Today is only the second day of our seven day mission… and I already feel as if I’m mute, incapable of expressing my heart with words. I wish you could be here to see what I see, to hear what I hear, to feel what I feel. Obviously, you’re not, so I’m going to try my best to describe today.
This morning, our group of 10 women divided into 4 groups to visit former or at-risk human trafficking survivors.
Amanda Sims and I were paired with Natalia & Serge. We went to visit two different families. Natalia, who speaks Romanian, Russian and English was our
primary translator and guide.
Our first family lived out in the country in a small village. There, we met Iliona and 3 of her 5 children, Tanya (7), Maria (4) & Anna (1). Her two older children were at school. Iliona is 28 years old with kind eyes and a beautiful smile, but at first glance, you would think she was in her late 40′s. This Romanian speaking family quickly invited us into their small, yet cozy 300, MAYBE 350 square foot home. This home houses, Iliona, her husband, their 5 children & her mother.
Natalia, Amanda and I spent time chatting with Iliona and played with her children. No one in this immediate family had every been trafficked, but BoL is a part of their lives because they are the prime candidates for trafficking. They are considered an “At Risk Family” because with 4 extremely beautiful young daughters at the poverty level (they bring in between $1,000 to $2,000 dollars a year) the chances of at least ONE of the girls being trafficked is highly probable.
Fortunately, Iliona’s husband works IN the country though he works two jobs. His night job is security at a local village plant and his day job is at a wood cutting factory. However, his day job doesn’t pay him in Leu (Moldova’s currency)… they pay him in wood. And he takes it because that’s how he keeps his family warm.
The second family we visited weren’t so lucky. Tatiana (36 year Russian speaker) was trafficked. She was married and had her first 2 children with a man who couldn’t make ends meet. She received a job offer in Turkey from a friend who offered $2,000 a month and quickly jumped at the opportunity. As her mother cared for her two babies in Moldova, Tatiana, found herself sewing during the day hours and prostituting herself in the evening hours for nothing close to eighth of what she was offered. Somehow, miraculously, the police broke into the establishment she was forced to work and and rescued her. They sent her back to Moldova.
Soon after her return, her oldest daughter and nephew were brutally killed in a car accident (on a road we actually drove on today). Her husband couldn’t handle tragedy after tragedy and the marriage ended.
Tatiana currently lives in a 400 sq ft “studio” apartment in a condemned building with her second husband, son and youngest daughter, Michaela, who’s 3. A small wood stove sits in the middle of their apartment that always has a fire burning inside & a pot of water heating on top for baths, dishwashing and clothes cleaning. They live in a neighborhood where known social “sinkers” (ex-convicts, drug addicts, etc.) reside.
This building is nicknamed The Titanic.
Isn’t that nickname just full of hope and second chances. If that isn’t bad enough, the only people who know about Tatiana’s trafficking experience are the staff at BoL. She hasn’t told her husband and family in fear of social isolation. If it weren’t for BoL staff, she would be living her horrific past alone in her own mind.
But thankfully, because of BoL & HopeChest, these families know they are NOT alone in this horrible and terrifying journey. I am proud and humbled to be on this trip.
And at this time… I don’t know what else to say. But if you’d like, you can read Amanda’s post from today over HERE.