Milena was born in Moldova and trafficked into sex slavery in Russia, where men and women are also trafficked in from Central Asia and North Korea for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Moldova is a country origin for the trafficking of women and children into European sex slavery. Its economic conditions fuel this trafficking. In 2000, the country’s GDP was 40 percent of its level in 1990. Unemployment remains high, especially among women. People are forced to look outside of the country for work and pimps take advantage: some victims are kidnapped but more often they answer job advertisements promising work and then are forced into sex slavery. Most Moldovan trafficking victims are taken to the Balkan countries, though other destinations include Asia, Turkey, Western Europe and the Middle East.
I grew up with my mother in the village of Costesti. I never knew my father. In 2003 Roma gypsies came to our village. A woman and daughter moved into a small house near mine. I was 17 at that time. I became friends with the gypsy girl, Dolina. My mother worked as a waitress in Chisinau, but I did not have a job, and I was not in school at that time. One day Dolina asked me if I wanted to go for work abroad as a nanny. She told me we could make $400 or $500 each month, and the work was not very difficult. I told her I would think about it. I did not tell my mother because I thought: “If I go, I can make more money than my mother and come back and surprise her.” Also, I thought my mother would not let me go abroad. A few days later, I decided to go.
The next morning when my mother left for work, I dressed up nice and left a note telling my mother I was going for work and would be back in a few weeks. Dolina took me to Chisinau on a bus and we stayed with her relatives there for a few days. They treated me very nice. Then Dolina, me, and a two gypsy men went in a car to Moscow. They spoke their language, so I could not understand what they were saying. At the border, they showed the guards documents and we passed through.
In Moscow, we went to an apartment building. Inside the apartment, there was one sofa, one table, and calendars of naked girls on the walls. The calendars were not written in Russian or Moldovan. I asked Dolina: “Will I baby-sit here?” She told me: “Yes, in this place.” “Where is the little girl,” I asked, “Where is the mother?” “They are visiting the neighbors,” Dolina told me, “There will be here in a minute.” At that time the men were looking at many documents. They told me: “A man will come soon. Do not be afraid if you see many men.”
I was alone in the apartment for a few hours and became afraid. Soon two Russian men came. They were friendly with me and asked me questions. They asked me how old I was and if I had had sex with men before. I asked them why they needed to know this, and they laughed. Then three other Russian men came with vodka and food. They put plastic on the sofa and we ate from it. I was very hungry, and I ate one sausage and bread. They made me get drunk, even though I had never had alcohol before. The room went spinning around me and I was very dizzy. The men laughed. One of the men touched my legs and breasts. I objected, but he hit me and said: “You will do what I say!”
They told me to undress. I refused, but they punched my ribs and undressed me. All five men raped me again and again. Two of the men forced themselves inside me at once, and I bled very badly. They said they were teaching me to be a prostitute. I cried, but they did not stop. When they finally left, the room was messy with empty bottles and smoke in the air. I felt very ill and wanted to go home.
In the morning, another man came and raped me. He told me, whoever comes I must have sex with them. I asked him where was Dolina. He said he did not know. He left me food and told me to shower. That day five men raped me. Each day a man gave me breakfast and dinner. Sometimes he brought me new clothes to wear. Everyday I was alone, except when the men came to rape me. Eight, ten, sometimes 15 men in a day. I do not know how long I was in that apartment. There was one small window, which was always locked. I could see from it that I came in the spring and left in winter.
One day, Dolina and the same two men who first brought me to Moscow came to the apartment. I could not believe it. I asked Dolina: “Why did you do this to me? Don’t you know these men sold me and raped me?” “I did not do this to you,” Dolina told me, “When we came I was told they only needed one girl for nanny and you would be sent back.” Dolina and the gypsy men drove me back to Moldova. We stayed in Chisinau for a few days with her relatives. This time they made me live separately. I ate alone, slept on the floor, and they made me wash myself separately. Dolina asked me: “Would you like to go home?” I said, “Yes.” She told me my mother had alerted the police I was missing, and she made me promise that I must say I was working with a friend in Chisinau this entire time.
Dolina took me home, but my mother was at work. I climbed in through the window, and when my mother returned, she could not believe I was back. She asked me where I had been for so long. I tried to lie, but I could not. I told her the truth. We went straight to the police and told them everything, but they said the gypsies had moved from Costesti long before. No one ever found Dolina or the other gypsy men.
Narrative as told to Siddharth Kara, November 1, 2005, in Costesti, Moldova.