Evanston news delivered free to your inbox! 

Ursula had never flown before. In fact, the only planes she had seen were those flying high in the sky over her village. Now, she and several other young (teen-aged) girls from her village were being herded onto a plane bound for another country. The girls only spoke the language of their homeland. Adult escorts (traffickers) travelled with the girls and translated for them. The girls were nervous but excited about their new adventure. They and their families had been told that the girls would be taken to another country where they would be educated and well cared for. The families were paid a fee to compensate for the loss of the girls’ manpower.

When the plane landed, the girls were steered to a van and driven to a motel. At the motel, the escorts took the girls’ passports. The girls were told what their duties would be in the households, factories or farms where they would work. Ursula’s stomach dropped. Something was wrong. There was no mention of school. The girls went to bed. Ursula cried and heard others weeping.

In the morning, the girls were taken to the van and blindfolded. One or more girls at a time were dropped off at various places. When Ursula reached her destination, her blindfold was removed, and she followed an escort to the door of a huge house. Ursula met the lady of the house, the lady’s husband and their three children. The escort joined the lady of the house and Ursula to translate as the lady of the house showed Ursula the layout of the house and told her what she expected Ursula to do. The lady of the house knew enough words in Ursula’s language to give Ursula directives. Ursula was instructed not to talk with anyone outside the household, not to ever answer the door, and not to go outside except for the backyard. Ursula would sleep on a cot in the baby’s room. Ursula trembled inside. She didn’t know where she was, she didn’t know the language and she had no passport or money. She had no freedom now, and she dared not try to escape. The trafficker left. Night came and after Ursula had bathed the baby and put it to bed and cleaned up the kitchen, she was allowed to go to bed. She wept.

Weeks passed and Ursula prayed day and night for her god to help her understand and accept her plight. One day when the older children were in school, the baby was asleep and the lady of the house was out, Ursula stood in the kitchen. She suddenly became aware of someone else in the room. She turned and found the husband smiling and staring at her.

Postscript: On April 23 of this year Loyola University of Chicago held a symposium titled “Slavery & Abolition: Then and Now,” organized by students of Dr. John Donoghue. The symposium focused on the enduring practice of slavery (human trafficking) and its continuation today. Here is part of their information: “Human trafficking is the illegal practice of using force, coercion, or deception to move people across national or state borders for sexual and labor exploitation, and subjecting them to involuntary acts such as slavery. Traffickers deny their victims basic human rights and use coercive tactics including intimidation, isolation, the threat and use of physical force, or debt bondage to control their victims.” National and international organizations and continue to fight against the enslavement of humans. Dr. Donoghue’s e-mail address is idonoghue@luc.edu.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...