An Empty Promise
We are all going to leave this world. You are not going to take anything with you. Even the coffin you are buried in will turn to dust.
My name is Mary. I live in Sicily and this is my story.
We were all promised a short journey which would lead us to a new life in Europe.
The truth was very different…
I grew up in Ukwuani in Nigeria.
My father left when I was a baby. My mother remarried and had six more children. I felt like I didn’t belong.
I tried many different ways to make enough money to survive but it was impossible.
One by one my friends were leaving to try their luck elsewhere.
One day my friend introduced me to a man called John. John told me that he could help me to reach
Italy. In Italy I would make plenty of money and I could even study. For the first time I felt hopeful.
John took my documents and I swore that I would pay 25,000 Naira when I began making money in Italy.
He told me that the journey would only take a few days.
When we reached the Libyan desert we were packed into trucks and covered with tarpaulin held down with watermelons. Mainly suffocated.
When we arrived in Qatrun, John left us. We were held captive by the bogas and madames for three months.
Girls were chosen at random for sex work and boys worked all day without food.
One boy tried to escape. They caught him and beat him to death in front of our eyes.
Next we traveled to Sabha. We were given to men who raped and killed without thought.
They were heartless.
We thought it couldn’t get any worse but after three weeks we were moved to Bani Walid. The floor was wet with toilet water. There were rocks everywhere and because it was Ramadan there was no food to be found.
We built shelters with rocks to hide from the ferocious Sun and freezing night.
I tried everything to stay strong. Listening to the stories of others helped me to forget my problems. Sometimes we would sing together and when we had the strength we would play games to forget.
Finally it was time to cross the sea. In front of me was a small rubber dinghy. It looked tiny next to the waves.
We were packed in like sardines. Nobody came with us to drag the boat. They just pushed us out to sea and hoped for the
After one day we were picked up by an Italian rescue boat.
We traveled for four days on the boat and the rescuers threw food and water into the crowd. I had to jump to catch it.
Now I live in Sicily. But I’m still waiting for my papers so that I can work. I wish I could keep busy to keep my mind away from that awful journey.
[The words “No immigrants”, “You’re a prostitute”, “Go home!”, “We don’t want you here!”, “Whore”, “Stop immigration” are written across the page]
Still I feel like I don’t belong. Without nobody I just keep carrying myself. I don’t have anyone to call my own. I wish people would realize that we all have the same blood running through our veins.
We all have a story to tell.
Written by Rachel Shapcott
Illustrated by Gabi Froden
Animated by Jarbrain
Voiceover by Golden Ekbo
Music by Phil Wilkinson
Produced and Directed by PositiveNegatives
In conjunction with the Danish Refugee Council