I have decided to try this avenue and post here, not my story, not the story of a relative, not even the story of a friend, but the story of a whole country, my country – Romania. It is a gruesome story – in fact, ‘story’ is a misnomer. It is a gruesome reality. Of course, you are well aware of it, but I’ll tell it nonetheless.
Here in Romania, we’re at the end of our wits and we, as common people, are doing everything we can on our part and I can only hope I can contribute by telling it here in the hopes of making a dent, at least.
For the last eight months or so, the entire country has been in turmoil and living a nightmare. I do not say ‘nightmare’ lightly. I wish it had just been a bad dream that we’d woken from. If only… But the reality is we can’t shake off the nightmarish situation that’s been stewing since about the time my country was accepted into the European Union and the borders were opened. While it was a fantastic opportunity for the development of the country, it was also the beginning of a horrifying new reality – rampant human trafficking.
In an effort to provide for themselves and/or their families, people started to go abroad in search of work opportunities they couldn’t find at home. But it was also a huge opportunity for interlopers and human traffickers, because the opening of the borders made it easier for them to do what they had previously been doing with a lot more difficulty. Now their activity is widespread and unchecked.
They have no qualms. They brazenly state that it’s a certified way of making a living. Given the legal status of prostitution in many EU countries, trafficking women and children has become in Romania a legitimate way of making a fortune for the ‘smarter’ people. They declare that dirty money is easier and faster to make with little to no effort on their part. That’s ‘smart’ to them. They announce this unapologetically, and with a superior smirk, on every medium, official and unofficial. For the ordinary, hardworking population, this is unbelievable, unbearable, terrifying.
As I said, it all boiled over about eight months ago, when, at the end of July 2019, a 14 year old girl – Alexandra Macesanu – was abducted from the street on her way home, raped and sold into prostitution.
The day after her kidnapping – after her parents had gone to the police to report her missing – she managed to get hold of a phone and call 112 (the emergency line equivalent to 911 into US or 999 in the UK) and cry for help. She was on the phone with the police three times within 45 minutes begging for help and the police all but laughed at her, finally ignoring her call.
Unbeknown to the kidnappers, the child (let’s not play with words anymore – a 14 year-old IS a child), is the niece of Alexandru Cumpanas, a TV reporter and employee of a popular TV station. The family called him in desperation asking him to help find their daughter. The child is a bespectacled nerdy top-of-the-class student, only interested in school – I say this for anyone tempted to think that she ‘asked for it.’
Her uncle put the story on air. Recordings of the 112 call leaked into the media and everyone could listen to them on YouTube. This, of course, couldn’t be ignored anymore and the authorities had to at least pretend to do something.
A police squad was sent out to search for her. At around 10 pm, they found the house where she was being kept. But they stood at the gates until 6 the next morning, under the pretext that they didn’t have a warrant.
Even the judges who were supposed to release the warrant came to the house. They all spent the night guarding the front gates, bantering and having coffees – giving the interlopers time to move their ‘merchandize’ out through the back.
In the morning the police arrested the alleged kidnapper – a 65 year old man. They made him declare that he’d killed the girl during the night and burnt her body in a barrel that was in the yard. Of course, no such thing had happened. The barrel was shown to the press, but there was no trace of burning human remains.
The authorities kept pushing this story, and all hell broke loose. It was everywhere on every TV station – mainstream and niche. The public outrage was overwhelming. We ALL knew what was happening.
We saw these recent developments as a door that could potentially put an end to this travesty and through which we could demand justice – having seen that everything normal that had been done for years had led nowhere.
Soon, another case surfaced in the same area – the town of Caracal. Another family had been desperately trying to find their daughter – the barely 18 year old Luiza Melencu, also top of her class – who’d been missing for about two months. Although her family had done everything they legally could, the authorities were stalling and laughed in their faces, while not doing anything to find her.
That investigation is still ‘underway’ and the authorities are doing everything in their power to cover it up – while STILL NOT LOOKING for the girls, all public outcry be damned.
But the reporters kept digging and a few are pushing for the truth to be exposed. There is one TV station – ROMANIA TV – that continues to cover the story and their ratings are through the roof.
Their investigation revealed the dark reality. There are over 500 known trafficking rings in Romania, their areas of influence are well mapped and the leaders well known. They cover pretty much every inch of the country. Not a corner has been left unexploited by them.
Prostitution is illegal in Romania, but it is flourishing anyway. As we all know, it produces enormous amounts of money for the ‘clans’ – as the interlopers call themselves with pride. But the biggest source of money is outside the country.
In the beginning, they promised a job abroad in agriculture, in restaurants and as babysitters, and the women who fell prey found themselves in prostitution. When word got out and that tactic didn’t work anymore, they resorted to the ‘lover boy’ method. When that didn’t work so well, they started to steal children and young women from the street and even from their own homes.
Thousands of other cases similar to Alexandra’s and Luiza’s have surfaced – including one where all six children – two boys and four girls – of a single mother were abducted by force, from their house.
None of this – on this scale – would have been possible without the tacit agreement and practical protection of the authorities – police, the justice system, and politicians. The clans have grown so powerful that they even boast of having installed their own politicians, policemen, judges, and prosecutors.
They continually escape justice. If some rogue policemen catch them and somehow manage to bring them to court, they use their money and influence to get off. The money that comes, as I said, not so much from the internal ‘market’, but from other European countries to which they traffic the children and women they get their hands on by any means.
The most important destination are the countries where prostitution is legalized, like Germany and the Netherlands, but also the countries (including the UK) where laws against pimping and buying women in prostitution are not enforced.
Romania has become the number one European source country of children and women in the brothels in Germany and Holland, and also Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Greece and the UK.
Even though the total population of Romania is only about 19 million, there are thousands[*] of Romanian women and children forced into street prostitution in Italy alone – and that’s not counting those in strip clubs, brothels and ‘escort’ prostitution. It’s estimated that there are similar numbers in Spain, the UK, Germany, and Holland – and that’s not considering those in the Arab world and on other continents.
Romania has haemorrhaged more than a million children (girls and boys) and women into the prostitution trade in these countries.
In countries where prostitution is legal, like Germany, only a small percentage of the women involved are locals. German women do not take up this kind of ‘work’ en masse. (Should we wonder why it’s so off-putting?). But the demand is huge – so they outsource to countries like mine.
Meanwhile, our authorities complain about the decrease in fertility. The 2011 census showed that the number of women aged 15–55 was lower than the number of men of the same age. Since then, not a day goes by without at least one case on the news of a woman (of active fertile age) being stabbed, strangled, shot or otherwise murdered by her partner in domestic violence – this makes for an officially declared number of about 300 women killed per year (the real number is higher) since the 2011 census.
That is added to more than 1.5 million who have been annihilated by human trafficking in the past 15 years. That’s about a quarter of the female population of reproductive age.
Who is supposed to make the babies to increase the fertility rate? Will we get to the point where we put the remaining fertile women into cages and forcefully impregnate them to keep the population up?
Because what we see in my country is borderline genocide. Female genocide. I think it’s pretty safe to say that.
I am a 51 year-old woman. I lived the first 21 years of my life under the communist regime. I lived through Ceausescu’s Decree 770 by which abortion and all contraception were banned. Tens of thousands of women died gruesome deaths from getting back alley abortions. I was a child born under that decree. It was in force until 1990.
I can’t even begin to say what social, economic and personal anomalies that decree produced. I can never forget the trauma of being taken out of class in high school for impromptu check-ups, where we, the girls, were lined up like cattle and taken to the principal’s office, which had been turned into an ad-hoc doctor’s surgery, to be checked for pregnancy. This was done in all work places which were predominantly women.
In 1989 we thought we had at last escaped that kind of abuse, persecution and punishment for being a woman. But no. That has turned into another form of female abuse. Into what we have now, when the fact that prostitution is effectively legal / decriminalised in many other countries produces dire and grave effects for the children and women in my country.
As a consequence of this on-going scandal, people are afraid to let their children go to school by themselves. They have to be watched like a toddler. Parents make sure that they send a grandparent or, if there isn’t one, they turn their schedules upside down, are late for work, get penalized for that and so on. Girls are equipped with pepper sprays or penknives and taught what to do, if they can. But they know such things are not very effective and live in fear. What kind of a life is that?
And all this because of the participation of our men in power, men who served the parents of the two still missing girls who want their children back with the sentence (pun intended), “I’m hitting a wall.” Yes. That’s what the attorney general said to them when asked why they aren’t looking for the girls:
“I can’t look for them because there’s a wall stopping me.”
People started rallying for the girls.
It is awful to see the two mothers in tears and on their knees in front of the Police Department building, begging the authorities to find their children and bring them home.
So what is that wall?
Might it be the needs of ‘punters’ in Germany?
All over Europe and elsewhere?
The US military base located only five miles away from the town of Caracal?
The need of the overpaid and oversexed American ‘heroes’ to have sex in their spare time lest they might die from abstinence?
The needs of the ‘heroes’ (read ‘paedophiles’) in the other US military base about 200 miles away near the sea port of Constanta who built a special pavilion INSIDE the base camp where they go and have sex and where they demand to be brought younger and younger girls (children), new ones each time?
(In the case of Alexandra Macesanu and Luiza Melencu, even the FBI got involved and ‘recommended’ putting a lid on the whole affair, and over 90 US soldiers were packed and shipped home a few days after the disappearances broke into the news.)
Might all that be the WALL?
[*] This originally stated that there are “hundreds of thousands” of Romanian women and children forced into street prostitution in Italy. This was an error that has now been corrected.
Ana sent this story through our Share Your Story page. If you have been in the sex trade, or have been affected by it in other less direct ways, and would like to share your story anonymously, we’d love to hear from you too.