‘Taken’ by Eva Ellinor, Year 9, Thomas Clarkson Academy

Here, in the back of the dark greyish-green vehicle. I find myself cuddled between strangers I don’t know. They appear to be the same age as myself, 15 or older. I see lips pursed, some twitching, eyes darting back and forth on the walls, full of what I can only describe as life when it is taken away; you could practically smell the worry, and wonder if any of us would still be alive. Olive green wool and cotton drape across our skins, with a rucksack either resting on one’s wobbly shoulders or beneath their black, mudded boots.

The truck is now speeding, striking every bump as it slams through the tracks – acres of muddy mud below to drive on; it’s a wonder we don’t get stranded. I cringe at the stench of neighbouring manure; the smell is fresh, and I don’t typically wake up to it. I think of my mother, family, and friends; they represent home, a place I really want to be. I think of my dully coloured football was struck into the neighbours’ fancy brick walls, and my friend’s laughing spurted in my ear.

The truck appears to be slowing, and I can hear murmurs in the other voices around me, murmurs of despair and hopelessness. We are then dragged from the rear of the truck and beaten, as I can hear the crack of the whip against the flesh. Cries of helplessness overwhelm me as I begin to panic. Without warning, I am struck violently across the face and tumble to the ground. I was kicked many times while asking for mercy till I blacked out. When I ultimately came around, I was on a ferry crossing the channel.

When we arrived, we were escorted inside a factory and given uniforms, along with a few other men and women. We were placed in front of machinery and given difficult tasks to complete. It was at this point that I understood we had been kidnapped and trafficked as part of modern-day slavery. On the first day, we were required to work for more than 48 hours without a break. We were beaten if we needed a toilet break and if we cried. I later learned we were being held in Prague. I was desperate to return home; I missed my family so badly, and that is what kept me going.

After six months, we were transferred to another factory and were on our way to it. Every day, we were crammed into the back of a truck and led about like this. On this specific day, when we were driving, the lorry came to a sudden halt. We realised something wasn’t right and began to panic. The back of the lorry was then opened, and before us stood what appeared to be an entire army. They assured us that we were safe and helped us off the truck. I couldn’t believe we had been rescued and I could finally be with my family.