Born in 1987, Ruslana Sergeyevna Korshunova was an up-and-coming Kazakhstani model of Russian descent. Beautiful with piercing blue eyes and blonde hair, Ruslana turned heads wherever she went and had posed in popular fashion magazines, including Vogue. When she was just 15-years-old, she was scouted and was propelled into the world of high fashion.
It was the 28th of June, 2008, Ruslana went plummeting to the ground from her ninth-floor apartment in New York. “I heard a thump. I thought a car had hit a person. I turned around, a girl was lying in the road,” stated one witness. Ruslana was pronounced dead at the scene; she was only 20-years-old. There were no drugs or alcohol in Ruslana’s blood and she had no history of mental illness. Her death was ruled a suicide.
According to police, Ruslana had ended her own life after she had become depressed with money problems and a failed affair with a man from Moscow. The media reported that Ruslana had allegedly confided in a “life coach” that she had been depressed and had considered suicide beforehand. The life coach, Vladislav Novgorodtsev, said: “I saw her and heard her stories, stories that no one else has heard. The most important thing about her and her internal world was that she was lonely. There was no one who was really dear to her, except her mother.”1
Novgorodtsev was a so-called life coach in the Roza Training Center in Moscow. He revealed that she had come to the training center in January and February and had been “searching for peace of mind.” He said that Ruslana was troubled about her affair with the married man and was struggling financially. He said that she had asked him for money and had hinted that she was being taken advantage of but she refused to elaborate any further.
No suicide note had been found in Ruslana’s apartment and her friends and family were adamant that she would never have taken her own life. In fact, Ruslana had just recently returned from a successful modelling trip in Paris and was scheduled for another modelling job in Texas that same week.
Ruslana had been proud of how much she had achieved. She had recently started dating a new man, Mark Kaminsky, and would spend most of her time in his Staten Island home. “She was doing good. She was one of the top models. She was happy with this,” he said. Ruslana and Mark had plans for that evening to go to her best friend’s birthday and as one friend said: “I saw a spark in her eyes when she was with him. She was thrilled.”2 Her mother, Valentina Kutenkova, accepted that Ruslana had been depressed at one point in her life but said that this was around a year beforehand and things had improved drastically since then.
The Rosa Training Center had an extremely controversial reputation with many critics referring to it as a cult. It is a psychological training center in Moscow that specializes in personal growth of its clients. “It’s a popular thing to do,” said Anna Barsukova, another model who was friends with Ruslana. “One of my friends went there too, but responded with concern. They do training about developing your personality.”
When it was discovered that Ruslana had attended the Rosa Training Center, which is also known as the Rose of the World, alarm bells began to ring for many. Concern about the training center escalated even further just the following year when Anastasia Drozdova, a model from Ukraine, jumped to her death after being linked to the controversial training center.
Journalist Peter Pomeranstsev wanted to investigate Ruslana’s death even further; he was one of the many who believed that the training center was in fact a dangerous cult. The Rosa Training Center had roots with Lifespring, an American cult which went bankrupt in 1980 after being sued by a plethora of its former followers for mental damage. They had been repeatedly harangued and demeaned by the “coaches.”3
Pomeranstsev found out that the training center ran courses costing over $300 a day and they used dehumanizing treatment to the members during training sessions wherein the “life coaches” humiliate the members and blame them for anything negative in their life.
At the training center, members would enter a dark room designed to stun the conscious mind and suspend critical thought. The “life trainer” then emerges and states: “In the coming days you will experience discomfort. Fear. But this is good. This is the inner barrier you have to break through.” Those who are in attendance are then ordered to share their very worst experiences and recalled repressed memories. After several months at the training center, friends and family of Ruslana noticed a change in her behaviour. She had become aggressive and swore; she also lost a lot of weight.4
Pomeranstsev himself would join the training center to get first-hand experience of what truly went on behind closed doors. He spoke with one of the life coaches, who allegedly stated: “Ruslana was a typical victim. Sometimes it’s better to commit suicide than not to change.”5
Ruslana’s family still believe that she didn’t end her life and instead, had been the victim of foul play. Her death still remains ruled as suicide.
- New York Daily News, 2 July, 2008 – “Her Lonely Secret”
- New York Daily News, 30 June, 2008 – “The Beautiful Smile Hid Soul Full of Torment”
- The Daily Telegraph, 17 November, 2014 – “Fashion Model Killed Herself After Joining Cult”
- The Advertiser, 21 May, 2011 – “Fallen Angel”
- The Independent, 17 November, 2014 – “Supermodel Ruslana Korshunova Who Jumped from New York Office Building”