Wearing The Truth As Scars From The Battlefield Of Silence

This social documentary photography project is about me following Martin Kohala who is from Estonia which is Next door and related to Russia.  So much so that the Russian Mafia have control of a wide area in Estonia.  Martin grew up on a farm in the regions bordering Russia.  His family owned the farm which was home to a large forest where they would cut down trees and sell the logs for his family to be able to buy food.  The Russian Mafia were insistent on 50% of their income line to their own pockets for ‘protection’. 

During Martin’s childhood he was often beaten by his Step Father who was also a criminal and spent most of his years in and out of prison.  Whilst he was out of prison, he would beat Martin and his other siblings as well as his Mother.  It was a terrifying time of his life and a time that saw him lose a Brother and a Sister to suicide. 

At the age of ten Martin took up boxing, aiming to become much tougher than he was.  In the back of his mind was the idea of protecting his family from his Step Father and from the Mafia.  At the age of 14 the Mafia picked Martin up to take him somewhere with his knowledge.  He sat in the back of the car with two huge men sat either side of him.  He was a young boy still and didn't expect what came next out of his naivety.  The man sat in the front passenger seat turned around to look at Martin and punched him full in the face and caused him to urinate over himself.  He was very frightened as would anyone be.  He noticed that they had turned down a dirt track and were taking somewhere other than agreed.


At their destination away from any prying eyes in the middle of a field, the Mafiosi tied him to the back of the car and dragged him around a field.  It wasn’t to end there because they then tied him hanging upside down from a tree so they could use him as a punch bag.  Martin was so severely beaten that he thought he would die.  This was all in the name of teaching his family a lesson, to send a message shouting not to mess with them.

It was an awful life to lead at such a young age and one that truly gave Martin a poor start and dim view of the World.  I think it was about the age of 16 when Martin had finally had enough of his Step Father who pulled out a rifle one day and shot his Mother in the arm.  Martin had been training as a boxer for six years by this time.  He jumped on his the six foot man and literally beat him in to hospital.  He beat him as hard as he could but knew that once his Step Father came out of hospital, he would come back for Martin.

Martin chose to flee the home and join with the Estonian army, something that every citizen has to do anyway for at least one year.  Martin continued his boxing in the army and became the Cruiser weight 3 times champion.

Upon leaving the army he set up his own business as a construction recruitment agency with some People he knew.  This also took a turn for the worst and ended up being ripped off for a lot of money.  He turned to somebody that he thought would help him but ended up getting him back involved with Russian Mafiosi who wanted more and more money from him.

It all became a bit too much, so Martin signed up with an agency that saw him arrive on the shores of England where he was assigned a job working with Triumph Motorcycles in Hinckley.  It is here where he has settled and made a fantastic life for himself.  He’s been teaching boxing in England but now has given up in favour of putting his gloves back on.  Now he’s stepping in to the ring in Dudley on Saturday the 3rd of May for the heavy weight BBU title and is truly enjoying his life.


The next body of work you can look through is a street photography project in Skegness, click here to view it.

A photographic body of work uncovering a heavy weight boxing champion