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Survivor's Story

Dorota’s Story

dorota

It was a warm summer in 1997 in Poland. My paternal grandmother took my 2 sisters and I away on holiday to Koronowo-a small town in the North of Poland. We were staying at my grandmother’s friends house in a small residential area on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by a beautiful countryside, farm animals and a lot of greenery.

It is important to note that I am originally from the South side of the country and while our stay was meant to be 2 weeks, a week or so into our stay a huge flood happened in the south side of the country. Our home was unsafe to come back to and my mum and dad have had to work tirelessly before we were able to come back to our hometown. This is an important fact because it led to our stay in Koronowo extending to about 8 weeks.

When we first arrived to Koronowo and started to get acquainted with the local area, my sisters and I became friends with 2 kids of a similar age to us. We spent a lot of time together and played various childhood games. Not out of the ordinary for the area where we were staying, their family had a small holding with bunnies, ducks, dogs, pigs and other small animals. I vividly remember spending a lot of time with those 2 kids in a blissful summer holiday mode.  Until the bliss was gone and turned into the worst time of my life.

One day, the grandfather of those 2 kids asked me to go feed the pig with him as he needed some help. While he and I were alone in the pig sty he asked me how old I was and do I know where do babies come from. I said no, and his response was that I should probably get ‘educated’ in that area and he will show and help me get familiar with the baby making process. At the time he inappropriately touched me through my knickers but over the course of the following 8 weeks, it escalated to 1 day when his brazen actions nearly led to a full sexual intercourse with an 8 year old. We were interrupted by his wife, who despite of (I believe) knowing exactly what kind of man he was, didn’t stand up for me or get him arrested or told my grandmother what he did. She just interrupted her husband in his attempt to rape an 8 year old child, told me to get dressed and shooed me away.

I cannot describe the relief and happiness that I was met with when my parents arrived to collect my sisters, grandmother and I at the end of the summer. We were brought home to Wrocław and managed to settle back into a routine of schooling, extra curricular activities and normal family life. For me, however the next 3-4 years were personally challenging. I displayed many behaviours that should have let my parents, guardians, teachers and the adults in my life to recognise that I must have been abused. I need to fast forward about 20 years here to note a fact why the lack of action from the people closest to me was so surprising.

In preparation of saving for a deposit for a house,  my mum and I were preparing a small apartment that she owned in Wrocław for sale. The proceeds from the sale of that flat were to become part of the deposit for a house that my partner and I were buying in the UK. We moved away from Poland in 2003 (my dad found a job in Ireland), so we still had some personal items, toys and  books in this small apartment. While going through the items in this apartment, I came across really old paperwork. They were court documents from 1997-1998 describing how a court case was dismissed due to ill health and age of the defendant and dismissing charges of sexual abuse on a minor as the defendant couldn’t stand trial. These court documents described the events of 1997 and brought back so many memories for me. I believe at the time he couldn’t have been prosecuted as I kept denying everything that happened to me.

Rewind back to when I was a child- this is why it is all so much more surprising that no adults in my life recognised the signs in my behaviour that would have indicated what I have been through and that I desperately needed help. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I disclosed details of my abuse to a then-boyfriend and after that spoke to a handful of people about what happened to me.

Throughout my life, I have always struggled with my mental health. I have had various periods of counselling, therapy, even hospitalisation and medication. But it wasn’t until summer of 2022- exactly 25 years after that horrific period in my life that I ended up working through what happened to me and helping myself heal from it. Post stress-related breakdown in April 2022 I was referred to a psychotherapy service locally to where I live. I am so lucky that covid restrictions are lifted and I am able to go to in person therapy sessions. My therapist has helped me work through the abuse, heal and recover from it. I have a long way to recovery to go but I am so pleased I have found the right person to help me work through my issues and deal with what happened to me when I was 8.

As of August 2022, I am in a much better place to speak and write about my experiences, what has happened to me and how I have dealt with the really old trauma that I have carried with me for 25 years now. I am hoping writing these words now and someone reading my story will help at least 1 person to get the help they need to address whatever trauma they have gone through. It is not an easy process, but it has been so healing for me to be able to write down what happened and now say that Mr S (the guy who abused me) is dead and he will never be able to hurt anyone else ever again. I have no doubt that he left a huge,  abusive path of destruction  during his lifetime, as I believe I am not his only victim. I have no evidence of that but given how brazen he was over the 8 weeks that I had been in his proximity, he would have definitely taken advantage of other kids in his life.

Thank you for reading my story and getting through to the end of it. Please know you are not alone in your trauma, abuse and whatever you have gone through. There are people out there to help so make sure you reach out if you need help.

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