Tania's Story

My name is Tania, I come from Latvia.

Before Latvia became separate from [the Soviet Union] I worked as a factory supervisor, but after Soviet Union was broken the old factory was sold. Some man who was agency boss he gave me advice. I sell my flat, he take all the money. He said I can stay and live in England and I believed him.

And the reality when I just came to England: they take my passport, said I must pay them ten thousand pounds back and I start working every day. They pay just 30 pence per day, they treat us like we are animals.

We wake up six o’clock, they bring us back at 11. It’s gonna be in a field or in greenhouses but mostly in the field. And we always have penalty when we speak with each other.

I remember I can’t pick the lettuce fast because I am scared from tractor that is behind me. Sometimes I broken some lettuce and every broken lettuce costs me £50 or more. So [I owe] this £10,000 and another £50 every day so... I think “that’s it, I can’t do nothing.”

I not have any winter clothes, just summer clothes, because I came in summer time. It was so cold and I got only sandals and it was raining, muddy. And I remember some English man [noticed something, and he] said something to my supervisor and they never take me in this farm again, they put me in a different farm and give me a jacket.

We were a lot of people. People sleep in the bedroom or in the corridor. When the bosses get drunk they have fun thing for them and they abuse the people. When I can feel that they come back drunk I always sleep out of house, in the bushes where they can’t find me.

And they just choose some people and just for them fun can say ‘you can drink water from the puddle’ and if you don’t want to drink they can broken all your body and everything.

And when I have bad teeth, and I said I have pain, they said ‘never mind you have pain.’ And another man have bad teeth too and they said ‘You have pain?’ And they take this hammer and just remove all his teeth with the hammer and it’s all bleeding and I say ‘I don’t want it!’ I go to the toilet and take out this tooth by myself and afterwards I was scared it was gonna be blood infection and I said them, and they said ‘Ocean is big your body can be food for fish.’

One day when I go to my bed, there are two men holding a boy, maybe 16 years old. And another man he’s just beating him by legs and I can’t see this anymore. I saw so much of this every day and I just say them, ‘You are disgusting, you are disgusting people, you three adult men you beat little boy!’ He was skinny, he looked like skeleton. And they leave the boy and just grabbed me.

They take me in a field and explain my situation, that I am nobody and that at the moment because I broken the visa or rule, I not clearly remember what they say, but all my life I remember that I must go in the prison for 15 years, and I start to be scared and they gone. And I am thinking “my God, nobody don’t want me,” and I am thinking “I am not human,” and I say “I am nobody, I am nobody.”

I go past city centre advice bureau and I go inside and at the moment I can’t speak. I was just crying and lady asked me what’s wrong and I can’t say nothing I just writing down “please help me, I am not legal”.

I was very shocked. I not remember first two weeks [in the Unseen Women’s Safehouse]. I don’t remember people, I am just crying and crying and crying. I remember I don’t want to take my jacket off, I would like to stay inside my jacket because everything was very strange.

I can’t understand what happened when they bring me to this house - when they gonna take me to prison? Then my [case worker] Clara she explained, I listen listen and ask again ‘when I go to prison?’ It was a hard job to put inside my head this thing that you not gonna go to prison.

It’s first time that you trust somebody because you can come back to your home, because you feel safe. I don’t know these people, they gonna live in my heart all my life, such a huge love they present to me.

I have my first garden in this house and people they give some money for garden so I can buy some seeds. We growing tomatoes, cucumbers and it’s very fresh and tasty. And I plant some roses.

They take us out for some trips to not feel just sad. They always try to wake you up, to take you out from this dark fog and take you out and show you what this life looks like.

These people in the house they always support you, they never press you down. For example, if you want to do something, volunteering or gardening, they always help you. They always take you for trip to make you feel happy, to make you feel that you are not just a ‘little stone in the road’, you are also important person.

People should support Unseen because they give us hope, they give us life, they give us a chance to feel human again. We need this house, we just need it.

The only way Unseen can continue to support survivors of slavery like Tania, is through the kind and generous donations we receive. If you’d like to support our vital work with survivors, you can make a single donation or regular monthly donation right now. Thank you.

*names have been changed to protect identities