Music and Art at the Ukrainian Institute of America
|BRAMA: Social Issues in Ukraine||Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 20:19 EDT|
THE PROBLEM OF WHITE SLAVERY AT THE END OF THE SECOND MILLENNIUM
by Oksana Havrylenko
On October 27-30,1997, in the capital of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, over 120 women from 17 countries of Eastern Europe gathered to take part in a working seminar "Women against Violence and Rape".
The representatives from Azerbajian, Albania, Latvia, Uzbekistan and Belarus were not present because they didn't receive visas for entry into Yugoslavia. (In Belarus, The President outlawed the work of Soros Foundation, the organization financing this seminar.)
We, four women from Ukraine, were lucky enough to receive word from our friends in Yugoslavia, that while obtaining our visas and at the custom control in Belgrade airport, we not mention our participation at this conference. (Therefore, we came as tourists on a tourist visa.)
The Balkans met us with a cold wind, yellow leaves and ...cigarette smoke. It seems that here, everyone smokes - regardless of age and gender. It was explained later, that the population in this way attempts to protect itself from atmospheric pressure, which can change hourly.
The work on the seminar was started immediately upon arrival from the airport. There was no time for relaxation. For the women from the former Yugoslavia this seminar became a unique opportunity for communication after many years of isolation related to the horrible war, which brought grief, rape and violence. But what made us, Ukrainian women, come to this seminar in Belgrade? To answer this question I will quote a letter, which was written in Serbian. The letter came to Ukraine from Banja Luka (Serbian Republic). The author wished to remain anonymous.
The author gives the exact name of the "bars", "restaurants" and their addresses. Even more, she gives the names of the owners. The author explains, that these places flourish especially on the territories manned by the armies of the UN and NATO (eastern Croatia, Sarajevo...) The soldiers receive good pay and can afford to spend their free time in particular entertainment. But in Belgrade, where the war didn't reach and where there are no soldiers from the UN and NATO stationed, plenty of these "bars", where Ukrainian girls are forced to work exist. The Belgrade owner also receives big profits earnestly fulfilling the mafia's orders.
In the Belgrade bars, the Ukrainian girls are beaten, forced into prostitution, but at least they don't kill them. Here they protect them with weapons in their hands, and don't even let them leave to see a doctor. They do not spend money on abortions. In case a girl gets pregnant, she is forced to work until her fifth month, and then she is thrown out into the street. Some of these girls successfully run away. But the road home runs through the Belgrade prison for foreigners. They wind up on the streets of a foreign city without any documents.
The road of the Ukrainian girl into the sex industry on the territory of the former Yugoslavia is typical. It begins with an ad in the newspaper, an unexpected meeting on a train or in a restaurant in her native city with a proposition to work as a maid, dancer or waitress in Italy. But with this it is explained that it is not possible to obtain a visa into Italy and that they will have to go through the territory of former Yugoslavia and afterwards by ferry boat to Italy. The seducers take the girls first to Uzhorod, where they may spend a week or two until they form a group of 10. They are then taken by tram to the mountain cities of Zehed or Debrecen (at the border with Yugoslavia) where they spend 2-3 days awaiting a bus heading south. Here the native seducers have good contacts with their Yugoslavian "colleagues" and then in tight cooperation transport the girls to the city of Novy Sad (territory of Yugoslavia, capital of autonomous republic of Voyevideno. Here they remove all the documents from the girls and transport them to various bars.
The worst is to wind up in Bosnia-Hercegovina or eastern Croatia. Just until recently this area was filled with sounds of war with blood flowing but today a relative calm is kept by the armies of the UN and NATO. ( In these territories, Ukraine has no government representatives.) Here the girls suffer a difficult fate. One who was able to escape from this hell, related that in her group of six, one girl categorically refused to work as a prostitute, They beat and tortured her and she still didn't give in. They then took her out into the field and before everyone they slit her throat. Bosnia and Hercegovina are divided into 3 areas: Serbs, Croats and Muslims. There are no crossovers between them. The Mafia pays bribes in transporting these girls, understanding full well that it will be impossible for them to leave on their own from this territory. They relate that one girl from Chernivtsi was aided by Russian soldiers and escaped by jumping from a second story balcony only in her corset into a military vehicle with UN insignia. They rushed her out, dressed her in a military uniform and helped her get to Belgrade.
Area newspapers reported, that the girls that wind up in these territories can be sold and resold by the mafia from one bar to the next for 7 years. And only then when they are fully "used up" they are thrown out into the streets and let go. Recently a 42 year old, who has a 17 year old son in Ukraine, had been released. She related that she was enlisted to work as a maid in Italy after she lost her job in a factory.
A widely used method of dealing with the uncooperative and difficult girls is to sell them to the Muslim sector. They relate that so far no one has escaped from Muslim hands and therefore their fate is unknown.
Military actions in the Balkans were essentially in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia. The war generally omitted Serbia which is now a part of Yugoslavia. Notwithstanding the relative peaceful condition in Serbia and a comparatively higher socialist standard of living, there are villages in the southern mountainous part of Serbia which had not yet been electrified and were always isolated from civilization. The climate here is very harsh. The youth does not remain in this area and the women are so heavily overworked that they have a low survival rate. Here the majority is male, whose attitude towards women is radically different from Ukrainian attitudes.
The woman is considered on the level of a slave, who is required to work for the man from daybreak till night and who cannot even sit at the table with the man. The main rule of the Serbian man is: "Woman is not human." It is understandable that under these conditions most women die at a young age.
One shrewd entrepreneur formed a company called "Love You". This company is involved in enlisting Ukrainian women and girls to marry Serbian men, who live in the mountainous regions of southern Serbia. They say that this program of marriage received unofficial approval of the Yugoslavian government and the blessing of the Serbian Patriarch Paul, because it proposes to renew the gene pool of the nation. Obviously, this firm has enough profits to place TV advertisements for enlistment of women from the Orthodox world especially Ukraine. Beginning in the spring of 1997, the city of Cherkass and the oblast (region) had the opportunity to view several romantic TV advertisements proposing marriage in the picturesque mountain region of southern Serbia, with similar ads in the local newspapers.
Some women were brave enough to make radical changes in their personal lives. We cannot condemn them in this. We are all aware that life in Ukraine at this time is difficult and especially so for women. But if our women knew the fate that awaited them they would make all efforts to remain at home.
One resident of Cherkass was able, through a miracle, to escape the clutches of her new Serbian husband. But now she has a problem with the director of this marriage agency who threatens her with death if she doesn't compensate him monetarily for breaking the contract. This "businessman" threatens to find her in Ukraine if she manages to get across the border of Yugoslavia. This woman wound up without any documents or help on the streets of Belgrade.
The whole problem of white slavery needs immediate action by the government of Ukraine. Laws are necessary to designate all the individuals engaged in the white slave trade as criminals.
Ukrainian human rights organizations set as their goal to develop a wide campaign against the exportation of women and girls from Ukraine. In addition to this, they are striving to draw the attention of the society for the necessity of returning these women and girls, with their consent, to Ukraine and also to aid the other victims of this international trade of human beings. These human rights organizations are looking into the problem of white slavery in the context of gross violation of human rights.
It is understood, that on the level of non-governmental organizations this problem will not be resolved. Therefore, we appeal to Parliamentary representatives, government representatives, also representatives of civil society to find ways to a quick resolution of this problem.
Aside from this, we appeal to the President of Ukraine, Leonid Danylovych Kuchma, to help the girls of Ukraine, who against their will wound up on the territories of Yugoslavia to return home.
All those interested in commenting and or aiding in this problem, please contact: