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“Scars in my heart”

Hanna

Hanna
“I am a fighter who doesn’t give up.”
Hanna

Hanna thought Norway was a country where everybody is treated well.

My mother was all right, but she wore herself out and died several years ago. My father is terrible, and my big brother is just like him. At school, the teacher made fun of me because I didn’t have books, as we didn’t have the money for them. My father didn’t work and what my mother received for cleaning people’s houses, just wasn’t enough. I was very young when my father sent me out on the street to make money. I knew from early on what prostitution was all about. My father is a bad man, he had taught me himself about prostitution. My mother knew what was going on, but what could she to do? When she protested, she was beaten. My life at home was full of pain and I don’t want to talk any more about my family or about my childhood.

I wanted so badly to get an education, but there are no organizations to help poor people in my country. All I thought about was how to get away from home. So I married young. My father had chosen my husband for me, but I still thought everything would be better than staying at home. Three months after the wedding I was back in prostitution once again. My husband knew what my father had done to me and he continued in the same way. He bought a house and told me to make money. If I objected, he would beat me. We started travelling around the country together and after a while to other countries too. I was young and beautiful and so made a lot of money. But he took everything, it must have been millions.

When I saw what kind of a person my husband was, I started planning my divorce. It took me several years to get the legal documents I needed. One of my regular customers was a lawyer and one day I told him that I would let his wife know what he was doing, if he didn’t arrange the divorce for me. This is how I finally got what I wanted. But I couldn’t get rid of my husband just because I had the papers. He just laughed at me and said I could put the paper down the toilet. He didn’t want a divorce and he told me that without his permission I didn’t have a chance.

When I think back at how gullible I was, I have to laugh. It took me several years to understand that my ex-husband is much more stupid than me. So much of what he told me about the world, has nothing to do with reality. I cannot change the past and I cannot remove all the pain, but once in a while it is good to look back and laugh at it.

Illustration: www.colourbox.noIllustration: www.colourbox.no

Then I got pregnant. During this time I had had several abortions, but I didn’t want one this time. I got my way and gave birth to a healthy and beautiful daughter. The child was always with me when we travelled around. While I was with a customer my husband would babysit, alone, or with a friend who often came with us. They always made sure they had full control over where my daughter was as they knew that I wouldn’t run away without her. We travelled all over Europe, often on fake documents. Sometimes I travelled with a friend of my husband’s and one day the two of us arrived in Oslo. He said this was a very good country in which to sell sex. My husband was coming later, but in the meantime we were going to live in the apartment of the man who was our contact there.

When we arrived the door was closed. A woman from my own country talked to us from inside the apartment. She couldn’t open the door, she said. I guess the man who wasn’t at home had forbidden her to do so. He was supposed to come back in two days and in the meantime she was a prisoner, a woman like me. The man I was with was furious. I was very tired and my child was sick, had a high temperature and was crying. I felt like crying too. I was going to stay in a hotel for two days, he told me, and he was going to take care of my daughter. He knew a hotel in the centre where they never asked for papers. On the way there my daughter started throwing up and the man became hysterical, screaming and yelling about how terrible this child was. He stopped outside a shop, and went to buy something. He must have lost his mind totally, because in all the months we had been together, I had never had one minute alone with my daughter. The car door was open, so I took the child in my arms and got out of the car.

There was a café nearby, and I ran in there and asked for the way to the police station. It was December, my child did not have shoes on her feet, I was totally finished, but we got to the police station. When I rang the bell, a woman’s voice came over the intercom saying it was closed. “Please”, I said, “this is a crisis, I’m afraid, I have a child and I just want to talk to the police”. “You have to go somewhere else”, she said, “this isn’t the right place”. She opened the door a little bit and gave me a map. I stopped a taxi and said “Please, take me to the police”. The driver was a Pakistani, I think, he was very nice and saw the state I was in. At the next police station I explained to a policeman why I didn’t have a passport or visa, and told him I needed help. “This is not the place you need to be”, the policeman said. I was given a map and sent away. It was the middle of the night and I was worn out and started to get angry. In the third police station nobody wanted to open the door, so I asked the taxi driver if he would be kind and come with me. Then they let me in. A policeman said that I could stay there overnight and there would be somebody to talk to in the morning. He showed me a room without a proper bed. That is where my child and I spent the night.

Illustration: www.colourbox.noIllustration: www.colourbox.no

This was my arrival in Norway, a country that I thought was civilized and treated everybody fairly well. The next day we were sent to a centre for asylum seekers. It was very crowded there and I met a man from my home country who was curious to know who I was. There were open doors everywhere and no control, I couldn’t relax there. One day I told parts of my story to somebody who worked there, and she said this was not the right place for me. This is how I got in contact with ROSA and was accepted at a crisis centre. We arrived there late at night. A foreign woman welcomed us at the door. She cooked for us, showed us a room and said with a smile, that this was our home now and that there are no men here. My baby and I slept so well! I still remember that night.

Later we were moved around to several crisis centres, because the police were afraid that either my husband or the man I came here with, would come looking for me. I have had some experiences I would not have thought possible in a crisis centre. In one of them there were far too many people and in another I met racism from a person who worked there. There were big geographical differences too. In one city the social services paid for my child’s kindergarten, and in another city they didn’t.

So much has happened since. Now I have papers that give me the right to stay here. I go to school, have friends who support and respect me and I still have contact with the people I met at the first crisis centre. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with the authorities in Norway. They have taken my child away from me and that is the worst part. It breaks my heart to think I might lose my child for ever. I will do everything possible in order to get her back. I am a fighter who doesn’t give up and I haven’t lost hope.

The exhibition

“Scars in my heart” is a web exhibition presenting the life stories of eleven women from around the world, who ended up in prostitution in Norway.

Cand. polit. Rachel Eapen Paul and Unni Rustad, writer, at KILDEN Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway interviewed them after their escape from the traffickers who brought them here. Unni edited the material.

As much as possible, the women’s own words are kept as they were spoken, but details have been changed to protect the women’s identities.  The women read and approved their own story before publication.

Published: 09.12.2008
Kilden
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Illustrations: www.colourbox.no