Slavery-1 - Bakhita

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Slavery-1

Africa


From Bakhita's Diary


Kidnapped

One of them, roughly holding my hand, drew a big dagger which he was carrying at his waist. He pressed it against my side as he whispered: Shout and you are dead! Come along and follow us." The other man held a gun at my back and pushed me ahead.
I was petrified with terror. Eyes wide open, my little body shaking uncontrollably. I made as if to scream, but a lump in my throat prevented me from doing so. I could neither speak nor cry.
Violently dragged along into the thick of the forest, through unbeaten tracks, I was forced to walk till evening. I felt dead tired, my feet and legs were bleeding because of the sharp pebbles and thorny bushes which pricked me all over. I burst into tears,  though in no way did my sorrow touch the hearts of those cruel men.
As we moved along we came across a watermelon field. The raiders plucked some of the fruit, ate and threw some at me to share with them. I could not even swallow, though since morning I hadn't tasted any food at all.
All I had in mind was my family. I kept calling my mother and father, with an anguish in my heart which is hard to describe in words. No one of my dear ones could hear me.
Furthermore the two men threatened me and forced me to be silent. They sounded very harsh and I was scared. While I felt exhausted and hungry, they forced me to resume the march which was to last the whole night without a pause.
At dawn we reached a village, their village. I was simply worn out. One of the two men caught me by the hand and dragged me into a home, locking me in a tiny hole of a room, full of tools and iron scraps. There was no bed anywhere of course, not even a sack for me to rest on, simply the barefloor. I was thrown a piece of black bread and I was told to stay there while they left carrying away with them the key.
I was to remain in that room for a whole month, in total darkness except for a tiny hole which was supposed to serve as a window. The door opened only once a day, far a short while, when a miserable handful of food was placed before me.  
It is hard to describe my suffering in that place, but I could not utter a word.
I still experience the anguish of those long hours when, worn out with crying and solitude, I lay on the floor as if in a stupor, while my imagination carried me away, far away to where my dear ones lived... There I fancied l saw my loving parents, my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, and I embraced them all with great tenderness, telling them what had happened to me since the time of my kidnapping: the harrowing journey, the agonies I had gone through.
Or at times I fancied I was playing with my friends in the fields next to our home: I was happy, but soon, I was brought back to the sad reality of my horrible situation. Then, discouragement would get hold of me and the feeling was so strong that my heart seemed ready to  break at any time.


At the slave market


One morning the door opened before the usual time. The master stood on the threshold, and with him a slave merchant, as I understood later on. The latter bought me and added me to the long queue of several other slaves, three men, three women and a young girl slightly older than myself.
Without any delay we set on our way. Seeing the countryside, the sky and the water, being able once again to breathe some fresh air, restored some of my strength, even though I was in total darkness about my destination.
We were on the move for eight long days without stopping, except for an occasional rest at night. We always walked on foot. We crossed woods, mountains, valleys and deserts. As we reached new villages, our number increased as more slaves were purchased.
We walked following a certain pattern: the men went ahead, followed by the women, the former being tied round their necks with a big chain and padlocks. They proceeded in twos or threes, all in a line. If one of them bent or stopped, the pain for himself and for the slave next to him would be excruciating. I could easiiy notice, round the necks of these poor souls, deep and bloody wounds which fìlled me with pity. Poor devils! They were treated as beasts of burden: the strongest ones were made to bear on their shoulders huge bundles which they were forced to carry for miles and miles. We, the little ones, wore no chains: we marched in the rear of the caravan, together with the masters. It was only briefly that we could stop, for rest or food. When this happened, the chains would be removed from the men slaves' necks, but then their feet would be fettered in such a way that they were forced to stand very close to each other: of course, the purpose was to prevent any attempt at escaping. We, children, too, would be chained in this way, but only at night.
At long last we reached the slave market.
We were then herded together in a big room, as we waited for our turn to be put on sale. The first ones to be sold would be the weak and the sickly, in the fear that, had their health worsened, the masters would lose money.
While the choice, the bargaining and the final sale of the individual slaves was proceeding, the two of us, who were the youngest, were left behind in the room, closely chained to each other, but with the freedom, at least, to exchange ideas on our sad situation. We spoke of our dear ones, and as we did so, the longing to return to our houses grew. As we shed tears on our unhappy destiny we made plans for a possible escape.

The good Lord. who watched over us, even though we were unaware of it, offered us the chance to realize our daring feat.
Here is how it happened.




 
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