Born in Moldova, Maria was trafficked into domestic servitude in Ukraine in her late thirties, where her passport was withheld and she was beaten when she tried to leave. She eventually returned to Moldova without pay. Ukraine is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children predominantly subjected to forced labor and to a lesser extent, to sex trafficking. A small number of foreign nationals, including those from Moldova, Russia, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Azerbaijan, are subjected to forced labor in Ukraine in a variety of sectors including construction, agriculture, manufacturing, domestic work, the lumber industry, nursing, and street begging; experts report the number of foreign victims in Ukraine has fallen dramatically since the beginning of hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
I was born in Costesti and have only lived here and in Chisinau. My father left when I was young, and my mother died when I was 20. I did not attend school and worked odd-jobs since that time. One year ago I saw a job listing in Makler for nanny and cleaning in Ukraine. The job said it will pay $400 each month. I called the number and took the job.
One Ukrainian lady named Olga arranged my job. She made for me a passport and bought me a bus ticket. When I traveled to Ukraine, a man named Stephan met me at the bus station. He took me to the home of a man and woman near the Black Sea. They were maybe 40 years old and had three children. Their home was very big and they forced me to cook and clean from very early in the morning until late at night. They did not give me a break, and when I asked to go back to Moldova, they beat me. They kept my passport and locked me in a small room at night. I slept on a mat on the floor and they only let me eat the food they did not finish.
I was very sad those days, but I did their work so the man would not beat me. His name was Victor, and he was very big. Sometimes if he did not like the food I cooked, he removed his belt and beat me with it. If I was bleeding or very ill, he would not call a doctor and made me keep working. In my room at night I cried often and prayed to my mother to send help.
One day, after ten months, the family sent me back to Moldova. I asked them for money for my work, but they paid me nothing. I have been in Costesti four months since then and cannot find work. In Moldova there is no work for us, but I will never again take a job from Makler.
Narrative as told to Siddharth Kara, November 1, 2005, in Costesti, Moldova.