Guest Story. Find Part 1 here. 17 year old Marta is suffering the consequences of a four-year prison sentence, but is still a scared little girl on the inside. Will the prison principal be able to help her shape up and accomplish her dreams?
THROUGH HARDSHIPS TO THE STARS (Part 2)
(original title ‘Przez ciernie do gwiazd’ written in Polish)
written by Aleksandra Jakubowska
Being in the middle of nowhere was a nightmare. I just wasn't able to submit to these girls, teachers, guards... everything! Everywhere was rules, rules and rules. I’d never had anyone to care for me, or tell me what is right and wrong. Usually I’d lived alone, so all the supervision and cameras annoyed me (cameras were even in toilets!). I felt suffocated and oppressed. I was choking here – Even thinking was difficult for me. I was always angry and in a bad mood. In addition, there were only girls in my building; boys had separate buildings. Each building housed 50 adolescents, ages 12 to 21, and there were 4 buildings for each gender, 400 of us in total. School was mandatory, but we could choose the type of school we wanted to attend. I chose a secondary school since I hadn’t taken it seriously before and had been expelled. Most of the girls, though, chose vocational school to gain skills for an occupation.
If the first week in prison was a nightmare for me, the second week was even worse. I had no friends because of my continuous bad mood. I rebelled against everyone and everything. A few times I had to clean toilets for cursing, and then a few times I was spanked by my guardian. But I didn't care... my guardian was a total asshole. He didn't care about me. He was supposed to help me but didn't do a good job. He pretended that he socially integrated me and I pretended that I listened to him. But in reality, I was behaving irrationally. I was really stupid and crazy. The street had brainwashed me. All I wanted to do was show everyone that I wasn’t a wimp.
After two months I received a message about my father’s death. The principal came to me to tell me about it. He told me that my dad had a heart attack and died in prison. He was very sorry, but I was not sorry at all. In fact my father was a stranger to me. He was never beside me when I needed him. The principal apologized that he couldn’t send me to the funeral because of my bad behaviour. I only shook my head and said nothing. We sat for a while without taking, until he finally spoke and told me that my father left an insurance policy. Apparently my father wasn’t as stupid I’d thought... He’d left me a quite large sum of money. I would receive it when I turned 21. That was good news – I wouldn’t have to worry about money after I left this stupid place. One less problem. The principal patted me on my shoulder and left my room.
A few days later I got into big trouble during a history lesson. I started arguing with my teacher about some national hero. In my opinion he was a hero, but in her mind he wasn’t. So I told her that she was wrong, because I’d read lots of book about it. She said her arguments and told me that the topic was over. I got so angry that I told her she shouldn't be a teacher, and that she is a stupid bitch. I was so mad that I wanted hit her, but the guard stopped me.
By that time, it didn’t matter who was right, I hadn’t shown any respect to the teacher, and that was a big NO NO. Again I found myself in principal’s office with the guard who kept a firm grip on my arm. The principal came to me and looked straight into my eyes. I felt scared to see him looking like that. My heart was racing. I don't know what happened with me, but I started explain to him my bad behaviour before he said something. I talked a lot and a lot without thinking. I didn’t want a spanking, but without a word he took off his leather belt and told me to stand at the desk. I walked to it slowly, not feeling so brave anymore. He gave me a long lecture about respecting other, discipline, and other important things.
“Lean on the desk,” he said coldly.
I did as I was told. I felt him lift up my dress and take my panties down to my knees. He hit me with the belt the first time and I hissed. Then came a second and third blow. I screamed after each smack. He didn’t rush, he wanted me to feel deeply every stroke, and he was very good at this. After tenth stroke I started to wriggle and wail. After the fifteenth I shouted. When the next stroke hit me on my sit spot I covered my bottom with my hand.
“Take that hand away!” he said and waited patiently until I obeyed his command.
I took my hand back and he gave me another two smacks with the belt. When the next two hit me in the same place I covered myself again. It hurt like hell! The principal didn't say a word, just grabbed my wrist and pressed it to my back, then hit me three more times. I was almost at the limit of my stamina. Tears were coming to my eyes, and there was no end. He hit me a few more times in the same place and finally broke me. I burst into tears. I was crying like a baby, and I couldn't stop. He’d won and he knew it. Spontaneously I started to beg him to stop. I told him how sorry I was, everything to make him stop. My reputation of a ‘tough girl’ died. I was so hysterical that I hadn’t even realised the spanking was over.
I felt him stand me on my feet. My face was red and puffy. Tears were falling down my cheeks and my nose was snotty. My panties fell down to my ankles. I was so embarrassed, yet I didn’t care, I cared only about my burning backside. I stared to rub it furiously. The principal waited until I stopped, then passed me tissue to wipe my nose. When I recovered a little, he told me to pull my panties back. I did it quickly, but it was really painful. I was afraid to look in his eyes. We both were silent for a while. Then he lifted my chin and made me to look at him.
“I hope that this time will be the last time when we met in such unpleasant circumstances. Do you think that I like to cause you a senseless pain? No I don’t. I do this to show you a right way because I care about you. The way you chose so far is wrong and goes nowhere. You are a talented and intelligent girl, and you can succeed. It only depends on you how your life will look.”
When he was saying that, for the first time since I can remember, someone cared about me. But in that time I didn’t appreciate the attention. I was insubordinate all the time, and I was drowning in my own swamp. It was a really hard time for me. It wasn't such a simple thing to be good again, since nobody had given a damn about me in ages. At some point in my life I’d put a ‘tough girl mask’ on my face and my life suddenly became easier. Unfortunately after so many years of wearing that mask, it stuck on me and I couldn't easily take it off.
I looked in the principal’s eyes, hating him in that moment. He was trying to take my mask from me, but I wasn't ready yet. I became tough again.
“I'm sorry sir and thank you for the punishment,” I said firmly as he expected, not losing eye contact.
“You may go,” he said.
I went back to my room. My backside was burning so I lay on my tummy. I don't know why but I was thinking about what he said and felt terrible. I had only been there three months and already had enough of everything. This place was a nightmare for me. I couldn't imagine spending four years in that hellhole.
The next day everything was as usual. When lessons were over everybody went to lunch. As normal I was standing in the queue waiting for my turn. When I was waiting and waiting I saw that teachers were leaving the main door of the building without anyone noticing. I don't know what got into me, but I thought about escape. I went to that door and just left the building.
I barely passed the door when all hell broke loose. A siren started to shriek. Everyone was confused, unsure of what was happening. Guards were ready for action. Doors closed automatically, preventing anyone from leaving. I started to run as fast as I could, needing this escape. After 10 seconds I heard the loud voice from megaphone.
“STOP right there and don't move! You are surrounded! Put your hands in the air and kneel. Don't try to escape, otherwise we use force.”
I knew I had no chance of escaping. Actually I’d known it from the beginning, and now for sure my actions would have painful consequences. I slowly put my hands on my head and kneeled. Two guards came over and handcuffed me. I didn't resist, knowing I wouldn’t win.
For my actions I spent two days in the isolation room without a window to look out of or anyone to talk to. I had a lot of time to think there. I was wondering about all my life and everything I’ve done so far. My bad behaviour was only getting me in trouble, nothing else. I’ve never wanted to finish like my father, and I was realizing that I’d done everything to be just like him.
When there is nobody to talk to, every minute feels like an hour. After one day I had enough. Why had I done this, why? I was in a bad mental state. I was depressed. I didn’t want think anymore, I didn’t want to do anything, even live. After two days, which was forever for me, the door finally opened.
“Get out, your time is over,” said the guard.
I got up from the bed and went to the door. I was dirty and didn't care about what would happen with me. When I passed the door I saw the principal. He looked at me and I noticed a disappointment in his eyes. I realised myself that he really wanted to help me, and I was disappointing him every time. I put my head down. I was sorry. For the first time in my life I was really sorry that I’d behaved like that.
I didn’t get a spanking then. Two days in isolation caused me to change my attitude. The principal noticed that change. He sent me to therapist to prove my mental condition. Those meetings really helped me. I wasn't a teenager looking for trouble anymore. I finally accepted the stay in this prison.
The rest of my sentence I spent without any trouble. Lots of talking with the principal, teachers and the therapist made me think that my destiny is in my hands, and it didn't have to go in a wrong way at all. Time was passing slowly, but with no problems. To make it faster I focused on learning. I had always been a good student.
On my 18th birthday the principal came to my room with a small birthday cake and gave me a book I’d always wanted to read. There was a dedication on the first page. ‘There are some things in life which are worth fighting for. Even when it feels like it couldn’t be worse, don’t abandon your dreams and always be yourself.’ Below was his signature and the date.
“Thank you, thank you,” I yelled happily and I hugged him.
“You are welcome. My dream is that you need to leave this place with pride, and show the whole world what you’ve got, and who you really are. I believe in you and I know you will succeed.”
After that everything completely changed. For the next whole year I wanted to prove to principal that he was right about me. I focused on learning and avoided troubles. Principal was helping me, and I started to treat him like the father I’d never had. Sometimes I’d think how wrong I’d been about him. In the beginning I’d thought that he was a sadist and tyrant, but no, he really wanted to help all those kids who missed their right way. After three years I wasn't learning for him, but for myself. My dreams had the chance to come true.
I graduated with distinction from the secondary school and decided to go to university. The whole management was very satisfied with my decision. Since I became a different person, or I rather took off my ‘tough girl mask’ and became the person I’d always been deep in my heart. They gave me the chance to study outside the prison in a free world. Everyday a guard took me to the University and drove me back to the prison. They trusted me, but I worked very hard for it. I wasn't stupid anymore, I wasn't going to destroy everything I’d achieved so far by prison break. That would make no sense, especially since I only had six months left to serve.
The much-awaited end of my sentence fell on my 21st birthday. The girls made a big farewell party for me. Before I left the complex I had a long conversation with the principal. He gave me lots of advice and reassurances that everything would be all right. He gave me his private phone number in case I would like to talk to him. I hugged him and thanked him for everything.
“You saved my life, and I promise not to ruin it,” I told him.
“I know you won’t. Since the first time I saw you, I thought then, this girl has big potential, but she lost herself. I’m sure you’ll make it. I hope you will ring your old guardian to say hello?”
“Of course I will, I’ll never forget you,” I said and a tear fell down my cheek.
He wiped my tear and hugged me back.
“Go, before I start crying.”
I left the prison as a different person. I was a young woman with a past, but thanks to my father’s money and a small allowance from the prison I could graduate my studies and buy a small apartment. I broke off all contact with the past. Without a problem I got a job in a corporation as a Swedish translator. Everything went in a right way. I started to earn my own money. I was so happy then. At work I met my future husband. His name was Konrad. It wasn't a love from the first sight, but second. We were dating, and every time we met, we became closer to each other. I didn't hide my past, I told him everything, and he didn't judge me and I was happy. He was happy that I told him the truth and he said that from now on we would start our new life, and he is in love with me. I was in love too, and after a year we got married. The wedding was very small and intimate.
I told Konrad about my dreams. One day Konrad took me on the weekend to the mountains. We were driving some unknown road.
“Konrad where are we going?” I asked.
“Take it easy honey we are almost there, this is surprise,” he said.
After 10 minutes we arrived to a place place. I came out from the car. The landscape was beautiful. Far away there were big mountains, and closer to us a valley with a river. The narrow path went down to the river, so we walked there. When I saw a view I just couldn’t speak. It took my breath away. I saw a little white house with a white fence suffused in the morning sun. It looked beautiful.
“Do you like it?” ask my husband.
“It’s wonderful I always dreamt about it,” I said.
“So it will be our house. I already spoke to the owner and paid advance.”
“You are joking now, are you?”
“No I’m not, it’s ours now, come on let’s go inside.”
I hugged him so much, I was so happy. My dreams came true again.
“You are crazy, and I love you so much, and I’m happy so much.” I was hugging him and I was crying from happiness.
I sold my apartment, and after six months we moved in. Another good news was that I was pregnant. Our son Jacob was born. We were happy and all my dreams came true. I invited principal to my son’s baptism. We hadn’t seen each other since I left the prison. When he arrived hugged for a few minutes, then Konrad finally met my saviour. The three of us talked almost all night. Principal told me that he is proud of me.
Now my son is three years old, and my life is still happy. Konrad and I thinking about having another baby. I like my job. In my free time I signed up for a social project, and I help kids who were just as I had been. Kids listen to my lectures because they know that if I could succeed, that they can do as well. Knowing that I can help others was very satisfying.
I’m sitting now on the bench of my patio and I’m writing my memories.
There are situations in life, that you say to yourself “I’ll make it” and you do exactly that.
‘Have a plan for the future, but live present, because there is no yesterday anymore, and tomorrow can never come.’