A woman convicted of drowning her 4-year-old son on a beach eight and a half years ago committed suicide on Monday, several months after her release from prison.
Olga Borisov, an immigrant from Russia, aged 51, served eight years in jail after a charge of murder was downgraded to manslaughter in a plea bargain.
She hanged herself in her sister-in-law’s bathroom in the city of Kfar Saba, where she had been staying after leaving a halfway house.
At around 1 a.m. on August 29, 2008, Borisov took her sleeping son Alon in her arms to Bat Yam’s Tayo beach and waded into the water, the charge sheet said.
She continued to walk into the deep even after the boy awoke and complained that he was cold.
Then, when she thought she had gone out far enough, she let go the boy and let him drown.
She was arrested after witnesses reported seeing her at the beach and Alon’s body was found.
Ilan Yehuda, her former husband, who has since remarried and started a new family, but who nevertheless helped Borisov through prison and after her release, told Channel 2 News, “Olga had been very sad recently.”
“She would call me and say how much she missed the child.”
“She couldn’t free herself from what she had done and took psychiatric medicine.”
“After she was released from prison, they just said ‘go and straighten out your life.’ She was in distress and wasn’t given help.”
“I wasn’t angry with her, because she didn’t do it out of evil but because of mental distress,” he told the Ynet news site. “She should have received treatment when she needed it.”
Olga had no friends, he said. She had also revealed she was suffering from breast cancer.
The judges wrote in their verdict that there had been “unforgivable institutional failure.” All the authorities had known Olga, but there had been no communication between them, the judges said. Had the family been given the right treatment, Alon would still be alive.
During her court case, Borisov expressed her longing for her son and said the only thing keeping her alive was her husband.
Yehuda told the court at the time that he had not grasped the depth of her distress and depression and not understood how ill she was.
“I didn’t listen to her. I shouted at her and the situation only got worse. I know what a devoted mother she was and how she loved Alon, and she misses him.”
Olga’s attempts to have her sentence reduced were rejected by the Supreme Court, as was her appeal for a pardon to president Shimon Peres.
While in prison, Borisov asked to visit her son’s grave, and even requested IVF fertility treatment to have another child, the Ynet news site reported.
A Channel 1 News documentary in March 2015 revealed the depths of tragedy that led up to the killing.
Olga, said Yehuda, had doted on Alon. “They were like a couple,” he said.
But suspicions that something was wrong with the child and complaints by his kindergarten teacher that he was suffering from severe behavioral problems culminated in a professional recommendation that he be sent to a kindergarten at a mental hospital a 40-minute drive away.
“They didn’t give her complete answers,” Yehuda said.
The couple persuaded the authorities to let them transfer Alon to a special education kindergarten nearer home.
In December 2007, Olga was hospitalized after what was diagnosed as a serious psychotic attack.The doctor in charge wrote that Olga was liable to put those close to her in danger and recommended that she be hospitalized.
But after reviewing the case, another psychiatrist canceled the recommendation and released Olga, telling her to continue with psychiatric treatment at home. The recommendation was sent to the Rishon Lezion social welfare department.
Olga began to drink alcohol to help herself sleep, Yehuda told the program. She tried to see a doctor but was told the first available appointment was six weeks later. In the weeks before the killing, she didn’t sleep at all and drank more, while taking her pills.
In March 2008, she cut both her wrists in a suicide attempt, but a hospital psychiatrist thought it was connected to dieting and after three days, sent her home.
The social welfare department was informed neither of the attempted suicide nor of Alon’s problems at kindergarten.
Olga’s distress was compounded by the fact that her mother-in-law — an eastern Jew whose family originated in Muslim lands – rejected her for being an immigrant from Russia.
At some point Ilan also hit Olga, landing in court. He was released on probation. No social worker visited the house after the case.
In the weeks leading up to the killing, the couple — who had shut themselves off from the world in their apartment — went on vacation to Moscow to see whether a visit to Olga’s family would help. Olga wanted to stay a few weeks. Ilan refused, saying their home was in Israel.
“I’m still angry with the authorities for not understanding her distress, Yehuda told Channel 2 News Wednesday. “They blamed her for not being a good mother, even though she was a model mother in her depression, and for that they should have treated her.”