In my own words

“They were pushing us, they stole everything, they beat us very hard if we didn’t have money.”

She is a beautiful woman. She nurses a three-month-old baby while she tells me something about her life.

She has two other children (8 and 4 years old) that she has left back in her country of origin with her mother. She had decided not to take them with her because she knew that Libya was a very dangerous country. However, she thought Libya was a rich country where it was easy to find a job.

She says her life in Nigeria was very hard. She lived in a small village with her family: her mother and her 4 brothers, her father had died.  Her mother was in great pain as she didn’t know how to feed her 5 children, she is the youngest.

They had nothing, not even a home and lived on the street with very little food and water. If they got sick they couldn’t get cured. “If you don’t have money no one cures you in the hospital” she says. Her mother kept on crying for this reason. She suffered a lot.

However, her grandmother managed to pay for her to study in Kaduna, in the Northern part of the country. Once she finished to study, she went back to her village to start a small business to help her family. She got married at 20 to a 32-year-old man chosen by her mother.

Life kept on being tough. They were very poor and for this reason they decided to move to Libya.

They  left from Agadez in 2016, the crossing of the desert lasted a month. She says: “Oh no no, I can’t tell you how difficult it was! No food, no water, they were pushing us, they stole everything, they beat us very hard if we didn’t have money. They beat everybody. I saw these people selling a Nigerian girl to a ‘madama’ [a person exploiting girls for prostitution]. It was so tough!”.

She also says: “ But we didn’t know all the truth, that in Libya they hate black people, they don’t want them and very often they shoot them. My husband was killed by the Libyans

She says her husband had been working as a construction worker for a company that builds houses. She didn’t work because she was pregnant. In an attempt to gain some money she sold kerosene in plastic bottles at the side of the street, but she never got paid.

“It was dangerous to be out of the house, there were men shooting all the time. People would get killed without knowing why, the only thing you understand is that they hate black people and that they are looking for money everywhere.”

She tells that once she was holding the baby and some Libyan men stopped her telling her to give her son to them. She held her child closer and started running. Eventually she was able to get away from them.

Less than one month before her rescue her husband was shot on the street. Many other men and women died in the same incident.

She ran away crying and praying. Some Nigerian men helped her and took her and her child in. They brought her to the boats leaving for Europe. She paid 1500 dinar for the trip. She says that she was taken to a big house with thousands of other people, one on top of the other. It was so hard being there. The guardians were all armed and they hit both her and her child. However, some men saw she was alone and helped her.

She doesn’t remember the name of the place they left from. It was Friday night and there were 120 people on the white rubber dinghy. She only saw the men pushing it into the water and then running away. She was sitting in the lower part; they were one on top of the other.

Someone was sitting on her head, many were throwing up and so did she even though the sea was calm. Her child kept on crying as did all the other children.  She prayed to arrive alive with her baby.

I have asked her what her dreams are for her future. She tells me she wants to work and send her child to school as she did for the others. But then she gets tears in her eyes and starts crying. She tells me she cries every day for her husband and that she is scared to come to a place that she doesn’t know without him. The people that helped them escape gave the baby his name: Success. “God sent me this baby, this baby has saved me”.


Author: Francesca Vallarino Gancia – Testimony Collector
Picture: Francesca Vallarino Gancia/SOS MEDITERRANEE