The Story of Lena

You can’t use my real name. Or even the name they gave me in China. I don’t even know what my name should be. I am not the same person who left this village two years ago. My body came back but my soul is somewhere else. No one recognizes me anymore and everyone who comes to see me.... I think they come to stare at me because I am dirty now. I am filthy inside and my soul is empty. I don’t know if I can live this way. My mother comes to my room and says ‘Lena, you were such a friendly person. I miss you the way you were,’ and I say, ‘Mama, I am different. Something died in me. I think it was happiness.’

I never thought this would happen to me. I was sixteen when they came to the village. They looked very nice and offered jobs to the girls here in China as cooks. The program looked very good. Three months of cooking school with all expenses paid. Then guaranteed work for one year in an expensive Chinese hotel. Nine other girls and I signed their contracts. They didn’t give us time to read them or take them to our parents. I thought our parents would have to sign because we were still in school but they said it was no problem. They were in a hurry and we signed their papers before all the places were gone.

We were so excited when we got our tickets and visas to China and the nice people who came to the village escorted us to the plane. Our families thought we would make good money and be able to help at home. But then, everything was different. Our escorts on the flight treated us like we were criminals. In China they burned our passports.

When Masha tried to fight them, they beat her and raped her in front of us. There was no cooking school or jobs. There was only a whore house. The first day in China they took us to a morgue to show us the bodies of two girls who had jumped out of the window to try and get away. They told us there was no way out until we had worked as prostitutes long enough to pay back our debts for tickets and expenses. But then they kept all the money.

I am home because our brothel was raided by police six months later and I was deported. You might think I am lucky but I am not. Someday they will come back for me and if I do not go, they will kill me and maybe my family. Once they come to your village and you sign their paper your life is over. I wanted to be a teacher.

Picture of a sad girl