A Life of Purpose - Ana Victoria's Story - Part 2

Ana Victoria is an Afro-Colombian biologist who will be ordained as the first female Colombian priest of the Anglican church in July 2017 in St Paul Cathedral. After being kidnapped by armed traffickers while she was working with indigenous communities in the Choco region, she subsequently fled to the UK, where she has since become a role model, a peace builder. When learning about Ana Victoria’s fate, one of the most prominent Colombian actors and directors - Alejandra Borrero - turned her testimony into a monologue. What followes is part 2 of Ana Victoria’s serialised story in four parts.
Ana Victoria Mendoza de Bastidas

I was stopped many times by patrols. They’d ask our names, check our identity cards, they were always looking for something. On one occasion they asked for me, and took me away. I thought they were going to kill me, but instead demanded I give them all the penicillin I had and it had to be ready within the next 24 hours.

I knew they were watching me. But I couldn’t leave, there was work to finish, part of which was to find out if the Embera practiced ablation, a safely guarded secret. Ore importantly, I was on the verge of discovering the route used to kidnap the girls, even very young ones, who were disappearing every week. The community was very vigilant, but the forces controlling human trafficking were stronger.

Kio was a very lively and inquisitive little girl of about twelve. When I met her she had a temperature of 104, she was hallucinating and shouting as if she was in great pain, her little sister had died of cholera a few months earlier, there was panic in her parents eyes, the shaman had covered her with a green paste and filled the room with smoke from burning the mata ratón bush. Tears welled up in my eyes, stinging from the strong, concentrated smells in the small space.

The shaman let me give her antibiotics and some drops for the fever. After 24 hours the fever finally subsided, my Kio opened her eyes - to this day I don’t know if it was due to the antibiotics or the herbs but she was alive, and that was all that mattered. The hours of waiting brought both myself and Helena, very close to Kio. Helena was the only nurse to have stayed with me,  I’d done and said everything to make Helena leave, but she wasn’t budging.

Helena was a beautiful mestiza, the daughter of a father from Antioquia and a mother from the Chocó, her skin was a lovely light bronze colour and she was tall and delicate, in contrast to the large bags she carried on her back every day. I feared for her, the previous year she had malaria and went home to recover, but as soon as she felt better, she came back.

I clearly remember that morning I stood waiting on the little jetty for her to come back from the Chocó jungle, much thinner and paler, but as beautiful as ever with her curly hair hanging loose. Helena was a blessing, having her with me guaranteed that the work would be done, and well done. She listened to jazz and despite her age liked Bossa Nova, she didn’t like reading much but was desperate to go to the cinema.

She trusted people, in those around her and in me. I still remember her playing the guitar and singing Colombian songs. How I wish I’d listened to her songs more often and recorded her soft velvety voice.

Together we went to many places to try and stop the girls being taken away, we managed to rescue some, but others slipped through our fingers. Helena contacted someone in Medellín who helped us find out where those girls were. It took us months of extremely tense work.

One afternoon Helena came running over to where I worked. She had just visited Kio’s village and seen she wasn’t with her family. Helena’s eyes were wide with horror, and she kept repeating: “Victoria, we have to go and get her!” I tried to calm her down, she gave me lots of information, but it was impossible to calm her, by then we knew that if we didn’t find Kia in a nearby village within twenty-four hours, we would lose her like we had the others.

Kio was our friend, Helena spent hours teaching her, she made her name all the things around her, I remember one of the first words she learned was ‘pelican’, I don’t know why, but she saw the photo in a magazine and was fascinated by that beautiful animal. Kio had stolen our hearts, we couldn’t keep silent.

If you missed Part 1 of the story and would like to read it. click here

To read part 3 click here