Most of the world would describe Prague, the largest city in the Czech Republic, as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Seven years ago, when I was introduced to this architectural paradise, I believed the same. However, in recent years, after researching and studying the culture, history and modern-day events that occur in this gorgeous city, my desire to return involves a darker side of Prague, one that escapes the attention it truly deserves. I visited this part of the world during Christmas of 2011 and returned this past July, determined to help a group of lost souls trapped in an ugly world of prostitution and forced servitude.
Upon returning to the Czech Republic on this most recent visit, my body experienced a bit of jet lag and my sleep patterns were out of sorts, so I woke at 3am on my first full day in the country and not wanting to waste any time, I left the hotel, hopped on the tram and rode until I recognized a familiar area called Wenceslas Square. As I stepped off the tram and looked around, I realized why this area was called the “red light district” of Prague. I viewed a group of young girls, scantily dressed, huddled in a circle, waiting for the last offer of purchase before disappearing into nearby brothels and hiding from the early crowds of visiting tourists.
These girls were surrounded by multiple men, west-African natives, who left their homeland (beginning in 2004) for what they hoped would bring a brighter future. Unfortunately, the only life they live is one of constant uncertainty and yes, “slavery” of another kind. Never in their dreams did they imagine that soliciting men to purchase women would be how they would make a living. These African men have no real alternative to this “shameful” job for various reasons: Firstly, with their status, they cannot work legally, and secondly, racism among Czech employers keeps them from earning a wage. They are marginalized by their Russian bosses, and associated with drug business, as prostitution and narcotics are usually closely linked.
As many as two thousand west- Africans have moved into the center of Prague, “hunting” groups of men , mostly stag party groups, as Prague is commonly referred to as the “stag capital of the world.” They entice the potential client with menus, complete with pictures of women, prices and services rendered. When they are successful in their hunt, the client follows the leader to a brothel and upon deliverance, the hunter is paid 100 crowns ($5.00) as a reward. Mind-boggling to many Americans, who spend $5.00 on a daily dose of caffeine, but for typical folks living in Prague, where the average worker is exploited by long, grueling hours of manual labor and little pay, $5.00 is worth the shamefulness of the business.
In 1968, the Soviets invaded this territory and have remained in control of much of the workforce in Prague, as well as surrounding areas. Mafia slave owners target poverty-stricken countries, such as Russia, Bulgaria and Romania, adding to their collection of young girls. Fraudulent documents are created, in an effort to evade police action, and the girls are often relocated to avoid being tracked by those who mean to help them. There are 860 brothels in the Czech, with over 200 located in Prague. I witnessed many unspeakable cruelties, but I also learned that these girls can be rescued!
Simply reaching out to these girls brought surprise and amazement to their lifeless eyes. It was as if no one had ever shown them genuine kindness. I found it quite easy, as well as extremely rewarding, to connect with them and offer help. My goal is to return to this city as quickly as possible. There is much work that needs to be done and I am willing to do it. The reason I go…if I was locked in one of those buildings, I would want someone to rescue me.
Author’s note: For more information, see the attached links: