In the morning I went out to the route called „Naberejnaia” (in Russian for “Embankment” Str.) from Chisinau where reportedly there can be found prostitutes. (Before that I called a telephone number in the newspaper, but the price seemed to me too high (MDL 250 per hour). At a filling station nearby I asked one of the employees how could I find a prostitute. „Wait for a wile, they will emerge at about 10 AM. I saw one in the morning”. The guy who was working for a vulcanization station showed me a bar across the road: „They come there for lunch. Wait a bit more and they will appear”. The bar assistant told me she knows the prostitutes, but I should not be afraid to have a meal if I want, because “for them we use only “one-use” (or plastic) plates and glasses”. Somebody advised me to go by car up to the end of the highway and I would surely find one. That is what I did. I used to stop and discuss with the people who were selling tires or car-oil. All of them told me that “they have just seen one”, and she was gone, that they are poor and have no protection, that some clients cheat them and do not pay, etc. A police car stopped nearby. „They are not afraid of police because they would do nothing”, told me a young man selling spare-parts and encouraged me to wait. I asked him if the girl passing on the other side of the high-way (the high-way was crossing under a bridge), with a plastic bag in her hand, is not a prostitute. „Yes, but this one comes more seldom here. If you pay me I can find you two sisters “chique”. To the regret of the young man I preferred to go to the girl who was walking slowly under the bridge.
She got in the car without asking anything. She looked at me with some kind of suspicion, and I noticed she had a tic close to her left eye, and her lip was a little swallowed and asymmetrical. Her clothes were worn up and shoes she wore started to have holes. My first impression was that she had been beaten recently. I explained to her that actually I wanted to talk to her and pay for a confidence of an hour. I guess I managed to dissipate suspicion when I gave her a down payment of MDL 35. (I gave her 10 more at the end of discussion, for sincerity). She preferred to go to a bar.
Jail. Natalia was jailed for 3,5 years. After she graduated the 9th grade she did not go to school anymore. Her father worked as constructor for private households, and her mother in the collective-farm. She has two more brothers, one elder and another one junior. She was short of money, particularly her mother „ often used to make abuse of alcohol”. The girl was employed by a gypsy woman to take care of children and her household. „I did not like her because she did not want to pay me anything even after three months of work. I used to work only for food”. One day Natalia stole several clothes from the gypsy-woman and ran home. The gypsy-woman declared the police that the girl had stolen clothes and money („MDL 1000, which in fact I gad not taken”). After the sue she was jailed for one year „conditionally”. (She continued to stay at home but recorded at the police station). Afterwards she committed another two thefts. The second she committed jointly with a “girl-friend of her”, from her native village. „She stole several clothes from a relative of her, some money and a gold ring”. The relative was working abroad and it was not difficult for them to get in the house. The third theft was the decisive one for Natalia’s destiny. She entered a house and stole MDL 400. They caught her and on the second day, when she wanted to leave for the country side. At the police station she declared also the previous theft. During the investigation she was closed for 5 months in an isolation ward, then after the sentence she was imprisoned for 3 years „in the zone”. In the zone she could be visited 5 days within 3 months in all. She could receive at one visit 16 kg of ready-made food (not by-products): lard, cheese, sweets… They were not allowed to get money because there was a series of condemned who were moving through the settlement beyond a convoy. They could bring vodka. Sometimes vodka could be purchased by „cops” (policemen), against a payment in cash „or in kind”. Natalia was visited twice during those years by her mother and elder brother. „The father seemed to have abandoned me. I saw what he had declared at police, that I had not listened to him and that I would rather be imprisoned”.
Attempts to return. She came home with a girl-friend “from the zone” on Saint Nicholas holiday. The father did not want to talk to a “jailbird”. Her elder brother and mother received her. When the father uttered several bad words addressed to her (that she was a shame for him in the village and that she should rather go wherever she wants), her girl-friend suggested her to go to Chisinau. „Let’s go to my place and we will handle somehow…”
In Chişinău they entered the „Datina” Fund where, reportedly, they could get some help. The lady from the Fund gave MDL 50 each and said she would help them to pay a rent for three months accommodation and find some jobs. „We received rent amounts worth MDL 60 for three months. Sometimes when it was necessary, the Fund provided us MDL 30 more and clothes from „humanitarian fund”. „The Fund” helped them get jobs. „We were assigned to various block-basements from Chisinau to wash bottles for vodka and wine”. According to Natalia’s narration, those were the private basements of alcohol beverage falsifiers. She did not see how those beverages were bottled, but she knows that the bottles were used by private employers for falsified beverages. In those basements only the girls coming out of zone were working. The labor was hard and poorly paid. She would get only MDL 15 – 20 a day (for approximately 1000 bottles). She could take the money any time, but that was not enough at least for food, let alone clothes”. Natalia was compelled to accept this work because it was her only alternative she could work without a passport and residence permit. Neither she had passport on the day of this discussion. She just has no money to get it.
Prostitution. Meanwhile the support from the Fund was over and the situation became critical (In three months the girls returned from the zone ceased to get any clothes or money from that fund. „They did not have possibility to help, there are too many of us” said Natalia). One evening her girl-friend told Natalia: „Let’s go and make money”. „Where?” asked Natalia. „You will see”.
They put on some better clothes, in short skirts and came to one of the markets from the down town of Chisinau. „If a car stops, I will talk to him” told her girl-fiend. (Natalia says that her fiend was pluckier). Shortly afterwards a car stopped next to them. „Do you work girls?” asked the driver. „She works” told Natalia’s friend and pushed her in the car, asking from the client MDL 30 down payment. That evening some other clients followed and, once they saw it worked, the girls increased the fee to MDL 50. „I earned on the first evening over MDL 150. It was more than half of a monthly salary I got from washing bottles”. Since that day (more than two years have passed), Natalia lives exclusively from prostitution.
They heard about „Embankment” St. and went there. „I was surprised how well it worked. In good days it happened to have 5–6 clients”. Natalia’s friend had tried to blackmail the other prostitutes who came in the street, charging them MDL 5 per client, but soon afterwards she quit this job after she saw how difficult work it was. Natalia decided to work alone, not to share anymore the money with her friend, who started to drink daily (Now she is alcohol addict). „I changed the housing. I was living by myself, with some elder hosts, a house on the ground, in a yard, where in case of need I could conduct some clients. I had a neighbor, also living with the landlord, who became my friend. We used to live as husband and wife and I enjoyed to cook, to take care of somebody. I used to buy him clothes, because he had a small salary. I was somewhat afraid I would lose him, and that he would find out the way I was earning money. I told him that I was borrowing or that I was earning from selling on the market place”. The new fiend, however guessed what Natalia „was doing”. He left and she never saw him again.
Natalia told me various cases that describe the labor of the prostitute, full of risk, humiliation and threats. „I take as much money as I am given. Sometimes MDL 20, sometimes 30 or even 50, depending on client. Once, a man of about 45 years old stopped and asked me where to give me a lift. I told him „I work”. He asked me to get in, looked at me, said nothing and gave me a banknote of MDL 50. I took that as a grant from the Lord. I guess he pitied me”.
The girl prefers elder men „because they are more serious and pay”. „Sometimes when somebody has no „erection” they just talk to me, tell their problems and it gets somewhat easier for me too. In the end they remain satisfied and pay”. She considers the youngsters (of 20 years) to be even dangerous. „They keep mum, do not say anything and in the end cheat you. Once one of them took me to a flat where he had two friends more. I had with me MDL 40. When I went with one of them to a room, the others stole my money. In the end they gave me MDL 20 and on my way back I found out that they had stolen my money”. There was also a case, when she got in a car there were two young drug-addicts: „They injected in their vain and started to laugh. I invited them to my friend’s place because I was afraid of them. My friend scared them by telling that allegedly the police was coming and they ran quickly. One of them forgot his shoes”.
Natalia has no problems with the peers neither with police. „The police know me now. Previously they used to take me away. There was a case when I had to work with three policemen. They never paid. Frankly speaking they invited me to a meal of salami and gave me to eat”.
Diseases. Instead the young woman had, and still continues to have, health problems. In the “zone” she had a bad ear ache. It used to suppurate and ache, but never went to heal it afterwards, because she had not enough money. However, once (after starting to earn for living by prostitution) she had such a bad ache that she went to the hospital. The doctors found out that she had meningitis. They removed the puss, but the tic close to her eye and asymmetric lip were as consequences. „At the hospital I gave blood test and found out that I had syphilis. I did not have money to pay for treatment and I was half-treated. Then I was sent to a raion center to undergo a treatment. My mother was visiting me and I told her I was treating my ear…”. Nobody, except for the doctors knew in what state was the girl. Natalia paid about MDL 200 for medicines (although the doctors initially told her the treatment costs MDL 10000) and is enlisted in a special register during 5 years. When asked if she paid the doctors, she replied: „They saw I have no money and that nobody can help me and they did not insist”.
Current life and dreams. Once when she was with some “clients” in the flat, Natalia got acquainted with a young man of 27 years old, who took her and suggested her to go to his place, in a village from capital city periphery. The young man used to live with his mother and father, he also had stayed “in the zone” and asked her to finish with “going out to Embankment St.”. They stood sometime with the parents of the young man, but he would advise her to stay only inside, not to be noticed by the village fellows, neither recognized by anybody and get ridiculous. The mother of the young man agreed that Natalia is a good girl and her son would not find a better one. She missed “the highway” for some time. Soon afterwards they went together to the countryside to her parents. They have a shed over there and a small house in the yard of the parents. Natalia’s mother is alcohol-addict and „sold all the corn for alcohol”. They do not have land. The junior brother stays with them too (13 years old) and when they sit at the table there 5 “mouths”. The father earns money by constructions and eats also in the village. „I come to Chisinau under different pretexts. I gather strawberry nursery transplant which grows in the orchard and bring it for sale to Chişinău. I sell the strawberry transplant in the morning wholesale (MDL 0,10 per stalk, and get only MDL 10–20) and then go to „the highway”. If a have, say, two more clients, I earn some more MDL 60-70. I buy food and go home. This is how I proceed on daily basis since the strawberry transplant emerged”. Her fiancé does not know what Natalia does in Chişinău. „He is jealous and should not know” – told me the girl.
“I did not eat anything this morning. I never eat in the morning, only in the evening when I come back home”. Natalia is afraid not to come across a client who may leave in some wood and miss the buss home. Practically she supports the whole family with money and clothes. The father also drinks.
She hopes in summer will go with her “husband” to day-work for various people’s households and might be easier for them to earn for living. „Should I have something to work, I would not come to „Embankment” St. Natalia does not drink, but she smokes. „Sometimes it happens that a client has a bottle of wine on him. We drink together, but not much, not to get drunk”.
She hopes to gather some money and heal her eye and the lip. She knows it is possible. So far she buys to her husband clothes and food in the family.
Although there were cases when she was offered to go to Turkey, Natalia refused. Somebody passed under the bridge where the prostitutes assembly and threw a book with confessions of Moldovan prostitutes abroad. Natalia also read this book. „I am afraid to go there” she said with a low voice. (That is all! I collected so much sorrow from Natalia. I feel exhausted…).