You may have heard the story of Mowgli or Tarzan, who got separated from human habitats and grew up with wild animals in the jungle. While interesting and exhilarating, such folklore and literature seems far from reality. But interestingly, incidents have been recorded where animals took in babies and raised them for real. Oksana Malaya is also one of those wild children who spent her childhood with dogs. Oksana is from Ukraine, and her story really makes everyone think about how upbringing overcame nature.
Three-year-old Oksana Malaya has lived with dogs for almost five years
Oksana Malaya was born on November 4, 1983 in Nova Blagoveshchensk, a village in Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine. She was born an ordinary child and lived with her parents, Oleksandr Maly and Valentina Malaya. Unfortunately, her parents were alcoholics, and it was the result of their extreme negligence that pushed Oksana to live with dogs.
Oksana was abandoned by her parents at the age of three and did not even try to look for her. They didn’t even notice that the little girl was missing when she was left alone in the cold. The search for warmth brought little Oxana to the kennel, where the dogs took their young. It became her new home, and the dogs became her new family. She spent nearly five years living with the pack.
Living with dogs hindered her linguistic and social development.
Like any feral child, Oxana failed to develop basic social and language skills as she had little to no human contact and lived surrounded by dogs. She was associated with dogs and thought she was one of them. As a result, Oxana developed characteristics similar to those of dogs. Oksana used all four limbs to walk, run, and jump. She barked like dogs, ate like dogs, and groomed herself like a dog. She lacked many basic human skills, and her physical behavior was similar to that of a dog.
The local authorities rescued her.
Oksana Malaya was rescued by local authorities in 1991 after receiving a call from neighbors that a little girl was living in the woods. When they discovered Malaya, she was living alone with a pack of dogs. What was surprising was that when the officers were trying to rescue Malaya, the dogs instinctively attacked them. They had to lure the dogs away with the food in order to take Malaya with them.
Many thought that the girl was just behaving. However, the way Malaya used to shake her neck and head to get rid of the water droplets was just like that of a dog. Moreover, their barking sounds are very similar to those of real dogs, which gives a good sense to what extent they have developed dog-like characteristics. Living with dogs had changed her physical and mental behavior and tendencies so much that even years after being rescued, at the age of 23, she was still hiding things, much like a dog would hide food. She still walked on all fours occasionally, barked alone, and preferred the company of dogs to humans.
Oksana Malaya’s life after rescue …
Malaya was taken into custody by the local police authorities and transferred to an orphanage in Parapul immediately after her rescue. She was spending more time in the facility with the dogs than the other children. The transition from dogs to the orphanage was very sudden and traumatic for the child. She was trying to smuggle dogs into the dormitories. They have also been reported to imitate dog behaviors to escape traumatic mental experiences.
Child psychologist Lynn Frey had the chance to meet Oksana on a documentary. Fry is told that Oxana is difficult to deal with and that she often drifts away from normal human behaviour. By contrast, Fry finds Oxana’s general development and intelligence to be surprisingly good for a feral child. I found out that Oksana can draw like a five to six year old child. She was also able to understand prepositions and could recognize herself in a mirror.
Oksana had to undergo years of cognitive behavioral therapies and education during her adolescence and early adulthood to cope with the social, behavioral and learning skills she lacked. The ultimate goal was to help her recover from her social and emotional trauma. She spent most of her teenage years in the orphanage learning to walk upright, eat with her hands, and talk like normal humans.
Experts say Malaya became able to learn to speak within a few years because she had some level of human interaction before abandonment, which was still present in her consciousness. Feral children display mental tendencies similar to those of the mentally retarded or autistic. But Malaya proves all speculation wrong as she learned to read and write in the orphanage. She also learned to count, but she couldn’t add numbers.
Oksana finally quenched her canine-like instincts at the age of 23 and successfully learned speaking skills that are both fluent and intelligent. However, she still lacks knowledge and seems mentally impaired for her age.
She doesn’t want to be called a “dog girl”.
Oxana has appeared in many interviews since finding out she lives with dogs. She has also been part of documentaries created by British Channel 4, NTV (Russian TV channel) and Portuguese channel SIC. Her last appearance was on Ukrainian national television in 2013, where she was interviewed about her life with dogs and her journey so far.
When the interviewer asked if she remembers her childhood and living with dogs, she said that she does not remember her childhood, but she does remember playing with dogs. She also remembers the orphanage where the authorities moved her. They gave Oxana pet dogs, but she didn’t find them like her friends (dogs from the pack she used to live with). Oksana is offended when someone calls her a “dog girl”. She wants people to treat her like a normal person.
Oksana’s brothers and stepmother also attended the interview. Oksana told the interviewer that she enjoyed their company. However, she did not want to live with her brothers and stepmother, but wanted them to call and meet her more often.
It was also revealed in the interview that Oksana had a Russian boyfriend. Alas, the boy could not take it when Oksana told him how she could imitate a dog and broke up with her. Oksana’s biggest dream in life is to find her biological mother.
Where is Oksana Malaya now?
Oksana Malaya was reunited with her father in 2003 during the filming of a documentary. She was very happy when she learned that she was no longer an orphan. Oksana greeted her father and half-sister and revealed that she remembers playing with her father. Oksana even asked her sister how she was doing and thanked her when she got a package from her. Sympathy and Fitness depict Oksana’s explosive growth as a wild child.
Unfortunately, things did not turn out as it should have, and Oksana ended up separating from her father. Oksana Malaya is now about 34 years old and lives in a neuropsychiatric boarding school near Odessa, a home for mentally disabled people. You help them run the place by taking care of the farm animals and milking the cows. She also receives a monthly pension from the Ukrainian government.