Ihor's Mission - Rescuing Trafficked Ukrainian Women
The first time I got into closer contact with the topic of human trafficking was during the field research I conducted for my thesis in Ukraine in 2008.
There I had the chance to meet an incredible person - Ihor Hnat. Ihor is a journalist doing social work with excons. However, from time to time he gets approached by family members of girls that have been trafficked to Western Europe mostly for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
The families usually only know the city where their daughters, sisters or mothers are living. Together with his brother, Ihor tries to locate these women. Their seek leads them through bars, nightclubs and brothels and often brings dangerous situations about, though in most cases they are able to track them down.
The next step for Ihor is to pretend being a client who only wants that special girl and orders her to a hotel. Once he is alone with her, he tries to gain her trust within short time. The usual way to achieve that is telling the girl or woman who exactly has sent him. Then follows the most dangerous part: the flight. How that happens always depends on the situation. He either agrees with the pimp to take the girl to a restaurant or they simply escape through the window.
In most cases Ihor has been successful. Since the early nineties when he started, his missions have rescued around 30 girls and women. Although, sometimes he regrettably has to capitulate either because he cannot find the victim or because the woman refuses to go back to her relatives.
By now, Ihor is cooperating with the police and officials of different countries to facilitate the return of the victim, as they usually do not have any documents. Also, he collaborates with several media, especially TV stations in order to finance some of his missions. Surprisingly, Ihor still calls his amazing commitment only a hobby.
The exploitation for the purpose of prostitution is just one aspect of human trafficking I have got to know through Ihor.
The CNF Quarterly Journal has dedicated a whole issue to the topic of human trafficking including an article on one of Ihor's missions and one by himself.
Marie-Therese Filip started her internship with UN.GIFT in March 2011. She has a Master in Social Anthropology from the University of Vienna. Her thesis was on the topic of collective memory and national identity in Ukraine. Currently she is enrolled as a PhD student in Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna.
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