Buried in concealed documents, hidden behind closed doors and kept away from the sunlight is the very real, very hideous story of two sisters - conjoined twins.
From the second they were born Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova were fed a life of lies, deceit and unimaginable torture - all because of their genetic uniqueness, and because they were born into Stalin’s Russia.
Watch a snippet of the 60 Minutes episode on twins separated at birth. Post continues after video.
Now, thanks to Juliet Butler - an author who followed the twins throughout their later life - we have gained unprecedented access to the goings-on of Soviet Russia and the medical torture that was not only legal, but actively endorsed by its leader.
But as most life stories begin, Dasha and Masha’s tale starts at a hospital.
“Their mother didn’t know she was giving birth to twins,” explains Butler. “Her labour went on for two days and two nights.”
“She was told she gave birth to a mutant and that it was being taken away from her. But the night nurse brought the twins in to see her and she fell in love with them and refused to sign away her parental rights. So, the doctors told her the twins died of pneumonia and took the girls to the pediatric institute.”
Why were the twins of such interest to Russian scientists?
On paper it was because Masha and Dasha had the same blood system but separate nervous systems. The scientists involved desperately wanted to establish the separate roles of the nervous system and the blood system.
And “they wanted to know more about the body’s ability to adjust to conditions like sleep deprivation, extreme hunger and extreme temperature change,” explains Butler.
They were seen as the perfect human guinea pigs.
What happened to the twins when they were taken?
Comparable to the medical torture conducted by Nazi scientists during World War II, the twins were injected, analysed, as well as physically and mentally pushed to their limit for the sake of ‘research’.
“They were injected with various substances, including radioactive iodine, to see how quickly it affected the other sister. Then they measured with Geiger counters. One twin was packed in ice to see how the other sister regulated her own temperature. They were burned, electrocuted—terrible things. It went on for 12 years.”