Five little angels

I’m a 25-year-old Brazilian with five children, currently living through a challenging time. I arrived in Hong Kong on May 8, 2023, and was immediately arrested. I’ve now been in prison for a year, spending holidays and family birthdays in this alien environment. Let me share a bit of my backstory.

I was born in Diadema, São Paulo, a place I scarcely know. At the age of four, my parents separated due to my father’s infidelities. Shortly after, my paternal grandparents moved to the countryside, and my mother distanced herself from me, blaming me for their separation. My father disappeared. Consequently, I moved in with my grandparents in the countryside.

As a child, I cried myself sick, yearning for the love of those who were supposed to care for me from my first breath.

Despite growing up surrounded by my grandparents’ affection, the pain of feeling unloved by my parents lingered. I saw other children at school being embraced by their parents and wondered why mine were different. Years passed without a call or a declaration of love from them. My mother promised frequent visits, but they never happened. As a child, I cried myself sick, yearning for the love of those who were supposed to care for me from my first breath.

Despite my challenging upbringing, I received a decent education in public schools. My large family of ten, including uncles, aunts, and cousins, all relied on my grandfather’s pension.

During that time, there was a lot of conflict in the household. My grandfather frequently drank and argued with my grandmother over trivial matters. The hurtful words he hurled at her were hard to witness. Still, our home was filled with love and affection despite the difficult circumstances. We only had enough money for basic foods like rice and beans, so treats like cookies and sweets were rare. I often thought about how I wanted to change my family’s situation when I grew up.

At the age of 14, I decided to live with my mother, hoping that she did love me despite appearances. However, just ten months later, I found myself pleading with my grandfather to take me back. My mother was abusive, and it was clear that her feelings for me hadn’t changed. I returned to my grandfather’s house with a determination to be nothing like her.

At 15, I fell in love with someone who promised me eternal love, and without any guidance, I became pregnant.

My husband’s parents didn’t accept our situation and forced him to leave their home. He moved in with me at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was kind when sober, but when he drank, he was cruel and humiliating. I felt the pain of his actions deeply. After my son was born, I discovered infidelities in my marriage. Despite the emotional turmoil, I became pregnant again. Ultimately, we had no choice but to separate.

I found myself back at my grandparents’ house, but now with two children to care for. Life became even more challenging. My grandfather, who had once been cruel to my grandmother, now directed his drunken humiliation towards me.

Despite working tirelessly to contribute to household expenses and ensure my children lacked nothing, my efforts were never enough for my family. It seemed nothing I did was ever good enough.

Marriage, take two

In 2018, I remarried. To my family, he was the perfect husband and they were proud of me. When I announced my third pregnancy, it was a cause for celebration as they finally saw me as important. However, behind closed doors, I endured physical and verbal abuse. I decided to leave, fearing the worst from the man who had vowed to love me. The family was shocked.

As a single mother of three, I was often accused of causing trouble. Despite the pain, I persevered and found a job as a waitress at a spa hotel. I was well-liked by my manager due to my dedication, politeness, and willingness to work. However, a momentary lapse led to another pregnancy, which cost me my job. A severe urinary infection forced me to move back to my grandparents’ house.

After my daughter was born, my father invited me to stay with him in Fortaleza. Within a month, I was employed and happy. Yet, past scars remained. I left my father’s house to live with my new boyfriend. We were together for three years, yet I endured many betrayals and lies. I was reluctant to separate and give my family another reason to gossip. To avoid another pregnancy, I went as far as getting an intrauterine device.

After three years, he requested a separation. I was deeply affected, but I remained strong for my four little angels who needed me. However, 15 days after the separation, I was hit with a surprise: I was pregnant again. What I thought was impossible, had become a reality. Despite this, I continued to work and fight. I worked up until the very end of my pregnancy because my greatest fear was becoming the mother I once had.

Every day was a struggle and I constantly prayed for a way out, willing to take on any job to meet the needs of my children, but I never considered trafficking.

In 2023, I found myself in a difficult predicament. I had lost my job and was desperate to provide for my 5-month-old baby, who was suffering from bronchitis. Every day was a struggle and I constantly prayed for a way out, willing to take on any job to meet the needs of my children, but I never considered trafficking.

A “friend” offered me a way out. She proposed that I spend 15 days in São Paulo, promising it would help me regain stability and find a job afterward. In the desperation of my situation, seeing my children suffer and my youngest sick, I agreed without a second thought. I was oblivious to her real intentions of involving me in trafficking. Overwhelmed by desperation, I traveled to São Paulo.

I arrived at a large house in an upscale neighborhood, where I thought I would be temporarily employed. That night, a man appeared and explained the job. I was paralyzed with fear, angry at my friend for involving me, and saddened by the situation, but there was no turning back. He was a criminal, and anyone from Brazil understands the danger of contradicting such individuals. Within 15 days, I had a passport and all the necessary travel documents. On May 6th, I began ingesting the drugs.

The real nightmare begins

It was a nightmare.

Even now, I can still taste the horrendous plastic, feel the confinement in my body, and recall my desire to escape and the nausea. Yet, I hadn’t realized the worst was still to come. All my joy, hope, peace, and dreams were stolen from me when I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport.

After many questions and inquiries, I was taken to a hospital. I spent 15 days in the hospital, unable to bathe, brush my teeth, or comb my hair. I took medicine to expel the drug as quickly as possible. I felt humiliated and mentally shattered. I was always under surveillance, even when using the restroom, and I could not clean myself.

On May 22, I was taken to prison, for ingesting 100 capsules of cocaine.

At first, it was unbearable. Unable to communicate in English or Cantonese, I became the target of constant laughter and bullying. Now, I have adapted. I work in the laundry, where I’ve picked up English and a smattering of Cantonese. I’ve made friends and started to smile again. However, I’m still consumed by longing. My memories of happier times, my previous life, and most importantly, my children waiting for me back home, haunt me.

I face a potential sentence of 25 years. My greatest wish is to hear “mommy” again, to attend my children’s graduations, and to watch them grow into adults. I yearn not to miss a single moment of their lives. Yet, from here, I’ve already missed my baby’s first words, crawl, and steps. I wasn’t there to feed her first baby food. I didn’t see my little girl win second place in Jiu-Jitsu. I’m at risk of missing even more due to a mistake – I was deceived. I promised my children a better life, but instead, they are left without a mother’s love and care. My worst fear has become reality: I abandoned them, just as my mother abandoned me as a child.

To you who are reading this letter, be cautious of whom you call “friends”. Life is never easy, but behind bars, it’s much worse – the loneliness, pain, agony, and longing slowly eat away at you. The days blend into each other, devoid of the freedom to run into the arms of those you love. Here, joy is as absent as freedom itself. It’s a place teeming with gossip, envy, and malevolence. So, before you find yourself entangled in such turmoil, run far away. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. The rose is beautiful, but it comes with thorns.

This is just another story of someone suffering in the absence of their children.

Note: This letter was written in Portuguese. All care has been taken in the translation. Switch language to read the original letter.