"I don't think I could ever do your job. All those drunken idiots. I'd go bitter."
"Strangely, on the whole my view of humanity has actually improved with this job."
The other night i stepped into a 711 on Vegetable Square to get a cup of coffee. Returning to the cab, I saw a middle aged woman dragging a heavy suitcase. She looked at me and smiled.
"Are you free?"
"Sure," I said and got in.
"I'll just be a moment; I need to buy cigarettes."
I turned on the meter and waited.
She wasn't going far. It was maybe a seven minute trip, from Vegetable Sq. to Mt. John. Still, she had an easy friendliness around her. And above all, she was probably the only sober person in town that night. So I struck up a conversation.
"So what have you been up to tonight?"
"I've been working all evening," she replied.
"Oh yeah? With what?"
"Prostitution. Street-walking, mostly."
"Oh..." I said, wracking my brain for something sensible to say. See, I've driven sex-workers before. And as previously mentioned, I've also encountered my fair share of johns. My views on the subject are mostly open, but that doesn't mean I'm used to the situation. Fuck it, I thought. If she can be casual about this, so can I. "I didn't know there were any swedish girls in Rose Grove."
"No, most of them are roma. So yes... I do what I can."
"Do what you can?"
"Yes. Give them condoms, coffee, a warm blanket, a shoulder to cry on-"
And this is where realization hit me like a fist. "Oh, so you don't.. I ... Oh, I mean- When you said..."
She stared at me for a moment. Then she realized and we were both laughing. Once recovered, she told me her story.
No, she was not a prostitute. But she did work with them. She belonged to a non-profit organisation that every night made their way to Rose Grove, in order to give the girls working their some small comfort. The pimps, she told me, left them so little money that the girls couldn't even afford condoms. So this is where this woman, this saint, and her colleagues come in and without judgment, and without any religious or political agenda, offer comfort and basic humanity to these girls.
Because really, they need all they can get. Most of the girls are roma, and they come from lives of such poverty. Many, if not most of them, are sold into prostitution by their own families. In fact, it has become common practice. The Saint pointed out that sickening though the practice is, it reflects the miserable conditions under which these families live.
"We can speculate about their motivations; sacrificing one daughter in order to feed the rest of the family, or perhaps sending her away to a life that (though awful) will be marginally better than the one she's living in. Or maybe its just cruelty. It doesn't matter. In the end, they're sold to Turkey, and then sent over here."
One of the more sickening aspects of it is that the Romanian embassy refuses to help. Since the Holocaust, the Roma are one of the last ethnic minorities that it is socially acceptable to be openly racist towards. And none so openly as Romania, apparently. If you're Roma, you're basically persona non grata in most parts of Europe, but apparently in Romania you're not even persona. This is reflected both in the fact that Romania refuses to help those of her citizens stuck in FUCKING SLAVERY, as well as their disinterest in the fact that many Romani of romanian origin would rather sit in various european streets begging, rather than find opportunity in Romania. You know your country is fucked up and severely lacking in opportunity, if your people would rather humiliate themselves in a foreign country, rather than stay and try to work there.
Now, I could be wrong. I can only speak for what's going on in Sweden, and I can only speak for what the romanian government has done and said in Sweden. For all I know, Romania is heaven on Earth, where rainbows shoot out of the asses of unicorns, in order to provide waterslides for the little pink bunnies so abundant there. I kinda doubt it. On a final political note: Europe keeps asking what to do about all the romani beggars and sex-slaves of romanian nationality. I humbly suggest that the EU turn its eyes on Romania, and ask them to straighten the fuck up and stop letting the fallout of their social problems flood the world with misery and suffering.
This woman, the Saint of Rose Grove, provides a service. Nobody pays her or her colleagues. Very few know about her. And the police can't do much about the prostitution around here, as they have all their resources tied up in a gang-war that has been plaguing the northern parts of the city this past year. So there's no solution to the problem in sight. Until there is, the Saint will be providing the girls in Rose Grove whatever comforts she can. Its not much, and it certainly won't make their lives better. But it is clear that it makes it bearable. Which is far more than what most people would offer them.
For those of you who know Swedish,
click here to see how you can help.