“Scars in my heart”


“She told me that I owed her 75 000 Euro. I had no idea how much that was.”

It takes courage to defy a curse. Apart from that you need help both from ROSA and God, says Nadia.

I remember how happy I was when I boarded the train that was going to take me out into the world. Everything is going to be fine now, I thought. There were so many things that I looked forward to then. I wanted to do something for my family, especially my mother who had been through so much pain. My father had had a relationship with somebody else and my mother cried a lot. Once, when they quarrelled, my father threatened her with a knife. We had a disagreeable atmosphere at home for a long time. Simultaneously a political riot broke out in our city and we were often very frightened.

Then my father died, and our problems started for real. My father’s brothers thought they had the right to control our lives. They wanted our house and planned to marry me off to a rich man. I was also going to be circumcised. “Never ever!”, my mother said. Even when they threatened her with violence, she resisted and did what she thought best for her children. In the end we couldn’t stay at home anymore, so we ran away to some relatives who lived far away.

In the new place I became friends with a girl who told me that she knew a woman with a shop who offered jobs abroad. My friend was promised good money and a better life and was leaving soon. “I wish I could go away too”, I said. What tempted me was not only helping my family. I have always been creative. Throughout my childhood I drew on everything I could lay my hands on. Even when I went out on a short trip, I used to sit down and draw the faces and situations that I had seen along the way. My father encouraged me, bought paper and pencils and said I might live off my talent one day. While I was in high school I designed posters for shops nearby and people told me that they looked great. I started fantasizing about going somewhere where I could use my talent and develop it into something bigger. My friend promised to talk to her contact and ask if they had work for me too. While I waited, I didn’t think about anything else.

When I was told there was work for me too, I was overjoyed. My friend and I were to take the train to the capital, somebody would meet us there and take us further. I told my mother that I was going to the city to look for work, but would be back soon. She hoped I could find something to do, so that my siblings would be able to go to school. None of us had the least inkling about all the terrible things that awaited me …

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

The woman was waiting for us at the station and took us to a place in the outskirts of the city, where she said we were going to prepare for the trip. It would be difficult and dangerous and to make sure that everything would work out all right, we had to go through a ceremony to protect us. A lot of strange things happened during the next few days. We had to give away hair from different parts of our body, a man made small scars on certain places on our bodies and then we had to take baths of different colours. We were left alone a lot, but talked a little with three other girls who said they were leaving soon too. They didn’t know where. I was scared while we were there, because I had heard there are people who take organs out of other people’s bodies and sell them. I was relieved when we were told that we were finally ready to travel.

My friend and I left with a man we didn’t know. He raped both of us on the way. If we tried to resist, he would kill us, he said. We finally met the woman who had promised us a job. I just couldn’t make myself tell her what the man had done to us. She was standing there with an unknown woman and from now on I was to be with her. Nobody told us where we were going, or why they had separated my friend and me. Everything went very quickly and the whole situation made me very scared.

On the bus I sat next to the woman I didn’t know anything about. None of us said a word for several hours. Late at night we arrived in a city and went to an apartment where she said I was going to live. The next evening she came back with a dress and shoes and asked me to change. “We are going to work”, she said. The taxi stopped in a dark street and I saw several women walking back and forth. The woman talked to one of women who came up to me and said she would show me what to do. “What are you talking about?”, I said to her. “Listen”, she said, “the same thing happened to me. I was promised a good job, but ended up here. I have been here for two years now and soon I will have finished paying off my debt. You can never go home again if you don’t pay”. “What debt?” I said. She told me I owed 75,000 Euro. How much was that? I had no idea. I sat down and cried.

“I refuse to stand on that street”, I told the woman when I met her again. She became furious and called the woman I knew in my home country. I was told to be aware that the ceremony I had gone through contained a curse. My life would be ruined if I didn’t do what they told me. This is how my life in prostitution started. I was punished for having protested, I was beaten and sometimes went hungry. Some weeks later I got a new passport and a ticket. It turned out it was for Norway.

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

After a short while here I was taken in by the police and sent to a centre for asylum seekers. Something good finally happened to me there. I found a friend who helped me a lot. She had been through the same as me and had been out on the street to pay back a large sum of money. She had been in several cities and seen a lot. Many of the women on the street were in very bad condition, she said, some went mad and some even died. She asked me not to be afraid and said I should trust that God would protect me. She brought me to ROSA and I told them the whole story.

I would like to stay here, I am learning Norwegian and I want to find a job. I send money home to my mother every month. I try not to be afraid, but often think about what might happen if I’m not allowed to stay. A girl I know of was sent home from abroad and both her and her family were subjected to violence, because she had not paid back what she owed. I often dream that something heavy is lying on top of me, making it hard to breathe and this makes me afraid of sleeping. I have a lot of stomach pains too, but I am still happy. I managed to get away from the unknown men who used my body and made my heart so heavy, so heavy.

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