Ana, 27 years old: “At the boarding school I felt better than at home. I always had to be strong”

UNDP in Moldova
Oct 26, 2021 · 7 min read
Ana, from Tiraspol city, survived domestic violence

She is only 27 years old, but she feels that she has lived for a whole century. She was left by her own mother to freeze in the snow, assaulted by her stepfather, raised in a boarding school, lived in hunger, beaten and ended up in a “darkness” from which few return. Despite the misfortune, she could rebuild her life.

She is Ana*, a young woman from Tiraspol, who learned to survive the domestic violence from her parents, and then in her own family. The terrible experience did not break her though, instead it made her more empathetic, as she is taking care of her sister’s child, in addition to her daughter:

“I am renting a house in Tiraspol, together with my daughter and nephew. I grew up in boarding school, I have no profession. At 16, I started working to support my family, then I got married. Now I work where I can — I sew something to order, I do the cleaning, I wash the floors, I do anything I can and I’m not ashamed at all.

Since I was a kid, I have always hated my childhood. I was born into a poor, disadvantaged family. My parents were divorced, my mother had a concubine. They used to drink and make scandals, and I hid under the table out of fear. When my brother and sister were born, I had to take care of them. Often, when my parents got drunk, they would toss me outside, even in the frost, in the snow. I once had frostbite on my hands and feets.

I hated my mother. One day when she was drunk, she threw a knife at me. I defended myself with my elbow and I received a deep wound. I thought it was better to live in a boarding school among strangers than with her. When my mother disappeared, my brother and sister remained in my care. I was about 7 years old at the time. I would bring water from the well and wash their clothes by hand, because I didn’t have diapers. I did everything around the house.

I hated my childhood so much … Sometimes I wanted to stop living. Grandpa lived with us, he was sick, he was vomiting blood and he couldn’t give us everything we needed. Sometimes I ran away from home. Once I climbed a big tree and fell asleep. I dreamed I was in bed and that’s how I fell. As I fell, I got scratched by the branches. When I got home, my grandfather told me that I should pull myself together and take care of my younger siblings, because I am older and that is my duty. And that got into my head.

I remember how one evening, after taking a bath, my mother’s concubine came to me and sexually assaulted me. I got scared and started screaming that he wanted to rape me. My mother got angry and started banging my head against the wall, shouting at me that I was talking nonsense. I just wanted her to protect me even more. Since then I have grown to hate her even more.

I used to walk through gardens, stealing fruits and vegetables to feed my younger siblings. Back then, I thought I was obligated to do that. Yes, I stole and I should be ashamed of it, but I’m not because I had to feed my family. We were very poor and had nothing to eat. We lived on our grandfather’s pension, which was not enough for us.

Then we were assigned to a boarding school. I felt really good there. I always had to be strong. I was fighting with both the boys and the girls. I wanted no one to touch me. After the boarding school, my biggest nightmare began. When I got out of there, everyone was mean, I couldn’t trust anyone.

In a short time, I got a job at the “Floare” factory in Bender, sewing woolen slippers. It was good there, I rented an apartment and I felt like I was starting to live like other people. But my sister got pregnant. A baby boy was born and I had to take care of him. I bought him everything he needed and I took him from the maternity ward. He soon became very ill. My sister didn’t want to take him to the hospital as she didn’t care about his fate. Then I went to the hospital with him and asked her to tell the factory that I would be absent from work. She didn’t tell them and I was fired for this reason.

In a few months I arrived with my nephew at the Maternal Center in Căușeni. I obtained temporary custody of the boy and raised him until the age of five.

At the age of 18, a friend of mine introduced me to my future husband, Oleg, a police officer by profession. As I found out later, he had “bought” me from her for fifty rubles.

We went to work together in Russia. When I lived there, he simply locked me in the house and didn’t let me go anywhere. I told him I want to work as we agreed, but he told me to stay home and cook for him.

Then I got pregnant. I was afraid to talk to my husband about it. And one day, when his older sister called Skype and said she was expecting a baby, I broke the good news. He slammed the laptop and started hitting me. He bought a bunch of pregnancy tests and forced me to do them all. And all, of course, were positive. Then he took me to Moscow for an abortion. As the doctors told me, it was already late, the deadline wasn’t more than three months. I told the doctors I did not want to have an abortion and instead to send me back to Moldova. His father gave me money for the trip and so I returned home. I stayed with his mother and worked in the fields, picking potatoes.

After a few months, Oleg also returned from Moscow. At his father’s insistence, we registered our marriage. Then the scandals and the humiliations began. At one point, I told him that I could no longer bear this joke of a life and that I wanted to go to the maternal center in Căușeni. He got angry and started beating me, then he threw me out into the street. It was winter. Bypassers saw me crying and called the police. In the morning I packed my bags and went with my daughter to a shelter in Bender. Then I was transferred to Căușeni, then to Chișinău.

I raised my daughter alone. My husband didn’t help me with anything and he wasn’t even interested in the child. When my daughter grew up, I told my husband that I wanted a divorce and to pay the alimony. He beat me once again and then took my baby.

I addressed to the «Детство детям» (“Childhood for kids”) foundation and the «Взаимодействие» (“Interaction”) organization in Tiraspol, where they gave me assistance. They went with me and, with great difficulty, helped me return my child.

Now I live with my daughter and nephew in Tiraspol. I took my nephew home with me because he was 11 years old and he still didn’t go to school, and he was living poorly. Both children are in first grade. Now, a psychologist is working with the boy, because he probably endured hunger while he lived without me. And even now he’s still hiding food under the cupboards. He often asks me if I love him.

I’m not ashamed of anything. My main priority is the wellbeing of the children”.

The CSO “Interaction” from Tiraspol, together with other partner organizations, offers Ana and her children psychological, legal and humanitarian assistance, and help perfecting identity documents and social allowances.

The One UN Joint Action “Cross-river Support for Human Rights”, funded by Sweden, strengthens the institutional capacities of the CSOs “Interaction” and «Детство детям» from the left bank of the Nistru river, which are members of the Platform for Sustainable Community Development.

The One UN Joint Action is implemented in partnership by six UN agencies: IOM, UNDP, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNICEF and UNODC.

* The real name of the protagonist has been changed to ensure their confidentiality.

Access here the article in Russian.

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