Guest Story. On the inside, Marta was just a terrified 17 year old, trying to make sense of this miserable world after being abandoned by her parents. On the outside, she's a royal brat who's gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. It doesn't take long for her to end up in prison where she must face the consequences of her actions.
THROUGH HARDSHIPS TO THE STARS (Part 1)
(original title ‘Przez ciernie do gwiazd’ written in Polish)
written by Aleksandra Jakubowska
Looking on the years back, I wondered how I managed to survive. My life had never been as good as I wanted it to be. My father was a thief who spent most of his life in jail, and my mother was an alcoholic and junkie. From my early years I had to take care of myself alone. I couldn't count on my parents, because they couldn't even take care of themselves. It was a miracle that I didn't spend my childhood in a foster home.
When my mum wasn't drunk everything was all right. I was attending school and I always had a warm dinner afterwards. I know that mother loved me, but because of my father, who always had problems with the law, she slowly closed herself inside. Nobody helped her; she had to do all the chores by herself. In an attempt to not think about reality, she started to drink alcohol. Sometime she was drinking for a few days in a row, and she completely forgot that I existed. Actually, that’s how my whole childhood felt.
That’s why I learnt how to care for myself alone. I did some small jobs after school to earn money, like working in the garden, or shopping or cleaning for older people. In that time I was caring for my mum more often than she was caring for me. As a little girl I was proud that I could help my mum. I never missed school. My grandma, who has since passed on, always told me “Learn girl, because the knowledge you will get will open a lot of doors for you.” Somehow I remembered those words and I treated school very seriously. I liked learning, and I always had a good grades.
That’s why people from social care didn't know about my poor situation at home, and I was happy about that. Sometimes I had to lie a little to the teacher about my mum, but it was for a good cause. When my mother finally sobered up, she always felt guilty that she’d left me alone, so she would give me sweets and new toys, and would take me to carnivals and to eat ice cream. I was so happy then, and I loved my mum so much. Now I think that she just wanted to soothe me, or bribe me, just in case the social care would knock to our door.
In the beginning, when my mum wasn’t drinking so much, she worked as cleaner in the school, but then she became very addicted and was eventually fired. We lived off of social benefits and the meager wages from my small jobs, and when my mum was sober, she cleaned people’s houses for money. But we could barely survive from this poor money we had.
To add to the burden, my father appeared every few weeks. He had never held a normal job like other fathers in my neighborhood. He worked maybe 2 weeks in one job, then would say that it wasn’t right for him, then would start the process all over again. It was because he preferred easy money, without actually doing much work. And finally, one drunken night he broke into a shop and assaulted the cashier. He was arrested and taken to jail again, but this time for 12 years. I had no father again.
Mum, like always, was living in her own world, and had started taking drugs, realizing that alcohol wasn’t enough anymore. I had no idea where she found money for it (though I could guess). She was 38 years old when he was locked up, but looked 50. Her body was destroyed by years of drinking alcohol and now taking drugs. Her skin was pale like dead, and her clothes were too big for her because she couldn’t afford to buy new ones.
I, meanwhile, was 17 years old and my group of friends consisted of thieves and street fighters. The small amount of money I was earning stopped being enough for me. From a good girl I became a brat, the fear of the street. My mother started to annoy me, especially her helplessness and aptitude to self-destruction. She was trashed nearly every day and it disgusted me. I promised myself that I would never end up like her.
I truly believed that I wouldn’t end up like my parents, but my actions told another story. Taking easy money was such a temptation. I was starting to understand my father and why he liked it. He was too stupid, though. I, on the other hand, knew to plan everything: the shop to rob, and where and when. The first time we were successful, so we kept doing it.
My mother didn't notice anything... She didn’t care if I came home or not. The most important thing for her was money on the table for drugs and alcohol. Then one day I came home to see her cold, limp body lying on the floor; she was dead. I don’t remember much about what happened that day, only that I was crying so much and couldn't stop. I cried out all the hurt and anger that I’d held inside all these years.
I wasn't an adult yet, so the state put me in a foster home. I was a real brat then. I missed school many times, not caring anymore about my education. I got into fights all the time and was always stealing. I didn't follow any rules in the house. My new guardians couldn't handle me. Finally, I was caught robbing a shop and got arrested. They put me in juvenile house (prison for teenagers), until 21 years old – 4 years! When they announced the sentence I was crying like a baby. I wasn’t so tough anymore. I begged them not to send me to prison. I was a frightened and abandoned little girl who’d just gotten into a little mischief.
“There no need to cry anymore, you are guilty so must face the consequences,” told me the judge.
“They will take care of you very well there," said a guard and put handcuffs on me, then took me to police car.
I was handcuffed like a criminal, and I was waiting for something even worse. I’d ended up like my father, and it could have been so different. I had no idea what would happen with me next, but I knew I would be tough and brave, and nobody would break me. I was not going to end up like my mother.
In this year my old life ended, and a new unknown chapter of my life began. I didn't know then how my life would change after those four years.
They took me to temporary police arrest, and I saw 4 other girls around my age. They were sitting in handcuffs, and looked as scared as I felt. Of course I didn’t show anybody that I was scared; I played a tough girl. I pretended that I didn't care about anything or anyone, wearing a scowl so that nobody would mess with me. But on the inside I was shaking like jelly.
Later in the evening guards searched our pockets and whole body. They put cuffs on our ankles so that we couldn't escape. I couldn't even move, much less try to escape! Then they put us in the police bus that drove us to the juvenile house.
The road was a never-ending story. We were driving almost all night – there was only one break for going to the toilet.
When we finally arrived I was in so much pain. My muscles were stiff from sitting all night in the same position, so I was barely able to stand when they let us out. I wanted to rest a little and stretch out my body, but I couldn’t, because they hurried us up all the time.
“Faster, faster, you are not on holiday here!” said the biggest woman guard, who I called Robocop, as she got us out of the bus. There were seven of us in total. Seven bad girls, headed to prison.
I looked around, noticing we were in the middle of nowhere in the southern part of the country. The prison was huge. It was surrounded with a high wall with barbed wire on top, and the windows held bars. There was completely nothing beyond the prison, only mountains. Nobody could escape, and if someone tried, the guard had a good view of the escaper and could easy catch her or him. Everything was located in a perfect way. There was only one road to the prison and nothing else.
The guard took us into a small building. It was a big bathroom with toilets and showers, and was connected to a locker room. We were left in the care of the women guards inside, who were dressed in uniform and looked big and strong. Their faces scared me. Next to their height, I looked like a small child (actually I always looked smaller than girls my age, thanks to the blond hair and blue eyes I got from my father). One of the guards came over and unchained me. I felt relieved, and immediately started to rub my wrists hoping that the pain would subside.
“Undress yourself!” I heard the guard’s sharp tone.
I looked at the other girls and they started to undress themselves without protest. So I did the same, although I didn't want to. I wasn’t used to someone giving me commands. I was always a master of my own destiny and no one tried to tell me what to do. When I was standing only in my bra and panties I heard another sharp voice: “We will be here until you are all naked, so hurry up, I don't have all day!”
I felt very shy, but I was too terrified and tired to protest. First I took off my bra and later my panties. I was standing naked in front of everyone, so immediately covered my private parts, but not for long.
“Stand in line with your hands by your sides,” said guard Robocop.
It all started to annoy me, and my fear turned to anger. “No one is going to order me around, I am not someone’s slave, nor am I a pushover,” I thought to myself and didn't move a bit. The guard noticed my insubordination and came to me, inspecting me from top to toe with her cold eyes.
“Are you deaf? Hands by your sides!”
“I won’t do this. I have a right for my privacy,” I said in a certain voice.
“There is no privacy in this centre, and every protest will be punished. Hands to your side!”
When I didn't move again, I got a slap on my face. My hand spontaneously went to cover my burning cheek. I didn't manage to react when I felt that another guard took me by my arm, and dragged me to the table in the corner of the room.
“We have a special method for dealing with such girls like you. You are not the first, nor the last, and if you aren’t going to cooperate with us, we will use force on you. So you better think about it before you do something stupid,” she said.
I don’t know what got into me, but I started to struggle and kick. I wanted to free myself from her grip and get her to just leave me alone. But the more I struggled the stronger she held onto me. She bent me so that I was laying with my face down on the table. I couldn’t move and my bottom was in plain sight. From the corner of my eye, I saw another guard putting on latex gloves. In a few second I felt her wet and sticky finger slipping into my vagina. I struggled more and more but the hold was too strong.
“Ow stop it!” I yelled.
“Stand still. This is our procedure,” said the guard as she slipped her finger into my anus. I yelled again. Then she finally pulled her finger out and stood me on my feet. Afterwards she wrote something in her notepad, and took me to the bathroom with the shower. She turned the water on, and told me to wash myself. I was happy that they didn't do it for me, but they watched while I was showering. It was very embarrassing. After that, the guard just threw the towel in my side, and told me to dry off. I was still naked, those witches didn’t let me keep that towel to cover myself. I was so angry. I was not a type of submissive person like my mother was. I promised to myself that I would not let anyone break me. The guard gave me some clothes and ordered me to dress. The clothes were awful. They were new, but I wasn’t going to wear such a nasty thing! It was a creamy dress resembling a tennis dress with a collar. With it were knee socks, a blue jumper, and trainers without shoelaces.
“Forget about it! I won’t wear this crap! This is from last century... Don't you watch any TV here? What a dump. Do you have anything different?” I said and threw the clothes back to them.
“Are you going to put them on or not?” asked the guard.
“No! You stupid bitch!” I shouted to her face. She came to me and grabbed me by my ear. “Ow! Let go of me you sadist! It hurts!”
“You’ve earned it, we’re going to the principal,” she said and pulled me harder by my ear, dragging me naked through the whole corridor. It hurt like hell. I shouted at her and pleaded, hoping that she would let me go, but she didn’t.
I finally found myself in the principal's office. I don’t know how, but he wasn’t surprised to see me. The guard let go of my ear and stood me in the middle of the office. Then she went to the corner of the room and discreetly observed the scene. The office was spacious, and everything was made from dark wood. At the window was standing a big oak desk with a swivel chair. On the right side was a brown leather sofa and small coffee table, while on the left was a big bookcase full of books. On the wall hung lots of picture and different diplomas.
I stood there completely naked and afraid, tired and embarrassed. I wanted to be a tough girl so much. Deep in my heart I wasn’t really such a brat at all; I was a good, sensitive, loving and empathetic girl. The street turned me into the girl that I’d become because if you’re weak on the streets, you won’t survive. But I didn't want to be like that at all. I dreamt of living in a tiny house surrounded by a white picket fence. It would be on the hillside near the lake, and there’d be a little fountain in front of the house. The water in the lake would change colour every time the sun would shine on it. I would have a normal job and a happy family. My child would never have such a crummy life like me. In the evenings my husband and I would be sitting on our patio and drinking a glass of wine while hugging each other on the bench, talking and dreaming about future. I hid my true self, though, so that nobody would know who I was or what I was feeling. So every time I felt like chickening out and just crying, I reminded myself of my mother... such a weak and mentally-wrecked woman. I couldn’t turn into her.
I stood there naked, waiting for what would happen next. I covered myself again, feeling exposed and humiliated, and I even started to feel cold. Most of all I wanted to just put on those stupid clothes and get this all over with. I didn't know what had gotten into me, getting in trouble on the very first day of my sentence.
The principal stood up and came towards me. He was a handsome man with short dark hair and slight sideburns. He looked to be about 42 years old and was dressed in a dark suit with a white shirt and blue tie. He gave me a penetrating stare, and I thought that he would slap me like that bitch guard, but nothing happened. To my surprise he smirked at me. His hands were behind his back as he paced around me, eyeing me closely. I was happy that he allowed me to cover my private parts. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all.
Finally he spoke. “I read your file, miss Marta Kowalska, and I knew that we would meet soon, but I didn't think it would be so fast. I don't know if you’ve noticed, but we have video cameras here almost everywhere. We see everything. As you know this prison is of maximum security, and we have a special method for dealing with such a girl like you. Soon you will get a handbook of our rules, but right now you will be punished for your bed behaviour. We don't tolerate any disobedience. Now put your hands by your sides and stand straight.”
I didn't want to protest any more, so I did as told. I was afraid of him; he had something in his eyes that I wasn't able to resist. He went to the desk and took out a leather strap, 30 cm long and 5 cm wide. He lashed the strap in the air, like he was checking to see if it still works, and I realized what was about to happen. I’d never been spanked before, and that strap scared me! I ran to the door, wanting to escape, but I hadn’t thought rationally. The guard caught me near the door and escorted me back to my place. The principal gestured for her to lay me on the desk and hold me down.
“For trying to escape you will get extra strokes,” he said.
He stood behind me and as I felt the first stroke, hard and burning, I screamed. Another one came next and then another. I screamed after every smack. I’ve never felt such a pain like that before! Yes indeed, I been in plenty of fights before, but that was a completely different pain! After another hard smack I started to struggle, trying to free myself from the guard’s strong grip, but I couldn’t move. I promised myself that I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t give that asshole the satisfaction of thinking that he broke me. But with every smack my silent promise was getting slashed. I wasn't used to such intensive pain. I tightened all my muscles and gritted my teeth to endure the horrible pain. I screamed and struggled, and already I had tears in my eyes. One more smack and I would burst into tears!
“Don't cry, don't cry,” I repeated to myself in my mind. I was thinking about my suffocated mum, it always worked. My bottom was burning like hell. When I thought I couldn’t stand it any more, he finally stopped, and the Robocop guard loosened her grip and stood me on my feet. Uff, I managed not to cry. I immediately started to rub my bottom; I didn't care about the shame anymore, I didn't care about anything. I wiped off the tear from my cheek and looked into his eyes with hate.
“That was your first lesson of discipline. You better learn this lesson unless you want to repeat this again. If you want to spend these four years without any problems, you must follow all rules. So, are you going to dress yourself, or you need my help?” he said.
I grabbed my clothes from the desk and quickly got dressed. He observed my every move. When I was fully dressed I looked at him again. He was still holding a strap in hand.
“What do you have to say to me?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” I slurred.
“I’m sorry sir and thank you for the punishment,” he said, asking me to repeat.
“I’m sorry sir,” I said, ignoring the rest. I just couldn't say it! It was so stupid that stuck in my throat.
Without waiting he grabbed me by the arm and laid me across his knees, giving me five hard smacks on the bottom. I yelled from the fresh pain. Maybe I was tough but not stupid. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand it any more.
“I’m sorry sir, and thank you for the punishment!” I said loud and clear, looking straight in his eyes. My father had always said that avoiding aye contacts means cowardice.
“You may go,” he said.
I turned back and went to the door, and Robocop took me to my room (later on I found out that her name was Jadwiga, but for me she would always be a big killing machine without any human feeling). My room was a small cell, 2.5m x 2.5m wide, with a small barred window on top. There was a bed and a desk, and in the corner stood a small sink and toilet, and of course an intrusive video camera hanging from the ceiling. The whole building was very modern and guarded well. To my surprise the cell door was not closed, though actually there was no need to do this because of the cameras and guards. Fucking BIG BROTHER!
On my bed I found extra clothes and the handbook of rules. I pushed everything to the side and laid down, face to the pillow as I burst into tears, crying myself to sleep. I only woke up when the guard shouted it was time for the assembly. I quickly stood and followed her, meeting the girls who had been on the bus with me.
There were ten of us new girls for the assembly. After introductions and other stupid things, the principal entered. He noticed me at once, but said nothing. He started to talk about this prison, and about rules and everything we should know. After that there was a breakfast and I went back to my room and began to read the handbook. It wasn't as bad as I’d thought. If you were a good foster child you had a quite good life here – with progress and good behaviour, you would be rewarded. But as soon as you messed up, you were punished.