Hostages of the System: “If I had given birth to an illegitimate child in Chechnya, they would have killed me”

“No one had been in the detention centre in Kętrzyn for as long as I. When we left, my daughter was almost two years old. I was locked up and without any hope of going crazy,” says a Chechen, who fled to Poland because she didn’t want to have an abortion.

When I was sixteen, they kidnapped me to force me into marriage. This is how it’s done in Chechnya – they grabbed my hands, carried me into the car, and put me inside. I didn’t know what was happening, it took place so quickly. Now I think it had all been planned behind my back. My mother had been long dead, and my father was drunk all the time, as if he wasn’t there at all. The older brothers probably wanted to get me out of the house, so they made a deal with my aunt.

He was an adult, thirty-three years old. I was a work and sex machine. Sometimes I managed to go to school, but not very often, because I had to clean, cook and take care of his disabled son. After a year my aunt, my father’s sister, visited me. I was pale and very weak. Auntie went to talk to my husband’s mother. It all turned into a big row and in the end she took me away from there. I got a divorce.

He told me to have an abortion

A divorced woman doesn’t have a chance to remarry in Chechnya, but I was happy when, years later, I met someone I believed to be a wonderful man. I knew he had a family, but I was hoping that we would at least get a local Muslim ceremony. When I got pregnant, he told me to have an abortion. He threatened to hurt me if I didn’t. I couldn’t go to the police, as the police is against ones like me.

It’s strictly forbidden to have a child born out of wedlock in our country. It’s a greater offence to have a bastard than to have an abortion. It’s immoral and so embarrassing for the family that I should die for it. In our country, women are killed for it, and it’s believed to be normal. So normal that no one is surprised when such a woman disappears, and no one looks for her or reports it.

Officially, these are disappearances, although everyone knows it was a husband, a father or a brother who killed them driven by shame. This is the only way to wash away the dishonour. I had to run away before my brothers discovered that I was pregnant. I was also afraid of the father of my unborn daughter, Sofia.

I was four months pregnant when I came to Europe, to Poland. There were a lot of people on the border in Brest. My fifth attempt at crossing the border proved successful.

I covered my stomach with a sweatshirt

They took me to a foreigners’ centre, I shared a room with three other girls. In the centre I met a woman who said that I was very similar to a certain Ramzan. I replied reflexively that this was my brother’s name. I just said it, I didn’t think about it. It wasn’t until later that I got scared. It turned out that her daughter had married him.

I have a big, wide sweatshirt with a zipper. From then on, I wore it all the time so that no one would see my stomach. It wasn’t easy to hide, because I wasn’t alone in the room. My stomach was growing, and my fear grew by the week. Finally I escaped to Germany. There were other women who went there, and I joined them.

This account is a part of the “Hostages of the System: Stories from guarded centres for foreigners” campaign carried out by the Association for Legal Intervention as part of the “No Detention Necessary” initiative.

In Germany nobody recognized me, but after eight months they deported me to Poland, with my six-month-old daughter.

The journey took three days. After crossing the border, they first took us to another centre, where we stayed overnight, at all times under video surveillance. Later we drove for what seemed like forever. So long that we both cried from tiredness.

Take off your clothes and squat

They changed the car three times and searched us every time. On the border, in the evening and in Kętrzyn. Wherever they brought us, they ordered us to take off our clothes and squat. They also searched my bag. I had already asked them what they were looking for. I told them I had nothing and that they should take what I had and leave me alone.

I was kept in a locked centre for foreigners for a year and five months. At first, I didn’t want to accept that I was locked away, I rebelled. The guards ordered me to go to the room, and I went back to the hallway. It was impossible to take a step without supervision. You want to take the child outside, at least for a moment, a guard follows you. You go to the bathroom, the camera follows you.

I was slowly going crazy

No one had been in the detention centre in Kętrzyn for as long as I. When we left, my daughter was almost two years old. I was there for so long, locked up and without any hope that I was already starting to go crazy. I hugged my daughter for hours and cried, but the psychologist always said that I was fine.

It’s better in an open centre, you can go out, but there’s no point. I would like to send my child to a kindergarten, go to work, but I am not allowed to. It is very difficult to spend all the time in this one room.

Sometimes I wake up thinking that everything will work out, everything will turn out fine. But most of the time I force myself to get out of bed only because I have to take care of my daughter. I am as if detached from reality, so confused, and I act mechanically like a robot. Once, a guard in uniform came here to the centre. I locked myself in the toilet with my daughter and, crying, I called SIP. I was terrified that they had already come to deport us.

If they deport us, we will die

What’s going to happen? I don’t know. I have been wondering for four years and I still don’t know. They’ll probably deport us, send us to Moscow. I will get off the plane with the child and what then? Where should I go, what should I do? Without registration of residence, nobody will hire me, the child will not receive medical care, and I cannot register. When you register, they always send a note about it to Chechnya, that’s the law. And we have to disappear, otherwise my family or her father will find us.

Text: Magdalena Olga Olszewska

Drawing: Daniel Chmielewski

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