05 March 2009

MUMMY, COME HOME

by Oxana Kalemi

Harper Collins Publishers Australia. Adult Non-Fiction, Biographical. Paperback rrp $32.99

When I put down this book, I couldn’t stop the tears. Mummy, Come Home is such an incredible story that I had to keep reminding myself it was all true!

Oxana was born in 1976 in the Ukraine. At 14 years of age she is brutally raped by a number of men. At 16 she is pregnant and marries the baby’s father. By the time she is 20 she has three small children, a husband in gaol vowing to kill her when he is released and no way of providing for her family. Her father has died, her mother is an alcoholic and wants nothing to do with her and to make it even harder, her middle son is deaf.

Unable to cope and sick of combing through garbage for a meal, she borrows money to travel to Turkey where she finds a job working in a leather shop. Her sister-in-law looks after her children while she sends money home each week for them. Her sole focus is her children and the prospect of a better life for them all.

A mutual friend, Marianna, suggests she can make a lot more money working in a nightclub in Bosnia. Ignoring the advice of others, she travels with Marianna to start work. On the way Marianna fakes a passport problem so Oxana is duped into travelling with Marianna’s boyfriend the rest of the way. What happens next is hard to believe. No-one would want to believe it could be true but sadly, it is.

By June 2001 Oxana has been sold to sex traffickers by Marianna. She travels over land and water, through countries she has no idea of, is locked into small dirty rooms, shot at by police, raped by too many to remember, and put to work on the streets and in brothels all over Europe. Finally she arrives in England, smuggled in a crate.

In order to survive, she constantly reminds herself of her children. But the children’s lives have a sword hanging over them. The threat of harm to them is the ball and chain which forces her to continue as a prostitute. She might be na├»ve but she is determined. And she will do anything to ensure the safety of her children.

When Oxana finally escapes she comes into contact with the POPPY Project which is a specialist service in the UK for women trafficked into prostitution. With their help Oxana was granted asylum in the UK in 2005 and is now fighting to have her children join her from the Ukraine. Oxana Kalemi has had a horrible life. But through it all she has still managed to find rays of sunshine bursting through the black clouds.

In the UK alone it is estimated there are over 4,000 trafficked women being forced into prostitution. This is a MUST read, especially for those of us who think our world is safe and sure. It certainly isn’t the world I thought it was yesterday.

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