Apathy, anxiety, emotional numbness, panic attacks, depression are among the consequences that trafficking survivors may have to deal with. And this often comes not alone but together with other health issues, financial difficulties, stigma and discrimination.

Our interviewee was unlucky to experience labour exploitation and mental health issues stemming from it. What helped her is the support of her family, specialized psychological and medical help, and the work that she loves.

The story of deception started as it often does. Friends from the same small town suggested the woman to earn some money abroad. The financial situation at home was already tough. Few jobs were vacant on the market, while needs only grew, as well as kids and grandchildren who needed support with education, accommodation and household. Besides, her husband had been working at construction sites in Russia for years and was happy with the experience of working away from home.

The company in Russia promised good salaries, comfortable accommodation, and free meals. However, the reality was different with no payments, unheated trailers instead of a dormitory and tasteless food, which the workers had to spend their own money on.

A month working at the poultry farm felt like a year, as shifts would start early in the morning and last until midnight. Working in harsh conditions and cold temperatures, people got sick but, nevertheless, continued working without any treatment.

When the women started complaining about not getting paid, they were simply kicked out. They didn’t receive a penny but were given a couple of raw chickens, which in the end helped our interviewee and her companions get enough money to buy some food and restore mobile connection.

Having been brought home by her son, the woman felt all sorts of emotions, from shame to fear. Luckily, her family members were understanding and caring, providing her with the support she needed in this vulnerable state.

She then learnt about the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assists victims of trafficking in Belarus. At the IOM Rehabilitation centre, where the woman stayed for a couple of weeks, she participated in psychological sessions, went through a health check-up and received medical support.

She also shared with IOM staff her dream of growing crops in her garden. She proved that this could become a small business and would help her make a living. The dream came true, and woman’s ambitions were justified as well. She now grows tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, eggplants and many more fruit and vegetables, which she sells in her town. While being a sustainable source of income, greenhouses turned out to be something bigger.

“The greenhouses helped me a lot. You know, when you work on the land, you are distracted from everything. Sometimes I would talk to tomatoes, sometimes to flowers – I’ve got roses and lilies. Sometimes I would walk with hens, talk to them. It distracts me. I forget about my problems. It is a great support,” she says.

Telling her distressing story which had a happy ending, the woman is now hopeful: she was able to stand up for herself and overcome the difficult consequences of exploitation. With outside support and understanding, as well as faith in herself, she became stronger and lives a fulfilled life.

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities