A British woman who was raped and left for dead by three men armed with machetes stayed in Bolivia for a year to make sure they were put behind bars.
Vasilisa Komarova, 37, was just over a year into a solo motorcycle tour when she was dragged from her tent by three men, beaten and raped before being left for dead.
After refusing to leave Bolivia for almost a year and ignoring warnings the case might never reach a court, Ms Komarova came face to face with her attackers – Jose Gongora, 26, Yery Yumacale, 24, and Fabio Bazan, 30 – last month as they were sentenced to a total of 42 years in jail.
Waiving her right to anonymity, Ms Komarova described how the trip of a lifetime suddenly turned to terror on 4 June, 2017.
“I’m afraid I will never forget it; it’s embedded into my memory,” said Ms Komarova, who gained British citizenship after moving from Moscowto Lancaster Gate, in London, when she was 20.
“I had spent time going on boats and taking photographs on a river near Santa Rosa which was beautiful, like a safari, and the family of the person who took me on the boat highly recommended camping at this lagoon.
“I left my tent to take a photograph of the lagoon and these men, who were like fishermen, offered for me to go with them.
“I said I didn’t want to and tried to cut the conversation to a minimum because I was a little bit worried and went back to my tent to sleep.
“I woke to the sound of someone starting to move my motorbike which was at the side of my tent and then I saw the shadow of this person with a machete and then it went really nasty because they pulled me out of the tent.”
Gongora raped her while the other two men choked her and held her down in a brutal attack.
They had damaged her motorbike so she couldn’t escape and robbed her of her possessions before leaving her for dead.
“They looked like they hated women,” Ms Komarova, who worked as a lawyer in Russia, told The Independent.
“I’m absolutely sure they came to rape me, they didn’t come to rob me, because they said they came from a party and had looked for a bitch to have fun but I was fighting to not be raped so only one person managed and I think they got tired from me because I wasn’t co-operating.
“They didn’t cut me with the machete but they scratched me.
“I lost consciousness because I was constantly choked. I couldn’t move and they hit me and I lost part of my tooth.
“It did hurt a lot and some of my bones were dislocated.”
Ms Komarova was too scared to walk through the night to find help so waited until the morning when people visited the lagoon to wash their clothes.
Fortunately her attackers left behind her MacBook Pro laptop, which was hidden under her sleeping bag, and she managed to make contact with someone in the Russian embassy who she had previously met by chance.
She managed to get work as a personal trainer so she could stay in Bolivia while she waited for the case to go to trial.
Her three attackers denied rape and robbery but were convicted at San Borja court following a two-day trial.
Gongora got 25 years for rape and 10 years for armed robbery, to run concurrently.
Yumacale received 10 years for aiding the rape and eight for robbery.
Bazan got seven-and-a-half years for aiding the rape. All three plan to appeal.
“I’m so happy they will never ever touch another woman. People like that shouldn’t be on the streets and shouldn’t be around little girls,” said Ms Komarova.
The keen motorcyclist and photographer is not letting her experience hold her back and she plans to set off again from Peru to complete her trip to Alaska.
“It’s the biggest dream of my life and I’m not going to wash it away because of three drunken men – they aren’t worth it,” she said.
“I also hope to create a forum for other victims called the Phoenix Sisters.
“We are just like a phoenix because we get burned down but then we become alive again and come back stronger.”