A Life of Purpose - Ana Victoria's Story - Part 4

Ana Victoria is an Afro-Colombian biologist and the first female Colombian Anglican priest. 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, which Latinolife has published in 4 parts. Here is the concluding part of Ana Victoria’s serialised story.
Ana Victoria Mendoza de Bastidas

At dawn the next day I awoke in a kind of trance, I was sweating as if they’d they poured buckets of water over me, the woman came in acting arrogant, with an air of superiority that said she possessed all possible ways of humiliating the weak.

She didn’t say much, she just left water and the boiled plantain without untying my hands. I asked after Helena, but she turned and left, leaving behind a strong smell of cigarettes and alcohol, I imagined the worse, I knew they’d have no scruples about getting rid of us, but I kept believing that someone would come for us.

Hours passed before I saw Helena again, they half pushed her in because she couldn’t walk by herself, they sat her down and tied her up again. Helena’s eyes were red and vacant, I asked her several times if she was all right but she didn’t reply, I asked her to look at me, try and answer me, say something. But all my efforts came to nothing, she was deep in a dark hole.

It would be our third night in that hell-hole, I was distressed to see Helena in such a pitiful state, without hope, I talked to her all the time, I told her about good times we’d had together, I reminded her that Kio was strong and would survive, that she would always be her idol. At other times, I just called to her: “Helena, Helena, talk to me, please. But there was no reaction in her eyes, nor in her gestures, only when she heard Kio’s name did tears run softly down her dirty cheeks.

Darkness fell on our fears, and I think we knew that this situation was coming to an end one way or another, we knew a little about how they operated and that it wasn’t good for them to keep us in one place for long.

I heard footsteps around the house again, and voices, more and more of them, a heavy blow opened the door, a light was shone on Helena’s face and some men went up to her. I began screaming like a mad woman, with every bit of strength I possessed: “Don’t take her, please”. I begged and begged, but it was a whisper in the wind, they dragged her out. The only thing I find any comfort in today is knowing that they could not touch her soul.

Not a lot of time had passed before three of them came in with a bottle in their hand, the one holding the lamp pulled up a chair and sat near me, I had the feeling I knew him, I tried to remember where I’d seen him before and… I remembered, his laugh in the launch came to me like a flash, it was the same mocking, superior face. This time with his gun in his hand, he reminded me of my reasons for being in the Chocó, to cure cholera! And he told me: “We take care of everything else.” He repeated this while his gun ran up and down my arm,  the cold of that metal is engraved on my skin, a knot in my throat stopped me crying out, but I felt afraid of that darkness I was living.

He ordered the man to untie my hands, and for a moment a light of hope shone, I thought they would let us go. Feeling my hands free, I tried to speak but he put the gun in my mouth, told me to shut up, and with the gun in his hand he slowly stood up leaving the torch on a chair, again he told me not to speak, stood behind the chair, put a piece of cloth in my mouth and bound it with tape. I tried to stop him but I had no strength left. He stood in front of me and said slowly: “I’m not going to kill you, but I’m going to teach you to mind your own business.

Each minute seemed an eternity, waiting for the first blow, but none of the three men seemed inclined to hit me, on the contrary, by their gestures they were deciding who would stay with me. Some shouting took them outside, and for a few seconds I thought this was my chance, my mouth was taped but my hands were free.

I went to the door, through the cracks I could see a lot of them, the noise of their weapons and the shouting worried me, I tried to keep calm but I felt an uncontrollable fear, I knew I could go out but I didn’t know where they were keeping Helena. When I finally opened the door and went out, I recognized the cold of the iron against my neck which put an end to my attempt to escape. He grabbed me by the hair and dragged me along before throwing me down on the dirt floor. I don’t know how long it was before I felt his hands pulling my jeans off, all my strength deserted me and I waited, expecting the inevitable, my voice stuck in my throat but I screamed as fiercely as the hate I have carried with me for years. When his heavy body moved off me, I saw that mocking smile on his face again, I will never forget it, and even less his words: “You’ll be taught a lesson like the one your girls have, so you’ll pack in your investigations, godammit!”

He went out kicking the chair which barred his way to the door, from where I was on the floor he looked like a giant. It wasn’t long before I heard another of them come in and without more ado repeat the same act. With the little strength I had left, I tried to move and received a blow which bounced my face off the floor. I managed to count up to five of them, I know there were more, but I don’t know how many, I have a vague memory of a woman’s voice telling him: “Leave her, she’s dead”. And the man replied: “Want to take her place, do you?”

I remember an excruciating pain between my legs and in my abdomen, I don’t remember if it was hours or days, but as soon as I could move I dragged myself to the chair and tried to stand up. I fell over at each attempt, I could only lean against the old wood walls of the house. I remember in moments of lucidity that I tried to get dress, I was half naked and with a pain in my belly that seemed to engulf me, as if it was burning me, I was covered in candle wax  all down my legs and I felt my face was enormous, with every movement which seemed to fight those bodies, my face was hit so hard I lost consciousness. That’s probably why I don’t remember more details of what they did to me.

I don’t know how we got out of the inferno, I have fragments of memories connected to the pain of everything I lost, and everyone I lost, especially those I lost. Two women came in and dressed me as if they were dressing a corpse, they bundled me roughly to my feet, bound my hands and covered my eyes with a cloth which wreaked of petrol. We reached the river. The movement of water and the noise of guns even today, so far away from those events, cause me such anxiety, like the thousands of nights when I didn’t want to close my eyes so I wouldn’t relive that darkness with its terrifying noises.

They took off my blindfold, and the effect on my eyes was excruciating, the sun was so strong and I could barely see anything. The engine stopped, they took me off the boat and I saw Helena. We walked for about ten minutes through the undergrowth, then they went away, leaving us alone. No words, no threats, no need for guns, everything was over, they had silenced us.

The image of Helena lying as if unconscious beside a bush torments me to this day, I hate this being my last memory of an extraordinary human being. I went up to her slowly, wanting to see something of my Helena, my dear girl, but she was a mere shadow, I lay beside her and held her long slender hand: “Helena, Helena, look at me!” was all I could say, I was completely exhausted. We spent several hours there before sensing that two men picked us up, until that moment I’d no idea I was coming with these people, everything was unpredictable, their cruelty was the only thing we could be certain of.

Today, when I try to order the events, one image comes to mind: Helena and I in a boat on the Atrato river, silenced by days of brutality and, I think, defeated by frustration and emptiness, we arrive in Quibdó, I don’t remember what time it was, but there was sun, a lot of sun, so much that I couldn’t see clearly the faces of the people waiting for us…….

This is the concluding excerpt of Ana Victoria's monologue, which was performed by Colombian actress Alejandra Borrero, after the ordination of Ana Victoria at St. Pauls Cathedral. If you missed the previous parts of Ana Victoria's stry you can read part 1, part 2 and part 3

Ana Victoria is a member of the Colombian's Women's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. More info here