In Bucharest, you can buy a young girl for 8,000 euros. I mean buy them as in you own them forever or until you sell them to someone else. Most of them are sold by their parents in Moldova when they are little children. As soon as they’re bought, the owner brands them. This is normally a tattoo of his name.
I recently went to Bucharest to find and photograph some of these girls. One of the boatload of extremely awful things about this situation is that the girls have internalized their circumstances. This is their life, and they don’t lament it. It’s fucking heartbreaking.
Bucharest became one of the roughest cities in Europe during the war in Yugoslavia and the mob built up an amazing network in the aftermath. No matter what you want, you just need to know the right person.
These are some pictures of the kids I met during my stay in Bucharest and also a very sad letter that was sent to me by a girl whose owners wouldn’t let me take her picture.
The above girl is Cezara. She’s 15 years old and the person who inspired this story. She comes from an extremely poor family. Her father was an alcoholic farmer who loved gambling. When she was seven years old, he racked up a big gambling debt and—at her mother’s suggestion, they decided to give Cezara as a gift to the mafia guy who owned the illegal gambling place. “I hated my parents for doing that but I got over it,” Cezara says. “I don’t agree with their decision but I don’t blame them for it. I understand the situation. I don’t remember much about them anyway. Some of my owners take good care of me. They buy me clothes and food and I have a place to sleep at night. I don’t need much more to live.”
Since her parents gave her away to settle a debt, Cezara has been passing from one hand to another. She’s had five owners in the last eight years.
Some owners pimped her and others took her home for their private pleasures. Right now she belongs to a big pimp and works on the streets 24 hours a day. The tattoos on her arms and chest are the names of her previous owners.
Cezara was not styled at all for this picture That’s how she walks around town.
Steffi, above, is eight years old. I met her while wandering in Bucharest’s gypsy camp. Steffi approached me and took me to her family’s trailer. Her parents were there and everybody was friendly to me, even though they lived in extreme misery. Gypsies in Romania, as in other parts of the world, are total outsiders. They don’t have social security, jobs, or anything. But gypsies don’t want to belong to the white society either. They have their own rules in the camp. For example, if a girl is getting married she must be a virgin. The oldest woman of the family will violently insert a napkin inside her and if she bleeds, it means she’s a virgin. If she doesn’t bleed, they’ll cancel the wedding and the girl will be marked with a knife wound on her face. This is why anal sex is such a common practice within the gypsy community.
I asked the father if I could take some pictures of Steffi and he said, “Yeah.” I gave them the Polaroids afterwards and they were super-happy. When I was leaving, the father took me into a corner and started trying to sell me his daughter for around 10.000 euros.
Craita, above, is 12 years old. She’s more of a “freelancer” and doesn’t have an owner yet. The harsh thing is that she is actually looking for one. A lot of these girls see prostitution as a quick way out of the misery of living in post-communist, hyper-capitalist Bucharest. Craita saw me in the street walking with a camera and some lights. She came straight up and started asking a lot of questions: Were we famous? What kind of pictures were we taking? Could she model for us? She told me her dream was to be a model or a big star of some sort.
We shot her for a while, then I took a break and went for some drinks. While I was gone, Craita approached my male friend who was helping me with the photos. She ran down a veritable menu for him, like how she’d suck his cock or how he could fuck her in the ass for something less than 20 euros. She told him she’d like to be his little girl and that she wanted to come to Europe with us. She’d do anything, she said. When I got back, my friend told me about it and I immediately asked Craita if she had a family or an owner. She didn’t want to talk to me about it—it seemed like she wanted to establish some sort of deal with my friend. She was very young, but so determined, and that freaked us the fuck out. When we were leaving, she said that she could be ours forever for 8,000 euros.
A Letter from Bucharest
This is a real letter that one of the girls that Claudia met (but didn’t photograph) sent her. It’s probably the harshest thing we’ve ever published.
Hi. My name is Vashti. I’m 12 years old. I wanted to be there for your photoshoot, but I had to work. I suck old men’s cocks to get money to live. It’s good work if you can get it here in Bucharest. I’ve been sucking men’s cocks now for a very long time. I think I’m really good at it. Sometimes they even tip me. Once this old man from London even gave me a £2 coin. He thought because he made me bleed it would make me feel better. It did. I didn’t tell him it happened all the time from the wounds on my pussy. It was so shiny, that coin. I’m saving money now because I probably only got another couple more years left in this world, then I will be too old. I’ve seen it with my older friends. Nobody wants them anymore because they’re already 16. Once you turn about 16 or so, they start to only want to do it in your ass. It cost more but it hurts a lot too. I asked you Claudia, you’re so pretty, how much a camera would cost me if I wanted to take pictures for a living. I would have to stop eating, or at least buying food, and suck old penis for 47 days before buying a normal camera. Claudia, I really like your silver camera.
Excerpt from the Novel ‘Family Life’
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