15 Years

Lena was born in Moldova. She became an orphan early in her life…it’s not clear why. She grew up in an orphanage and developed a close friendship with another girl there…Sveta. As teenagers, they left the orphanage together and both accepted jobs that would take them to Ukraine. Hopes were high for a new life as they arrived in Ukraine.

And that’s when it started.

Their passports and papers were taken from them. They were threatened, beaten, and force to do manual labor out in the fields.

Days turned into weeks.
Weeks into months.
Months into years.

One always asks, “Why not run away? Why not fight? Why not do whatever it takes to free yourself?”

The answer is always fear. Fear that becomes so strong, so engrained into the daily life of a trafficked person, that sometimes rational thought barely exists. Traffickers will resort to a wide range of fear tactics. Fear of pain is the most widely used. Fear of being killed. Fear of starving. Fear of rape…or more rape. Fear of being forced to work more with less sleep. For many…its the fear of all of these.

For those who have family, the traffickers will often threaten the victims with telling their family that they’ve become prostitutes…creating a fear of shame. This is quite effective in many cultures. Others will threaten to harm their family members…or simply kill them. For those who do put up a fight, they’re often just drugged into submission. As a result…the victims stay where they are and take the abuse…and do what they’re told no matter what it is.

For years…and years…and years.

Just ask Lena and Sveta. After being trafficked into manual labor for several years, they thought it couldn’t get worse…but they were wrong. Very wrong.

Their handlers raped them in the fields.
And in the sheds.
And this just became their normal routine.

Lena isn’t sure how long it went on for, but the best calculation is around 15 years.

15 years…just think about that. 15 years.

As I was listening to her story being told, it wasn’t clear to me what finally prompted Lena and Sveta to try and run and escape. Maybe it was explained but I was still too focused on the 15 years. Regardless, they escaped and ran through the fields. Not even sure where they were, they happened across the Ukrainian/Moldavian border and were caught by police. With no papers, no possessions, and no believable story, the police held them for several days. Eventually, they were released to the custody of Beginning of Life in Moldova.

Lena liked it here. It was peaceful. The people liked her and seemed to care about her. She could learn new trades and rebuild her life. But Sveta saw it differently. Angry, aggressive, and demanding, Sveta couldn’t stay put. Her dominating personality over Lena prevented both of them from starting over…from forgiving…from learning what their new possibilities were. In order to protect Lena and the other girls in the home, Sveta was eventually asked to leave.

In her new temporary home, Lena is a new person. Formerly very hard, cold, and bitter at the world, she has softened. She’s a leader in the home. She’s joined a tech school and is learning a new trade. She has a part time job. Most importantly…she has become a Christian.

Lena lost 15 years of her life, but Beginning of Life gave her a second chance and a new future. Jesus will give her eternity.

As for Sveta…she has never come back to the house.
And nobody knows where she is.