The plight of Elsa

Although I had never accommodated the idea of emigration day, but I kept thinking about the harsh living conditions of my family which bothered me like a continuous nightmare. I completed my high school with all difficulties and after that, I worked as a waitress in various cafeterias in Asmara for three years so to help improve my family’s conditions and to satisfy my conscience through the help I had contributed towards addressing problems. Although my work income was not satisfactory, “I felt that I did what I could to improve my family’s living conditions,” said the young girl Elsa.

When I became a matured girl, several men wanted to marry me either by talking to me directly at my work place or indirectly through my family. I was turning down the marriage requests for a long time saying, “I will wait for some time.” But one day, as I was just back from work, my father called out to me with special words and asked me to sit next to him. He tried to explain to me in detail what he thought was a good thing for me.  Although I tried to refuse at first, my mother intervened and appealed to me to accept the marriage request at that time. Marriage and the formation of family with someone whom I do not know and who lives abroad was not only difficult but also a risk. Since that person was not allowed to enter Eritrea, the marriage as I learnt was supposed to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

After thinking deeply, I accepted the marriage proposal cognizant that my family’s living conditions was the reason for my unwillingness to marry earlier, and I set myself up for emigration as much as I could. My husband, who was abroad, began to call me at different times and he was encouraging me. He also promised to do what he could for me. Elsa said, “In fact I felt too much happiness and my spirit was high from day to day”. I wished I would leave the country quickly and I was feeling anxious and inpatient for that. After nearly two months of communication over the phone and the internet, I learnt of the zero hour of my departure and on Friday I traveled to the town of Mendefera. Then I was contacted by the smuggler on the phone and then met another person who was also planning to leave the country and spent a night in a house belonging to a relative of the person I met. After 3:00 pm we went to a town known as Ade Quala by a public bus. Because the young man had told me that we will stop in a place near a village abefore we reach the town, we stopped and got out of the bus when we arrived at the village. We went on foot a little long distance and at evening time, we met seven young people (five girls and two young men) at one place. After a short break, we continued our journey and after a full night of walking on foot, Ethiopian soldiers received and handed us over to a refugee reception center near their camp. Then, I went to “Enda abaguna and from there to Ma- Aini” refugee camp and later moved to Addis Ababa.

After my arrival in Addis Ababa four months I after I left Eritrea, I and my fiancé got married formally, and spent two months together, before he returned to Sweden where he lives. I spent about eight months in Addis Ababa, where I depended for living on the remittances that my husband used to send and sometimes with the help of my relatives and friends, and happily I got acquainted to life in Addis Ababa. Our online communication had become daily, affectionate, loving and caring. I spent six months following the status of my health and the fetus inside me. Although I was reminding my husband to speed up the family union process, he was responding with various reasons and pretexts for the delays. In deed some of the reasons he argued for were acceptable and logical. As time went on I became skeptical and worried. The young woman Elsa said sometimes her husband was saying to her that the Swedish government has stopped the marriage family/couples reunification process and some other times it has stopped the appointment for beginning the process.

“Although I did not face any health problems in the past, but after my pregnancy my health conditions began to deteriorate day after day. I was suffering from abnormal pains other than symptoms known to pregnancy such as severe stomach pain and breathing difficulties and other pains. When I got concerned about those pains, I went to the nearest health clinic center and explained all my health problems to the health workers. But, because of language barriers the doctors might had not understood me clearly and tried many times to assure me that my pains were merely normal symptoms of pregnancy while feeling very sad about my situation.


Though my husband knew about my pregnancy, I rarely complained to him about the health problems that were facing me. Sometimes I told him about the health pains, but I was assuring him the pain was mild and should worry him.

But one day, I felt severe stomach pain and could not bear the pain. I told my neighbor, who was also a refugee like me, to take me to the nearby clinic and went together there. After initial tests, I was transferred to the maternity ward and after feeling uncomfortable about what was going then, I tried to explain to them that so far I did not complete seven months of pregnancy. However, the doctors informed me that the time for delivery is upcoming and there were strong indications of that. They encouraged me to prepare myself and make all possible preparations for delivery.

After a little time, while I was lying down in bed in the delivery ward, I felt the pain and the unnatural stomach pain become so intense that I could not endure the pain. I cried and yelled too much loudly until I lost my consciousness. My neighbor, who was beside me told me that I spent a day and night on that situation, and while her voice emotional, she informed me of another sad news, and that I had given birth to a dead fetus. After that, I tried to get off the bed, but I could not because of the fatigue and exhaustion that I had suffered due to the pain and birth labour. Then I collapsed in the bed, and could not do anything other than crying. After three days in the clinic, I paid birth and treatment fees. When I was discharged from the clinic, I felt deep anxiety and my dream shattered. Though many things were going on in my mind, I found it very difficult on how to tell what had happened to me to my husband. Although my neighbor was trying hard to console to me that my safety and my life was the greatest blessing of God. But I was telling her that death was better for me because of the hopelessness I felt then.

A week later, I told my husband of what happened to me. At first he felt sad and tried to console me, but after a while, he spoke with anger and put all the blames on me. Then I did not know what to say or do except crying. I spent two months arguing and quarreling with him. My life became very difficult and the money he was sending me before began to stop. When I tried to explain to him my difficult situation, he responded to me despicably by saying, “There is nothing between me and you anymore.”

Although I waited with patience for long thinking that he is temporarily angry and that he would forget it through time, and I was hoping that, but I did not imagine even for a single day that it would reach the point of terminating communications with me and that he was unwilling to respond to my calls. She said what was more shocking to her was when she searched for his phone number from his relatives and tried to call him. Then he replied to her by saying, “I have nothing to do with you anymore, I have divorced you”. After that, I had no choice but to accept that bitter reality and search for a job. “Here I am now. I have spent a whole year since I started working as a waitress,” said to me poor Elsa.


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