Why you should care

Because trust is in very short supply for a reason.

It was a small town between the Baltic Sea and a river. You could walk across the whole town in less than 30 minutes. We had one elementary school, one cemetery and one church, one bridge — and nothing going on until summertime, when tourists came to spend their vacation at the sea.

I was 7 or 8 years old, and the only organized activity we had was a karate class. I was dreaming about ballet, but there were no dance classes around, and since Red Sonja was my role model and I was obsessed with Bruce Lee, I took martial arts very seriously.

The class was full of boys, and I was one of three girls there, but I didn’t mind because I preferred hanging with boys. We also had 7- and 8-year-old kids training with teenagers, but it was a small town, so we all knew each other from school. We weren’t friends, but we were friendly, and I kind of trusted them.

I was an only child, and my parents were super paranoid about me, so it was almost a miracle that I was allowed to go anywhere by myself, but this was the early ’90s. Kids were free-range, and everyone had a key on a strap around their necks.

Seba pulled out the rope from his backpack and asked me if I was sure that I wasn’t a chicken.

I believe my parents signed me up for martial arts class to control my time a little bit more. If I came home late, I could expect a spanking, and then I couldn’t go out after school for a week or two. I never wanted that, so I tried to be back home on time.

One day I was coming back from training with two boys I knew. Let’s call them D and T. They were probably about four years older than me and were living about five blocks from my house. Suddenly, this other kid joined us. I’d never seen this guy before, but he was introduced to me as “Seba, a friend from the city.”

Seba was at least 15 and was rude to me from the start, the main problem for him being that I was a girl. He was mocking me for no reason, and at some point he told me that he’d show me something cool, but I’d be probably too much of a chicken to check it out. I was not a chicken, and I wanted to prove it.

We went to the riverbank fairly close to my house, so I didn’t worry about being late. We walked through the bulrush. I was not allowed to go there, like many other places, but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t going there. I was just pretty skilled at avoiding trouble with my parents. There were a couple of old boats sitting in the mud and big, crooked trees. I knew this area very well, mostly because my father went fishing there on the weekends and I liked going with him.

“Let’s kill her now. You said you want to do it. She’ll tell everybody if we won’t,” said Seba.

Seba pulled out some rope from his backpack and asked me if I was sure that I wasn’t a chicken. I said I wasn’t and called him stupid. The other guys were watching. Seba took my hands and tied them together behind my back, then he pulled the rope down and tied my ankles together, and he threw the other end of the rope across a tree branch. He told me to lie down, and all three of them pulled the rope and tied it to the tree trunk.

I was hanging head down. “OK, what’s next?” I asked.

“We’re going to torture you and see how much you can stand, and if you make a peep we’ll call you a coward.”

It didn’t sound like fun to me, but then I was trying to protect my reputation and be brave. They spun me and swung me while beating me with sticks. For what felt like hours. All I could think was that my mom was going to kill me for being late. I felt nauseous, but I didn’t want to say anything. My vision was blurry. Suddenly I felt a thump on the back of my head and I blacked out. My last thought before it happened was that I was really afraid now, and I felt tears running down my forehead. I didn’t make a peep.

I woke up lying on wet sand, still tied up. They were whispering, arguing.

“Let’s kill her now. You said you want to do it. She’ll tell everybody if we won’t,” said Seba.

“We can’t just kill her. People know that we are training together; they’ve seen us with her,” said D.

“I don’t wanna do it, I will not do it. It’s stupid. I changed my mind. Let’s just go,” cried T.

“Let’s kill her! Now it’s our chance! Nobody’s gonna know,” Seba growled.

“You can’t be serious! Besides, she looks dead already,” said D.

“We should help her,” T’s voice was shaking.

“You are fucking cowards and pussies,” said Seba.

“And you’re a psycho!” said T.

“I’m going home,” said D.

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The author near the scene of the crime.

Source Photo courtesy of Katarzyna Tanalska

I think Seba grabbed D and pushed him in the bulrush; I could hear a splash and cursing. I opened my eyes and everything was hurting. My limbs were numb; I could taste blood in my mouth; my head felt like it was filled with boiling oatmeal. I looked around and T was looking at me. His face was red and he was crying. “You’re alive …”

I just nodded my head. He turned me on my belly and started cutting the knots.

“If you tell anyone, we’ll find you, and you’ll be less lucky next time …” His voice was trembling and he was crying. He left right after he said that.

I was alone and it was getting dark. I washed my face and stopped my nose from bleeding. My clothes were wet, and my hands were all scratched; my whole body was aching. I was afraid to go back to a home that was five minutes away.

My mother was very angry when I got there because I was 30 minutes late. I told her that we were playing and chasing each other on our way back and I tripped and fell and someone poured water on me. She screamed at me for being clumsy and spanked me, and I couldn’t go out for the next two weeks. I didn’t want to go out anyway, actually. I didn’t want to go to school; I wanted to disappear.

I never saw those guys at class again. They were invisible at school too, but I saw them a few times on the street from far away. Then D moved away with his parents, and I have no idea what happened to T. Seba vanished forever.

I hated them, and I promised myself that when I grew up, I’d face them and ask them why they did this to me.

Years later, when I was in my 20s, I was walking down the street in the city and I saw T. He was there, across the street, and we were about to cross it in different directions.

I knew it was him, and I was ready to attack him. He looked at me, and I could tell that he recognized me. His face got all red again, and he started backing off. He remembered.

I watched him run away from me, and it felt good. That was good enough for me.

OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising — the human.