We left Anna on a bus where the driver picked up a Chinese man, and handed over the passports of Anna and several other girls. They knew they were in trouble. I wrote Part 1 of Anna’s Story of being taken and sold into slavery as an attempt to get stories just like this one out there. I may have made most of those details up, but this still happens for sure. Anna had tried to secure a job as a Nanny in the US and was ready to move when her ride to the airport went the wrong way, and that’s where we’ll pick back up.
I’d been sitting on the bus for hours, alone. It was hot. It was stuffy. I was scared. We all were. Scared didn’t cut it. I was petrified. I couldn’t move. I knew I should make a run for it the next time we stopped to fuel, but my muscles wouldn’t do what my brain willed them to do. I watched in horror though while Katarina, brave as she was, tried to do that very thing… run the next time we stopped. The Chinese man we picked up shot her three times, and pocketed the amount of money I can only assume was what would have been needed to keep her alive. So I sat. I stared out the window and watched as the scenery changed. I knew this trip was going to hold changes in scenery, but I expected to be in the air right now, headed for some place called Manhattan. Buildings as far as the eyes can see. My heart breaks every time I think about it. I try to stop thinking about it, it’s clear that it’s not going to happen, but I can’t. The pictures I saw on those ads keep floating through my head.
The bus kept moving for hours, days even. I lost track. The sun set and rose again in there somewhere I’m certain, but I don’t really remember. We eventually crossed the border into Laos. We arrived in what I assume was Vientiane, the capital. I didn’t know why we were there, what was going to happen to us, but I know I wanted to die. It couldn’t be good. My passport had been sold, and I was hours from my home, my family… and with no way of telling them why no money would be coming from America. They’d be bound to assume I took off, started loving my life in America, and kept the profit for myself. My Mother would be heartbroken.
We finally stopped. It was near dark again, and we were all yanked from our seats on the bus. I looked so out of place; we all did. I felt so white. So white. My skin is so white. I remember thinking it over and over again. “They all know why I’m here. They know I’m not visiting. They know.”
More money changed hands, and I was shoved into the backseat of a car in an alley. I didn’t get a chance to say anything at all to the girls I’d met, even so briefly, on the bus in St. Petersburg. I fought, I didn’t want to get in the car. I would rather die. I screamed that in Russian at the man trying to force me in, and he slapped me across the face. I demanded to be let go. I told them they couldn’t do this. I screamed that slavery is illegal and that they’ll pay for this. They hit me again and said something I didn’t understand. I’m sure it meant I needed to keep my mouth shut or I’d pay. I figured they were probably right; I stopped talking.
I was dragged back out of the vehicle at an enormous house. I don’t know how long I’d been in the car for. I was stunned. For a moment I was speechless, but it didn’t last long. A woman came out to greet me. She spoke quickly and incomprehensibly in Laotian. Or at least, I assume it was Laotian. I didn’t speak it. With my hands tied behind my back, I began to rail at her, at anyone who would listen.
“I don’t belong here! I need to go to America!” I screamed at them. They stood and watched, almost amused. It made me sick, and it made me even angrier. They took me into the house and shoved me in a dark room, motioned that that’s where I’d be, untied my hands, and locked the door behind them. It reeked of uncleanliness. I missed my Mother so much. My family. My siblings. I pleaded with God. I would never again complain about the circumstances we lived in in Russia if He could just send me back home. I eventually fell asleep on the wretchedly disgusting bed in the corner of the room. I was cold and damp, and I cried myself into what would be the first of many very fitful nights’ sleep.
I woke up on my own with a faint shimmer of light piercing the darkness of my life through a crack in the concrete wall. No wonder it was damp. The night air had been seeping into what I could only assume was my new room. I begged God to wake me up from this dream. This nightmare. No, that’s not even strong enough — this night terror.
Soon there was a voice yelling at me from the other side of the door, and a hand pounding against the wood. I could tell by the tone of voice… “GET UP!” I didn’t need to speak Laotian for that one. The door unlocked, and in the doorway stood a large man and a grotesque woman. The woman grabbed me by the wrist, led me to a supply closet, showed me the cleaning materials, and shoved me in. I wasn’t given much instruction. I knew though, that between what I had seen happen to Katarina and how unforgiving they’d been so far, I needed to just keep my head down and do my job.
I walked into a bathroom to clean it, and saw one of the girls from the bus. It gave me hope and filled me with anguish at the same time. We were both stuck. We whispered to each other in Russian; we’d had the same dream. We’d been headed for America, ready to support our families. Kalina and I would smile hollow, empty smiles at each other for months to come, knowing that at least we had each other.
I realized quickly that I was a servant in this household. Or at least, they thought of me as such. I was their slave. They would beckon, and they would bark orders at me in broken, barely comprehensible Russian or in Laotian. Regardless, I had trouble understanding, and when I didn’t do things the right way, they beat me. My owner spoke Russian fluently. He would threaten me all the time, telling me that if I didn’t do what was asked of me, told to me, he would find my family and have them killed. I became so numb that once I told him I didn’t care what he did to my family. If they were dead I’d have no reason to live and I would kill myself. That night was the last time I spoke up for myself, as I had never known pain like that before. I became so numb and so cut off from who I had been, so excited to go to America and help my family, that even when the men of the house started coming to visit me at night, I didn’t care. I did exactly what everyone wanted, all the time, whenever they wanted. For as long as they wanted. My life was no longer my own. I cooked and cleaned all day, and I barely slept at night for what they wanted.
One morning I can remember waking up and looking at myself in a mirror as I cleaned a bathroom. I saw very pale, very white skin. I hated myself. I knew it was what made me so desirable to everyone in this country; I was different, exotic. It made me loathe everything I was. I had lost track of how long it had been since I’d been taken from my family, and there was no end in sight. No one even knew where I was. No one could help me, because no one cared about the wrong that was being done here. No one but me, Kalina, and the other girls whose names I didn’t even know. We didn’t speak. We just looked at each other sadly with eyes that knew.
To find out how Anna gets rescued, make sure you follow my blog and wait patiently (I can’t write it until I have the information) for Part 3!
Make sure you check out The Exodus Road for more information about real-life stories of rescue from slavery, as well as ways you can help. One way you can do that is by checking out NightLight International, an organization that provides jobs for women who are prostitutes but want other work, and they also work in the counter-trafficking community in Bangkok, Thailand. NightLight is a Christian organization that’s been a presence in Bangkok for the last eight years. Check out Exodus Road’s post called Celebrate Hope, where they talk about the coalition they’ve made with NightLight. Exciting stuff. Unfortunately, the giveaway on there closes in an hour; sorry I didn’t get to writing this sooner. But still, head on over to NightLight’s website and check out some of the fantastic stuff there! I know I myself am a big jewelry junkie, and who wouldn’t want to support a great cause by buying something like this gorgeous bracelet from an organization that supports ending global slavery instead of from Ardene.