‘We had to flee’

I was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but I didn’t really grow up there. My father was a civil servant at the Ministry of Health. We had to travel a lot for his job and we lived in many different parts of the country. The last province we lived in was Bandundu, which was my father’s home province. In December 2018 a massacre happened in a place called Zumbi. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but my father was killed during this massacre. We had to flee, and while I was running away I got lost from the rest of my family and from my husband. We went on different paths.

With a group of people, I fled, through the forest, in the direction of the Congo River. We managed to reach a place called Brazzaville, but a lot of people died on the way. The government welcomed us in Brazzaville, but the whole journey had been really difficult. I was pregnant and my health condition had worsened. I ended up falling ill with anaemia.

People in Brazzaville supported me to escape and seek refuge in Brazil. Yet life here has proved difficult as well. I can say that I am still going through difficult times. In Brazil, my first struggle came from having to face rejection. I was constantly rejected by people. When I arrived I lived in a shelter with Venezuelan immigrants, and they rejected me a lot because I am black. They said that blacks were dirty among many other sad things. I lived in this shelter for two months before they sent me away for no reason.

I still struggle with the Portuguese language, and I didn’t know how to defend myself at that time. But, with the help of some African friends that I met in Brazil, I managed to get a place to live. I went to live with a male friend, but he actually had other intentions. He wanted to go out with me and I didn’t want that. Sometimes he would come home drunk and try to force me to sleep with him. He would eventually give up after I refused and pushed him away for a while. I believe the only reason he didn’t abuse me was his fear of losing his regular immigrant status, but he often used to get naked or change in front of me. Sometimes he left his bed and jumped into mine, wanting to sleep with me, as if we were a couple.

One Saturday night I reached my limit. I saw that he really was going to abuse me that night, so I just prayed for protection and for dawn to come so that I could leave. In the morning I left the house and all my things behind. I had no alternative. I told him I would come back soon, but I knew I would not go back there again.

I had a little money, 800 Reais, that I had earned by making African braids in a mall. I went to talk to the pastor of my church and sought help to find a place to live. The pastor referred me to an African family’s house where I could rent a room. I paid 300 Reais for rent and we shared the other bills, plus food. The woman in the house, however, did not allow me to cook. She was the only one who could cook. On the days she decided that she was not going to cook, I could not eat. I once spent three days without proper food. Because of that, and many other problems, I had to leave that place as well.

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