Freedom Fighter Spotlight: Antonia
“Of course I’m afraid, because there are people who are bad who can hurt you. But the reality is I’m not actually afraid, because I know people will help me. That’s how the Highway works -- we always have someone so that we can keep going. The survivors need us to do this work.”
Antonia shared this matter-of-factly with an Uncaged staff member one day. She was sitting in the restaurant where she worked in Western Europe. Her shift would start in about an hour.
“I’m taking a few courses right now to make sure I know how to recognize a person who is being trafficked. I know that I see them every day, even here in my job,” she said.
Antonia left Romania 16 years ago and settled in this affluent, Western European country. She worked as staff at a hostel, as a stylist, and many other professions before settling into working with an insurance company and at her current restaurant. Ever since she was young, she wanted to help people. A mutual friend introduced her to our European Director, who told her about the work of Uncaged. Growing up in Romania, she knew about Human Trafficking, but it wasn’t until she spoke with Beni Lup that she learned just how many Romanian survivors were in her home country. Antonia jumped in to help. She connected with a local safe house for survivors of sex trafficking.
“The staff were so relieved, because right then they had two women from Romania and Moldova, but they had very few staff or volunteers who spoke Romanian,” Antonia explained. In those early weeks, staff began to call her whenever one of these two women were having a difficult time. “When I first spoke to ‘Gabriela’ she was so happy to have someone who understood her. I mostly just listened as she talked about her life, about her kids who were back in Moldova. Just talking calmed her so much.”
As Antonia got more involved with the shelter and other Freedom Fighters, she realized that her vocational skills could serve survivors, too. “Many of the survivors have health issues but no paperwork. It can make it really difficult for them to get regular care. I started to work with the shelter to get a few of these women medical insurance so that they could get regular healthcare.”
She has worked to get several survivors insurance, but she wants to do more. In particular, she dreams of using her skills as a stylist to make survivors feel beautiful again. Antonia notes that survivors’ bodies are so mistreated and damaged, it can be hard for them to have confidence in their bodies once they’re free. She wants to make them feel alive, like valuable, gorgeous women again. It all stems from her faith and her deep compassion.
“These are my compatriots,” she said, “They are from my homeland. I want to help them get out of trauma because I know what it feels like to suffer. That’s what motivates me. I want to help them live again.”
The Freedom Highway is activating hundreds of dedicated, courageous people like Antonia. We know that with allies like her and support from people like you, we can end trafficking once and for all!