Masha was trafficked to Germany from Russia and enslaved in sex work when she was 24 years old. She was kept prisoner and her passport was withheld from her to prevent her from escaping, but was later arrested in a police raid, which gave her the opportunity to return to Russia. Masha recalls that the German police did not try to understand her situation but simply treated her as a criminal. Another narrative from Masha is available in the archive.
My name is Masha, and I am from Southern Russia. In 1996, when I was twenty-four, I visited St. Petersburg. I was preparing to return home to my village, waiting at the train station one day, when a woman approached me. She started talking with me about life problems, encouraging me to share mine with her. We had a nice talk, and the woman suggested that she could help me to get work somewhere abroad. She told me she had an acquaintance in Germany, a woman who could connect me with a family for whom I could be a housemaid.
I was issued a tourist visa to Spain and left on a bus tour of Europe in February 1997. I was supposed to get off the bus in Germany. There I was met by a woman named Geanna, who had a flat in Hamburg. She took me to an apartment there, where I met about 20 other girls who had come from Russia and Poland. Most of them were younger than me. After a few days, Geanna told me she could not find a family who would hire me as a housemaid. She said I owed her 2,000 German marks (about $1,000 USD) and said that I would earn that money by providing sexual services to men. I was shocked.
I was afraid to say no because she had taken my passport, and I didn't know any German. She and her husband, who was a drug dealer, threatened to beat me if I tried to leave, and said if I went to the police, I would be deported. They said no one would care what happened to me and no one would help. Girls who would not cooperate were taken down to the basement of the bar, where they were beaten across their backs, where it would not show but would still be painful, possibly causing damage to their kidneys. I was afraid they would use drugs and alcohol to force me to prostitute myself – I had seen other girls given cocaine and beaten into submission. Geanna tried to tell me that it didn't happen, but her husband threatened that I would suffer the same if I did not go along with it.
Downstairs from our apartment, there was a bar where we were to find clients for sex. I tried not to attract attention by dressing modestly and sitting by myself. The girls who had come to Germany knowing they would be prostitutes were regularly beaten. Our passports were kept behind the bar, but we were afraid to take them because big guards supervised us all the time. The place had surveillance cameras on the bar and on the road so they could see clients or police coming.
I was kept there for two months, and never made much profit. I had only a tourist visa, good for one month, but Geanna told me she could prepare documents that would say I was married to a German man. She would do this so I would have to stay longer and work for her. I refused; so instead, she sold me to a Greek pimp who was operating in Germany.
Shortly after that, the police raided the bar and I was taken, along with the other girls, to the station. I was not given a chance to explain what had happened to me – that I never wanted to be there, that I was tricked, threatened and intimidated into staying. Instead, I was charged with prostitution and held in a jail cell. I was issued an order to leave Germany, or face deportation. The Greek pimp then gave me money for a ticket back to Russia. Some would say that he took pity on me, but in reality this helped him to avoid being arrested and charged with pimping. He was never charged, and the German police never attempted to do anything about the network of people who had trafficked me – from the woman who recruited me, to the agent who got me the visa, to the Russian woman pimp and her husband.
Narrative as told to the Hearing on the Trafficking of Women and Children, Subcommittee of Near Eastern Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 4, 2000