Despite a terrible experience of being tricked into forced prostitution once before, Katerina, from Ukraine, was convinced by an acquaintance that a woman named "Olga" would bring her to Turkey for legitimate work this time. Katerina believed Olga's promise that she would not be sold to a brothel. But arriving in Turkey, she discovered that she had again been sold to sex traffickers and pimps. This interview was conducted on July 13, 2004, and has been translated from Russian into English.
… At 6 o'clock in the morning [an acquaintance, Elena] woke up [my friend and me] and said that we were going to meet Olga. Then she came, and Elena introduced us to her and asked her to take us to Turkey to work. ….
What happened next?
We were seated in the bus and driven to Odessa. Olga barely spoke to the people in the bus. [When we got there,] we left the bus, took our luggage and headed for the sea port. We waited there the whole day. She bought tickets for us. At around 6 or 7 p.m. we boarded the ship and then had some sleep as our trip was long. We slept through the night, woke up in the morning, had food, and wandered around the ship. We went to the disco in the evening. We arrived in Turkey the next morning.
Was Olga nice?
She treated us quite well. She kept coming and asking, "How are you, girls?"
How did you feel as you were leaving?
I don't know. I can't say I was very happy. I worried a bit because we were heading for a foreign country. We hoped everything would be OK.
What happened when you got to the port?
The ship arrived. We left the ship. There was a long wait at passport control. My friend and I were among the first through passport control. [Olga] asked us to wait outside when we got through customs. We exited the building with one girl from Moldova who was traveling with us. She said, "Olga asked us to wait for her and not to go anywhere." She waited with us. Olga got through customs after about 20 minutes. She asked us to wait for a while. Then she approached us and said, "Come with me." We followed her and crossed the road. There were some men at a table outside a café. She brought us to those men. She talked to them in Turkish … took money from them and counted it. I saw her counting the money. [Then she] said, "Go with them, you will work for them," and she left. We got in their car, and they drove us to Ankara.
How much money did Olga get from them?
I don't know. I guess a lot, as I saw a lot of money [in her hands]. …
What went through your mind when the money was exchanged?
At that point I guessed that we were sold. … She said, "Don't worry, everything is fine. Go with those men. They're good people, don't worry." We guessed that she was selling us, but we hoped we were wrong. We hoped that we had misunderstood things. We hoped that they might have owed her money and that's why they gave her the money.
When we arrived in Ankara, we were taken to an apartment. … It was quite good, quite big. We noticed some ladies' belongings: cosmetics, nightgowns. We started worrying. Then we 100 percent realized that we were sold. We asked them about it. They said, "Don't worry. We had ladies working for us before. They went home. Don't worry. Everything will be fine." They treated us well at the beginning.
Tell me about the first night you had to work for the pimp.
… I was awoken in the evening by a man. He told me to get dressed because I was going to go to work. I asked him, "Why am I going to work now?" He said, "Get dressed and you'll see." I washed my face. He asked me to get dressed quickly. I asked, "Why am I working in the evening?" He said, " That's the kind of job it is -- get dressed. We bought you, we paid a lot of money for you. You have to work off the money we spent on you." I said in a polite way that I am not going anywhere. He started to yell at me. I had to get dressed and go with him.
[Then] we went somewhere in the car. … He took me to a hotel. It was a nightmare. [The client] simply raped me. I screamed and tried to run away. He was so cruel. I pleaded with him and begged for mercy. He laughed at me and continued what he was doing. I kept going to the toilet in order to try to get away from him.
When I got back to the apartment I told my friend everything that happened. … We were thinking of ways to escape. … I managed to sock away $100 in order to escape. They noticed that money and confiscated it. We could not escape without money. They kept us under their surveillance. It was impossible to escape. …
In about three days another girl came. She had been working for him for one month already. He had sold her, and she came back to collect her luggage. We asked her, "Why did you come back here? You should have run away home!" She said she hoped to collect her luggage. But this man had given her luggage to the person he sold her to. She escaped, and hurt her leg when she was jumping from the 2nd or 3rd floor. She told us everything that happened to her within that month. She asked us not to tell him anything and pretend we know nothing. She said he might even kill her if he finds out. ….
What did you tell your pimp? What did you do?
We kept saying that we didn't want to work. I asked them if we could leave after two months, as our visa was for two months only? He said, "No, you will stay longer, I will extend your visa." I started crying. He said, "You won't get out of here soon." …
How many clients did you have to service a day? Do you think the clients knew you were being held against your will?
There were up to three clients per day. The girl that came later urged us not to tell clients anything. She said there were some cases when clients told the pimps, and the pimps would then beat the girls. She urged me to be quiet. The clients had not been that kind. They didn't care. They like Ukrainian girls there. They don't care.
They were strict. The pimp didn't beat us, but he shouted at us quite often. When we didn't want to work he was very angry with us.
What was the most difficult thing about getting through this, to you?
The most difficult was the work, to go to work with the client. It was very scary. … It was awful waiting for the moment that he would come and tell us we had to go with him. We were hiding like rabbits.
We talked about asking clients for money in order to collect money for escape. When we asked them, they refused. They kept saying that they paid money to the pimp, and they were sure he shared the money with us. They kept saying, "Why should we give you extra money?" When we told them that we were not given money at all, clients didn't believe us. They said "You are lying, it is not possible."
Director's Note: Katerina told us off camera that she had been tricked once before into believing that she was going to Turkey for legitimate work. The boyfriend of a friend of hers was the one who convinced her to go and then sold her to a pimp when she got there.
Can you tell us the time before when you went to Turkey?
It was about four years ago. My friend had a 35-year-old boyfriend. I was visiting her when she told me she was going abroad with him to work. He suggested I go to work with them. I agreed. … We arrived in Istanbul. We were met by one guy and taken to his apartment. There were a lot of girls in the apartment, around five. They worked for him.
… I worked for a while and found out that I was pregnant. I asked him to send me home. When he found out that I was pregnant he said, "You won't go anywhere, we'll get you an abortion here." I had to keep working. I cried, asked him to let me go. I said, "I don't need any money, just buy me the ticket back home." I was very sick. He didn't listen to me. I worked till I was six months pregnant. When my pregnancy affected my work with his clients, he sent me home.
What were the conditions of work there at that time? How did you endure working pregnant?
It was very difficult to work. I was forced to do it. I suffered a lot but I didn't have a choice. When I was in serious pain, I cried and refused to go anywhere. Then he would beat me. I kept crying, but he still beat me. There was a threat of miscarriage. It was so painful. He was buying painkillers for me. I worked for him for four months. He gave me $400. He said, "I give you this money because you are going to have a baby." I earned $400 in four months.
It seems that this is very hard for you to talk about, is that true?
What gave you the strength to endure it?
I don't even know. I think I'm probably a strong woman. The girls were even trying to help me, they would offer themselves instead of me. They felt sorry for me.
How many clients did you see a day?
Between three and five a day.
The clients knew you were pregnant?
Yes, they knew. I used to tell clients, asking them not to torture me. When I told them that, they complained to the pimp saying, "Why do you force a pregnant woman to work? Send her back to Ukraine." He used to beat me for that.
What was your worst moment at that period?
I don't even know. I guess, every day was. … The worst was when clients beat us. Sometimes, when I was sick and exhausted, the client beat me.
After this happened, what made you go back a second time? Weren't you scared?
I keep asking myself why I went back the second time. I going over it in my head -- why did I do it? On one hand, with all the time that passed since the first time I was trafficked, the painful memories have kind of faded a bit. And on the other hand, when I talked to the woman about this job offer, I simply trusted her. She convinced me that everything would be fine and that I wouldn't be sold as I was the first time. She persuaded me that I wouldn't be sold again by saying things like, "No, no. You know me. I wouldn't do something like that."
Do you blame Olga for the second time?
Yes. I think she is guilty. As far as I understood, she knew where she was bringing people. If she did not want to deal with that kind of business, she wouldn't do that. She clearly does it for the money.
How do you think these two experiences have affected your life?
I think that they affected my life in many ways, physically as well as psychologically. I cannot say I trust people. I think I became more cruel. Not really cruel. I used to be softer. I am less trusting right now.
I keep thinking about it. I cannot believe that happened. I lost my self-respect because of that experience. I used to be more optimistic before. Not like now. I never dreamt of being in the situation I was in. I can't stop thinking about it. Those images continue to haunt me.
Why do you think the traffickers get away with this?
It happens because this is the easiest way to make the biggest profit. People do it because of money. They sell people in order to make money. That is the easiest way of earning a lot of money for those people.
Why are women like yourself so vulnerable?
They believe that there are plenty of jobs abroad. They think they can have any job they want and that they can earn a lot of money. Everyone thinks that if you go to work abroad, money falls from the sky on you. They think it is easy to earn money abroad.
What do you see in your future?
I hope for the better. I hope everything will be fine in the future. I hope my child will go to school and I will find a job.