Griselda Rojas, 19, will be a junior in the Hartford Public High School Academy of Nursing this fall. She received political asylum in 2006, at 17, after her escape from kidnappers in Guatemala, who forced her to work as a prostitute. She was interviewed in Spanish. School social worker Terry Brown interpreted for her.
I was born in Guatemala in 1989. I am the daughter of Roberto Rojas and Thelma Correto. I was the fifth child in a family of 12. I left my family's home when I was 8 and worked in the homes of wealthier people who needed help with their children and cleaning.
When I was 14, something tragic happened to me. I was kidnapped. My 14th, 15th and 16th year, I was there. There were others, too, other young girls of my age and some boys, too. They used me as a prostitute, and in other ways I don't want to talk about. It was very difficult. My parents didn't know where I was and I didn't know anything about them. I suffered a lot and lived in trauma for all those years.
One day [a kidnapper] gave me money and asked me to go down the street to buy her cigarettes. I asked God for guidance and instead of going to the store I jumped into a taxi and asked him to take me to the bus station so that I could take the bus back to my parents' village. I was reunited with my parents, and I was able to tell them how much I loved them and how much I appreciated all they'd done. They had suffered so much not knowing where I was.
I was still afraid. I knew [the kidnappers] would be scared that I'd go to the police and tell about them. I stayed with my parents for one week. They gathered money and found someone who could bring me to the U.S., to Hartford, where my aunt lives.
I went to Mexico by car, bus, even a boat in the river. I lived in Mexico City for five months with a family, waiting for them to take me to Texas.
I crossed the frontier into Texas, walking and walking for days in fields. As we came upon a highway close to Texas, [U.S. immigration authorities] got me. I was detained in immigration in Texas for seven months. That's when the other phase of my life started.
I lived in a foster home, went to school for the first time, and received medical care. I didn't know how to read or write in Spanish. In Texas, I started to learn in both Spanish and English. I feel very happy inside when I can pick up a book and read it myself.
I told my story to a social worker, who had me meet with a lawyer. He was able to get me political asylum.
I arrived in the evening in Hartford on March 21, 2006, and met my cousins and saw my aunt I hadn't seen in years. It was so good to be here, to be with family, and to be able to go out and not be inside all the time. It was happiness.
I've met some wonderful people here at Hartford Public High School from all other countries. I love mathematics and history, and my math teacher helps me after school and during her lunch hour. That's the good part.
What is hard is it's been four years since I've seen my parents and my brothers and sisters. I always miss them and would like to share things with them, but can only do that on the phone.
I'd like to be a nurse, a secretary, maybe a doctor, but most of all I'd like to bring my parents to this country and share all this with them.
I know I have a God who watches over me. When I'm sad, I also speak with people like Ms. Brown [the school social worker], my family, my friends and share how I feel. Between my faith, my friends and people who love me I've been able to start living for today and the future and concentrate on what I want to be, not what I was. Slowly but surely, the nightmares have left and the crying is less.
I am very happy because I have a wonderful life.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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