My life as a child fugitive on the run for 20 years on 5 continents

In 1989, when Cheryl Diamond was 3, she used to hang around with the Japanese mafia. 

A gaggle of yakuza met in the foyer of the resort the place her household lived in Tokyo, and she or he launched herself by toddling over to them and doing a handstand. 

“I thought they looked interesting,” mentioned Diamond, now 34, who visited the consortium of gangsters at any time when she might. “They sort of adopted me.” 

By age 4, she was in India, and had her first near-death expertise, careening down the Himalayas in a rickety automotive held along with rooster wire. She had her second aged 5 when she and her older brother wandered into the South African bush and got here throughout a trio of menacing males who lived there.

Of course, all that is par for the course once you’re dwelling life on the run. Diamond’s new e book, “Nowhere Girl” (Algonquin Books), out now, particulars her childhood amongst a household of outlaws, crossing continents, altering identities and outsmarting authorities. 

“By the age of nine, I will have lived in more than a dozen countries, on five continents, under six assumed identities,” she writes. “I’ll know how a document is forged, how to withstand an interrogation, and most important, how to disappear.” 

Since her household was continuously touring, neither she nor her siblings went to high school, which her father noticed as a breeding floor “for government propaganda and square-thinking bureaucrats.” They weren’t allowed to socialize with different youngsters, both. 

Cheryl Diamond never went to school and was taught by her father (above, with Cheryl) to trust no one.
Cheryl Diamond by no means went to high school and was taught by her dad (above, with Cheryl) to belief nobody.

“I know my father’s laws by heart,” writes Diamond. “Always be loyal to our family — for we will never betray each other. Trust no one — they are outsiders. And be a criminal — but be a noble one.” 

It was all so thrilling, till her dad bought violent, her mother withdrew and her two older siblings disappeared. Then, when Diamond began to have some success as a mannequin and printed writer, she discovered that each one the operating, all the secrets and techniques, had been fairly actually killing her. 

“There’s this Maya Angelou quote that says, ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you,’ ” mentioned Diamond. “And that really was what I was feeling: this agony . . . It felt like there was a primal scream inside me, that I needed to tell the truth.” 

Before Diamond was Cheryl, she was Harbhajan, “song of God” in Sanskrit. Born 1986 in New Zealand, she was the youngest in a quintet of merry bandits who lived off the grid and on the lam. 

There was her Canadian father, “George,” the charismatic ringleader: a “broad-shouldered six-foot Viking” with a “head of untamed red-blond hair,” lengthy unruly beard and scars. Her mom, “Anne,” from Luxembourg, was the stabilizing pressure: calm, collected, with broad blue eyes and a slender body. Chiara and Frank had been Diamond’s siblings, 12 and 10 years older than her. (Diamond shouldn’t be her actual final title, and she or he modified the names of her mother and father in the e book for authorized causes.) 

DESTINATION NOWHERE: Born in New Zealand, Cheryl Diamond spent her early life bouncing across the globe with her family — in all these locations and more.
DESTINATION NOWHERE: Born in New Zealand, Cheryl Diamond spent her early life bouncing throughout the globe together with her household — in all these areas and extra.
Mike Guillen/NY Post

Little “Bhajan” didn’t fairly perceive why her household couldn’t go away a path, simply that some nefarious group referred to as Interpol was chasing them. She additionally didn’t fairly perceive how her mother and father made a dwelling — apart from the temporary money-making schemes her dad typically cooked up. 

“The cash seems to appear without anyone exerting visible effort,” Diamond writes. “Sometimes Dad says it’s the interest on an investment, and sometimes he’ll let out a whoop while watching the gold prices spike on CNN, but there never seems to be anything like work involved.” 

In reality, George was a bullion gold investor — who had beforehand swindled practically $2 million from traders. When Diamond was 10 she remembered taking a household journey to Cyprus so her dad might “launder” cash. 

‘Sometimes when someone starts treating you like a criminal, you have to become one to escape.’

Cheryl Diamond’s mom

By that time, their tight-knit band had begun to point out some cracks. On the solution to Germany, 8-year-old Diamond spied her mom crying on a payphone and talking a unusual language. Frank instructed her Anne was speaking together with her father, whom Diamond assumed was lifeless. 

“He’s the one chasing us,” her brother defined. 

When she confronted her mom about it, Anne admitted that Diamond’s grandfather was a secret-service agent and was attempting to place George in jail and take the children away. 

“Sometimes when someone starts treating you like a criminal,” Anne obliquely instructed Diamond, “you have to become one to escape.” 

George had began displaying flashes of violence, too. After 9-year-old Diamond was caught tasting a forbidden ice cream cone, he singed her leg with {an electrical} wire as punishment. George punched Chiara a number of occasions, as soon as getting blood on the wall of their home in suburban Virginia, the place the household settled in 1998, when Diamond was nearly 12. (He “felt the time had come to move to a country with . . . the most potential avenues for profit: the United States of America,” Diamond writes.) 

(*5*)
After being on the run her complete life, Cheryl Diamond discovered success as a mannequin and writer.
Vito Motiv

A yr later, her brother — her greatest buddy, who usually chafed towards their father’s calls for — lastly escaped the household to go to school when she was 13. Chiara left two years later, leaving a notice saying that she had contacted “Konrad,” the secret-service grandfather who had requested Interpol to place alerts out on the household. Suddenly Diamond and her mother and father deserted their lovely Virginia residence. 

In a motel in North Carolina, George and Anne divulged some stunning secrets and techniques. Chiara and Frank weren’t her full siblings (they had been Anne’s youngsters from a earlier marriage). When Anne left Luxembourg to stay with George, she took practically all the cash from her father’s checking account (which made him furious). When Konrad later put an Interpol alert out for the runaways, George mentioned he had no alternative however to steal $2 million from his traders so they might begin anew. And although he was raking in cash in the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s together with his investments, by the 2000s they had been broke. 

Soon, the three of them had been dwelling in a automotive. One day, Diamond, then 15, sought air-con at a mall throughout the highway when a middle-aged lady, wearing black, started strolling towards her. 

Diamond thought she was a cop, however as an alternative of brandishing handcuffs, the mysterious woman handed her a enterprise card. 

“Have you ever thought about modeling?” she requested. 

In 2002, the 16-year-old went to New York City with $300 and a new title: Cheryl Diamond. It took her lower than two years to understand she couldn’t fairly minimize it as a high-fashion mannequin, so she determined to write down a e book about it as an alternative, scribbling away at her draft between go-sees and photograph shoots. 

“Model,” printed in 2008 when Diamond was simply 21, was supposed to repair all the things. She went on “Good Morning America” and Fox News the place she described her often-demoralizing life of a teen model. Her mother and father joined her in New York, and shortly she started scheming how she might get all of them new passports, new identities, new lives. 

In 2008, Cheryl Diamond published "Model," chronicling her time on the runway — when suddenly the lies of her past caught up with her.
In 2008, Cheryl Diamond printed the e book, “Model,” chronicling her time on the runway — when out of the blue the lies of her previous caught up together with her.

Yet, as Diamond soldiered on, the weight of the secrets and techniques she was hiding started to take its toll. 

“I knew I was in a lot of trouble,” Diamond mentioned. “But I wasn’t ready yet to admit the truth.” 

One evening, after an occasion in Washington, DC, she collapsed. She ended up spending a complete yr in her bed room, too weak to even stroll a few steps to the front room. She suffered inside bleeding, bruises on her legs, a locked left arm. Finally, her mom took her to get examined: She had Crohn’s Disease, a extreme autoimmune dysfunction that may be introduced on by excessive rigidity and PTSD. 

She mentioned that in a manner, the illness saved her life: “I saw how my father reacted to [my illness] and his complete lack of sympathy and lack of love,” Diamond mentioned. 

After years in New York, Diamond now lives in Rome and has a valid passport.
After years in New York, Diamond now lives in Rome and has a legitimate passport.
Nan Melville

She mentioned George believed she ought to have the ability to heal herself together with her willpower and even stole her cash so she couldn’t search remedy. Later, when she tried to get a lawyer to see if she might get some sort of passport, she realized how her father had trapped her. Though her New Zealand start certificates was a legally-issued doc, her mother and father’ faux names and made-up Brazilian backgrounds made it invalid. If she would come ahead now and apply for a New Zealand or Brazilian passport, she would “knowingly exploit a fake backstory.” 

If she went to the American authorities, she would threat arrest or deportation. And since she was over 18 — regardless of her not being born when her mother and father purchased their first faux passports — she can be held accountable. 

“I realized, [my father was] the one who put me in this situation,” writes Diamond. 

Finally, in 2010, at the age of 24, she satisfied Anne to name Konrad in Luxembourg. Even although Diamond had by no means met her grandfather earlier than, he loomed giant as a “terrifying” determine in her life. 

“He was someone that I was always told was going to take us kids away from our parents — put my parents in jail,” she mentioned. 

At this level, Diamond and her mother and father had gone to Florida, close to Miami. At first, Anne was hesitant to contact her father, however George’s habits had gotten so abusive that she relented. Konrad was shocked to listen to from his long-lost daughter and Diamond mentioned he was “wary and suspicious.” Yet he agreed to assist them get again to Europe — if solely to maintain them beneath his watch. 

(*20*)

One afternoon, whereas George went for a grocery store run, Diamond and her mom made their escape, frantically shoving no matter they might into two small suitcases earlier than he bought again. They made it to Luxembourg, and for the first yr lived in Konrad’s attic. 

Though hostile at first, Diamond’s grandfather finally made peace together with his renegade household, and even paid for her hospital therapies. By the time he died in 2018, Diamond had moved to Rome to be taught Italian and to change into nearer to her maternal grandmother’s Italian heritage. She lastly bought her Luxembourg passport after 4 years preventing for it, and her mom has additionally joined the documented, authorized world. Her brother is lengthy gone, and she or he hasn’t spoken with Chiara since her escape from the US. 

As for her father, Diamond hasn’t seen him in a decade and she or he doesn’t even know if he’s been caught or continues to be on the run. 

“It did cross my mind . . . about what he might do if he reads [the book], because I know he’s very unpredictable and violent,” she mentioned. “But then I simply determined, f–ok it: I’m going to inform the reality and no matter penalties could come, I can deal with it. 

“I have experience in surviving.”

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