Elena was a young Romanian girl of 15. One afternoon, as she was leaving school to go back home, her life brutally turned into a nightmare.
A car stopped abruptly, three men jumped out, pushed her inside and blindfolded her. Elena was frightened to death, and later said that she thought the men were going to kill her. After what seemed an eternity, the car stopped in front of a building, and the men pushed her inside ruthlessly. About fifteen to twenty young girls were already there.They were from Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. Threatening them with a gun, the men ordered them to remove all their clothes.
That day, many men came and went in front of the girls. They touched them, weighed them up. One caught Elena, dragged her into a room and raped her. He told her he “preferred to sample out the goods before buying.”
The next day, he brought her to a night club in Bosnia, where she was immediately forced to have sex with clients. On certain nights, she had as many as 17 clients, to pay back her new owner. Upon rare occasions, she found the courage to refuse to have sex with those men. Every time, she was violently beaten and drugged up.
Elena was used as a sexual slave for six months. Not once did the UN trafficking teams suspect her presence, despite numerous raids on the nightclub. And for good reason: her “owner” was hiding her.
After her liberation, Elena told us:
“If I had known what was coming, I’d have preferred to be killed”
Elena was freed by the S.T.O.P teams (Special Trafficking Operation Program) in 2001. Her testimony was gathered at the time.
Celhia with Elena (right)
On September 2009, I received a message on Facebook from a young girl called Irena. She wanted to be my friend. Before saying yes, I asked her to tell me who she was. Irena responded quickly:
'Hello, my name is Irena. I’m from Ukraine. We met in Sarajevo in 2001 during a trial. Do you remember me?'
I did not and I told her so. Again, she responded quickly:
'We met in a town called Brcko. I was a witness in a court case against X. I have a photo of us together. I will send it to you and it will bring memories back. I now live in Ukraine. I’m married and we have a family business.'
The photo came the next day with few words:
'Here is the photo. I had kept it with me during these past 8 years. I so wanted to find you again. For the difficult times I went through and for all you did, thank you. It is a happy day for me!'
To look at the photo almost brought me to tears.
This was one of the hundred of young girls we rescued in Bosnia, now living a happy life.”
- STOP Founder, Celhia De Lavarene