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Russian Amaranth

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What was a “tragedy” became an “atrocity”, and then a “mystery”. Misha Dobrov—rest her soul—was the subject of all three. I knew the quiet girl when she was alive, six years ago, our senior year at Saint Thomas Secondary.

With no clear reports to discern facts from all the heartless rumors that have been plaguing the Internet ever since, I want to take this time to clear up the confusion as to what exactly has been happening in Hamilton, Ontario. Nobody deserves to have been reduced to a viral horror story like this, certainly not Misha.

As a new Russian student with broken English who came to Saint Thomas for only part of our last year, Misha always appeared lonesome and displaced. Most of us never even knew what her voice sounded like, nor cared enough to attempt a conversation with her. We thought almost nothing of her until Principal Brannen commissioned each of the teachers to relay the bad news one sad morning.

Every school has at least one or two tragedies; this was ours.

After the first bell of the day, it was explained to us why Misha’s lonely desk at the back of the class was suddenly and conspicuously empty. She had been hit by a car the previous evening while walking home after school. It was at a popular intersection we all knew, a horrendous hit-and-run. It was rush hour, dense traffic, and Misha’s body was tossed and rolled beneath the wheels of seven passing cars before any of the drivers stepped on the brakes. What remained of the poor girl no one could stomach to describe.

“A life was taken at the 5th Street/Mohawk Road intersection,” said Officer Mason Sulvan of the Hamilton Police Service. “The terrible accident involved the life of a seventeen-year-old student from Russia, Misha Dobrov. The exact details are not clear to us yet, but our prayers and support are with her family in this incredibly difficult time.”

Misha was prepared in the mortuary and faintly scented with a sweet fragrance: amaranth, jasmine, and various floral undercurrents with light notes of musk. It was Russian Amaranth, the perfume always worn by her mother. Misha’s family was planning on returning to Russia after all that had happened. However, before the day that Misha’s body was scheduled to be transported back to Saint Petersburg with her family, the cruelest of all pranks put all of Canada in an outrage.

One of our teachers, Ms. Casales, awoke with her morning coffee in hand and stepped out onto her porch to find someone sitting on her front steps, inanimately leaned against the railed balusters—the sallow embalmed corpse of Misha Dobrov, still beautified in the modest white gown that they had chosen to dress her in.

The mortician had only just finished the basic restorations of her face, which had mostly been pressed under the vehicles’ tires and dragged into fragments along the road. The extensive layers of facial reconstruction were made with wax, using glass beads to fill the eye sockets. The cosmetic finish was supposed to give Misha’s new face something of a lively glow, but it didn’t do much to soften the terror when Ms. Casales found her on those steps.

Mayor Anton Herschel commented for the press, “I am mortified to think that an individual within our community could do something so unspeakably sick.”

Liberal Premier of Ontario Karen McDermott also said the same day, “To dishonor Misha Dobrov and hurt her family in this way, it is truly monstrous. If this is anyone’s idea of a joke, I want them to know that our Provincial Police will bring them to justice. They will be exposed and shamed in a court of law.”

The police were out for days looking for the “monster” who stole Misha’s body and left it sitting on Ms. Casales’ doorstep, likely a young delinquent. For a while, it was the main headline throughout the country.

And then, it happened again.

Amar Dhawan, a resident on the far side of town with no connection to the Dobrovs whatsoever, drove halfway to work in the morning before realizing that the strange smell of musk and amaranth was the lifeless passenger in the backseat behind his chair. There were tears in his eyes when he appeared on the news to talk about it.

“I don’t know why this happened,” he said. “I don’t know who did this, or how they got into my car.”

It was suspected that the culprit was a necrophile, but a subsequent examination of Misha’s body showed no trace that physical contact had been made with it. Nevertheless, poor Misha was the sole target of these body snatchings.

They had secured and locked her casket in the Murphy Funeral Home, assigning a city-hired security guard to keep watch over it during the night with growing suspicions over the company’s staff, especially Funeral Director James Camping. The province was also paying for all of the Dobrovs’ funeral expenses for the best services available, but all they wanted to do was gather their travel arrangements and take Misha home to Russia as soon as possible. They would have done so immediately if the atrocity had just stopped after one or two incidents, but it didn’t.

There was a nineteen-year-old boy who was both a local waiter and a reservist in the Canadian Forces, Andrew Jeanes, described by his friends as an extraverted narcissist who always had the best hair. His life changed forever when he woke up in the morning after sleeping in late on his day off. He sat up against his pillows and looked over to find the chair at his bedside occupied by a doll-like girl in a white gown, her bent limbs yet to be fixed by the mortician, the wig partially veiling her crudely reconstructed face with long brown hair. Misha’s limp remains sat there slumped over, as if watching over him, desperate for the companionship she never had while she was alive.

“Too many lines have been crossed,” Mayor Herschel said for the press. “I can’t tell you how incredibly disappointed I am in our efforts to put an end to this. Three times we have had to endure this outrageous atrocity—that’s three times too many. We will be overseeing the Dobrovs’ safe travels back to Saint Petersburg tomorrow afternoon, and I can promise that our investigation to find the criminal responsible will not drag on any longer.”

As I write this to you now six years after that statement was made, a culprit has yet to be found.

Mr. and Mrs. Dobrov were, as promised, flown back to Russia with their daughter. The Canadian government courteously managed all of their travel expenses for the nightmare they had gone through. The Dobrovs had only lived in Canada for a total of nine months.

Five weeks passed after laying Misha to rest with a decorous funeral service in Saint Petersburg’s Volkovo Cemetery, and back in the city of Hamilton, the local authorities had finally detained a gang of four adolescents who were strong suspects of the crime, but the all-boy gang denied the allegations when they were accused, and then again when they appeared in court. Soon after, their proclamation of innocence was substantiated by a young engaged couple, Steven Schaefer and Heidi Anderton, both of whom worked at the Westmount Recreation Centre in Hamilton. Until they showed up in the news, the two had been conjecturing for almost a week about the unfamiliar smell that was permeating their bedroom, the faintest current of amaranth, unlike anything in their own small collection of perfumes. They at last traced the aroma to beneath their bed.

The anguished Mr. and Mrs. Dobrov would have to make many flights back and forth across the Atlantic collecting their daughter’s remains, which would never stay in a casket for more than a month. They were certain by this time that the accused gang of body snatchers had not been involved in any way.

I was prompted to write this when I heard the tragic report that Misha’s mother, Mrs. Agna Dobrov, took her own life weeks after divorcing her husband. To say that the relentless horror took its toll on them would be a colossal understatement.

It isn’t hard to understand why a case like this quickly turned into a myriad of viral jokes and campfire stories. People have spread vicious rumors that Misha’s postmortem state was somehow seeking friendship. I’ve also heard the ridiculous gossip that the only permanent way to put an end to her constant reappearance is to forget about her, to forget her name and what happened to her, seeing as the only commonality between the individuals who found her exhumed body was simply that they knew who she was. They had heard about her accident on the news, or elsewhere. So, you’ll likely hear them implore you to erase her story from your memory, but I don’t believe this is anything more than an absurd speculation, and if we become afraid of a few unverified rumors, it will keep us from honoring the life and death of that dear girl.

Misha’s father is Jewish, so he is still refusing to cremate her body. The Dobrovs were always religiously opposed to the idea.

The body continues to appear in various households, and I maintain that someone is behind these sick crimes, however unexplainable it may seem. Someone will be caught eventually. There’s always a practical explanation. There has to be.

Written by Kieland Edmonds
Content is available under CC BY-SA

For more on the author, visit

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