Oxana Malaya: A girl was discovered in the Ukraine in 1994 while she was roaming with a gang of wild dogs, crawling on all fours and barking. The girl was living in the woods near her childhood home when she was discovered and reported to the authorities.
When the police arrived, they had to persuade the dogs to let her go with treats since she had grown so devoted to the gang. Oxana Malaya was the girl’s name, and she had been orphaned from her parents over five years.
The story of Oxana Malaya demonstrates that nurture is more important than nature.
Oksana Oleksandrivna Malaya, also known as Oxana Malaya, is a Ukrainian woman well known for her dog-imitating behavior. She was born on November 4, 1983. Her drunken parents abandoned her when she was only three years old, leaving her outside one night. She instinctively crawled to the dog kennel, the nearest object that could give her warmth and shelter.
Her parents remained ignorant about her disappearance. She ate whatever leftovers they had left in the dog kennel.
Humans were no longer her kind, even though she had seen them from afar and sometimes wandered into her old family home as a stray. The kennel was home to all important life.
Oxana Malaya gradually became more like one of the pack and less like a human, and it wasn’t until five years later that a neighbor reported a young girl being raised by dogs to the authorities.
She had lost all capacity to talk by the time she was rescued, and she was scurrying around on all fours like a dog. If a youngster does not learn to speak by the age of five, it is practically impossible for them to grow up with human language abilities.
Oxana Malaya is now about 39 years old and resides in a mental health facility. She looks after the farm animals, but she doesn’t spend much time with her own dog, which is shocking. When she speaks, her tone is flat and soulless, and she has no rhythm.
Because she had some childlike speech before she was abandoned, Oxana Malaya was able to re-learn to speak. They trained her to walk upright, eat with her hands, and, most importantly, converse like a human being at an orphanage school.
Experts who have seen her in Ukraine say she has the mental capacity of a six-year-old and has a limited tolerance for boredom. Despite this, she is a good follower of instructions and enjoys being the focus of attention. Like a dog with a bone, her first inclination when given something is to hide it.
Oxana Malaya Made Headlines
In 2006, TV producers from Channel 4 in the United Kingdom grew intrigued by her story and received financing to travel to Odessa to see her. They wanted a professional opinion on Oxana’s mental state, so they chose Lyn Fry, a British child psychologist, from a media list.
Malaya has been the subject of many media stories and a recent Animal Planet video. Fry says she is one of the few researchers outside of Ukraine who has spent time with her.
When she first met Malaya, Fry was able to give Malaya a couple of basic questions to assess her cognitive development. Fry concedes that her tests didn’t follow the scientific process to the letter (“We were there to film a television program,” she recalls, “so it was all very basic, nothing thorough.”) but she did come up with a few startling results.
She gave Malaya the Wechsler test, which is a type of intelligence test akin to an IQ test. Based on how well they do things like drawing or basic math, the Wechsler scale tells you how old you are.
“When I saw her, she was 23,” Fry adds. “She could draw at the level of a five-or six-year old, according to the Wechsler test.”
Granted, most 23-year-olds should be able to draw like, well, 23-year-olds, but Fry was impressed given Malaya’s past.
Encouraged, she set up more modest obstacles for Malaya to observe how she handled language as a tool for communication. Many feral youngsters have evolved the ability to copy some words throughout history, according to Fry, but they haven’t worked out grammar or syntax. She says, “I wanted to know what her prepositions were like.”
So I got the interpreter to say things like “place the ducks behind the cow,” or “the dog is under the table,” says the author. Malaya, according to Fry, had no issue comprehending them. “Wow, that was unexpected.”
But it was when Fry asked Malaya to do something that had evaded Victor that she was most impressed. “I asked her to look in a mirror and see if she could recognize herself,” she said. “She could,” Fry adds, adding that “she felt it was strange that I even asked.”
Where is Oxana Malaya today?
Malaya now lives on a farm in Odessa, Ukraine, in an adult “therapy community,” where she milks cows and assists with housework. She is comfortable in her relationship with her lover.
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