asked: "Will you give back all the money?" I said: "No!" I paid interest, but the principal amount was due only in a year. Well, they all began to come after me - first men confiscating merchandise out of warehouses, the police, then men with weapons, in front of everyone taking away the goods. Unlawfully, without papers, it was chaos ...

I received an offer from some people to buy my business, but the amount seemed trivial - only 15 million euros, when my business was estimated at much more. I demanded more and acted, as always without thinking, uncompromisingly. They could have pulled me out right then. But they said: "You can stay working in Vanity, but you are done! You are nobody! "And to hear that was as if they told me I lost an arm. I then I made a big mistake, which I regret to this day. I was at a loss and did not understand who was with me, who was against me, who was my friend and who was my enemy.

One night I felt sick, and in the morning, I found I couldn't see out of one eye. The doctor ordered me to stay put and rest, I had had a stroke. But I did not stay put, I went to my country house, I wanted to understand what was happening, and to figure out what to do. I took a bicycle, went to the lake, went for a run, splashed around in the water, and this all made matters worse. The ambulance put me on an IV, but I was already losing consciousness. In my delirium I saw another world, and it did not seem frightening to me, only gray and sad. I saw my little child, but I did not have any strength left in me ... I was saved by an urgent operation in Switzerland.

Later it was found out that my girlfriend lawyer received 2 million euros for undersigning my assets to other people - she had the right to sign for me. They told me: "That's it, nothing belongs to you, only debts." 6.5 million in depts. I walked down the street and everyone turned away, pointing at me with their fingers. Such a state of disgrace, and no idea what to do about it. You are no longer a captain of industry, but a pariah. The newspapers published such trash about me… A year I struggled as best I could, and then I was revoked the right to leave the country. I hired a lawyer, but she began to squeeze me for money, forced me to sell my apartment. She took 200000 euros just to help me leave the country.

On my birthday, the head of customs called: "Lyudmila, congratulations!" I thought he was congratulating me on my birthday, and I asked to be sure: "Thank you! You mean congratulations on my birthday? "And he says:" No, on the other thing! "Then I understood everything and asked: "When? "-" Now! " I grabbed my bags, my youngest son (the older was already in Italy with my husband) and flew away. I landed in Milan on my birthday with almost nothing and not knowing if I'll ever go back ...

In Milan, I was no one and I had no one to help me. My husband, accused me of everything: if not for me, he would never be in such a situation, with no work, no money. Still some friends helped out, they loaned me 25000 euros. I rented an apartment, started working, bought goods and shipped them to Russia - there my former saleswoman opened her own boutique. After some time ... no money is coming back! I go crazy, I call, I worry, and she answers: "Why are you yelling at me? Nothing is selling! "

And at this low moment God sends help. A girl calls and says: "My name is Natasha. Will you help me open a boutique? "I help her, and in a month, she pays me very well. Before that, there were times when I could not even afford to buy medicine. I had to sell everything to somehow survive. I went to ask for work in a showroom, they still thought that I was omnipotent, but I have no more power anymore ... to them I was Mila the Great, and here I was… nothing ...

I lay on the couch and just agonized, I had no idea what to do next. I saw homeless people on the street and realized that this is what I will end up like if I do nothing. My friend, actor Stas Sadalsky saved me by forcing me to write a blog. Stas looked for me on the Internet, he asked everyone, did anyone see me, was I alive? Honestly, at that point I crossed him out of my life as so many others had betrayed me. My mother's godmother and a millionaire during this time, did not even ask how I was, if I needed money, even a couple of thousand euros. Anyone who did ask how I was would only say: "Well, Mila, you're so strong!" And no one could understand that you can be strong, so strong, and then you fall, and you can't lift yourself up. You're just dying. Not everyone can get up again.

I live with a clean conscience, because I have not stolen anything from anyone, they stole from me. Today, my case is still open, but all my attempts to get justice, all the letters and requests have met with brick walls.
My father died at the age of 47 from cirrhosis of the liver. I was very afraid to have the same fate. He was the darling of everyone, from him emanated an incredible light, but gradually because of personal failures, he began to sink down, drink heavily, and no one supported him in the end. When at 42 I fell ill, I began to think: am I fated to be like my father?
Happy is he who finds his destiny and is free to follow it where it leads. I was robbed of my business, my money, my health. I had one job, now I have another, because you cannot take away from someone what he is meant to do. Just as it is impossible to take away someone's children, someone's loved ones, someone's love. Apparently, there is a law of conservation and transformation of energy, which continues to operate - although already elsewhere, in another life. "
It takes a mighty force of will ... to lose everything, to be in debt millions of euros, with a ringing silence on the other end of the phone - besides Stas Sadalsky, Tatyana Bulanova and a couple of others, no one reached out to the queen of fashion. Those who danced and drank her champagne at the banquets and kissed her hands, honored to stand beside her, were the first to turn away from her. All these beautiful people disappeared in the blink of an eye when the hostess of an empire had nothing to even pay for food.

We are never given more than we can handle in this life and after such an ordeal, if a person has not sunk to the very bottom into self-pity he can come out on the other side with the most beautiful power of all, new eyes with which to see the world and new doors open before him, other people enter his life, he spreads his wings and soars so high it takes your breath away.

© Mila for Africa 2017
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