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“Scars in my heart”

Mona

Mona
“I thank God for this country.”
Mona

Mona lost everything. Now she wants to find out what a normal life is like.

For the first fifteen years of my life everything was fine. My brother and I lived with my mother in a small town, where people were very friendly to us. We had our own house and were OK with the money we got after my father died. I had good friends, did well at school and decided that one day I would study at the university. It was an attainable dream back then.

But I lost everything the night there was a sudden loud banging on our door. My brother wasn’t at home, just my mother and I. We were woken by loud voices saying that we had to get out immediately. The street outside our door was full of policemen with weapons and clubs. We were to be arrested and sent out of the country as we didn’t belong here, they said. It was totally unreal. We had lived there our whole life and had never had another homeland. My grandparents came from a neighbouring country, but that was a long time ago and people there and here are like brothers and sisters, you can see at once how similar we are. Now we were all of a sudden strangers, because the two governments were preparing to declare war against each other. One moment we were safe in our beds and then suddenly we were out on the street with nothing except the clothes we were wearing. Everything we owned was left inside the house.

We were taken to a big prison where we met a lot of others in the same situation. The conditions there were terrible. I remember all the faces, full of fear and anxiety. My mother was so afraid, she was shaking when the policemen pushed us inside the overcrowded room. They didn’t do me any harm, but it was terrible to watch them beating my poor mother.

We were in that prison for several weeks. My brother was supposed to have been put in prison too, but we had no idea where he was. There were constant rumours about what might happen to us. We were going to be taken across the border to our neighbouring country and let out there, people said. My mother cried and cried when she heard this. What were we going to do? Finally one day something happened. A man we knew came to visit us and said that that since we were old friends, he would help us. He would give us money to bribe the guards and pay human traffickers to take us to a country where he thought we would have more opportunities than in the neighbouring country. My mother didn’t have any better ideas so we agreed. We were picked up during the night and taken to a new country. Our lives were very difficult there. When you don’t have papers you are afraid the whole time. Both my mother and I worked at whatever we were offered. Sometimes we weren’t paid, as everybody knew that we wouldn’t dare complain. Luckily there were some religious people there who helped us so we didn’t starve. All my mother and I thought about was our survival.

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

After several years my mother became sick and couldn’t work anymore, so I started selling my body to be able to give her the food she required. My mother didn’t want me to do it, but how else could I provide the money we needed in order to keep alive and pay for the medicines? When I went around asking for jobs, I met a man who said I could start working in a bar. He knew that I was without papers and pretty desperate and he told me that his friend needed somebody to serve at the bar. So I started working there. At first my job was to see to look after the customers, but after a while they starting saying I should have sex with the customers too.

The customers were disgusting and a lot of them were drunk. Sometimes they didn’t only want to have sex with me, they also beat me up. The men paid the bar owner and sometimes I got a little money. It was a very difficult life. To have sex with three or four unknown men every day is torture. My whole life was a torture. I tried quitting, but the man who owned the bar threatened me and said he would kill me. Nobody would miss me, so I shouldn’t even think of quitting, he said. Sometimes I became very angry and sometimes ill, but I couldn’t see any way out. I hated my life, but I had responsibility for both my mother and myself. My mother knew what I was doing and it gave her a lot of pain. Then she died.

I couldn’t go back to work for several weeks. Some friends came with food for me, but I was totally indifferent, I just lay in bed and wanted to die. My life was in ruins. My friends got me out of bed and I went back to the bar, but I had decided to run away and find something else. One day the police started arresting people without documents, so I had to leave. The man who made me work in the bar was the only one I knew with connections. “I can help you”, he said. He took me to a city in a neighbouring country. He rented a room there for me and said it was dangerous for me to go out. The police were after people like me, but if I stayed in my room, I would be safe. He sent men to me and took most of the money they paid me, but I got more money than before.

I became very tired. Then one day I got hold of some pills and tried to kill myself, but I didn’t succeed. In the end he understood that I couldn’t do this anymore, and said if I paid him, he would arrange travel documents for me. I managed to borrow several thousand dollars, but it wasn’t enough, he said, but I could pay the rest later. He arranged a passport for me in a different name. We flew together to another country, I have no idea which one. He told me not to say a word to anybody. “You are not supposed to be here, you are just passing through”, he said. When you get there, I will contact you”. So he put me on a train and told me to stay on board until the very last station. Before he left me, he took my papers away. I think he was going to use them again. The country I was going to was very good, he said, I would be able to seek asylum there.

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

And so I arrived in Oslo, but I didn’t know where I was then. At the station I asked somebody in English where the police station was. I could see that the people I talked to weren’t afraid, they just told me where to go. I have been here for several months now. I think the man who sent me here has contacts who will try to find me and I am often afraid. I wish I could forget what has happened, but it isn’t possible. Sometimes I get very nervous and I can get angry for no reason at all. It is hard to talk about the torture I lived through. Sometimes I become more and more destroyed when I look back, as if I am burning up inside. The men treated me like an animal, not a human being. Several times I started crying while having sex with a customer. No girl can stand having sex with several men every day and every night.

It feels as if I have lost my whole life. All I want now is peace and quiet, to learn the language here, get a job and live normally. The only thing I want is to live like a human being. I thank God for being in this country.

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
© KILDEN. For copyright issues, contact KILDEN
Illustrations: www.colourbox.no