I first met Sasha about a year ago, crumpled in a corner on a city centre street. She struck such a pathetic picture that I couldn’t walk past her and stopped to offer some help. We got talking and I see her most weeks now at various locations about the ‘town’ as Belfast folk refer to it. We’ve built up a friendship of sorts, a level of trust whereby she has began to tell me a little of her past. Bit by bit I am learning her sad story.

Sasha isn’t her real name by the way, for reasons that will become clear later. She was born in Russia but moved to another Eastern European country at an early age. Her father wasn’t on the scene and for reasons I’m still not totally clear on neither was her mother. As such, she was raised by her grandparents. At some point, everything went wrong though and she found herself in Northern Ireland.

Sasha told me she was trafficked to the U.K. to sell drugs and operate as a sex worker. She is slowly unpeeling this layer of her story to me. Another homeless friend of mine, Maggie, told me Sasha used to sell heroin in the park. This surprised me at the time but is now beginning to make more sense. Maggie and Sasha don’t get on. Sasha says Maggie bullies her, Maggie says Sasha is a dealer.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. All I can say is what I see with my own eyes. I’ve never witnessed Sasha selling drugs, although they are rife throughout the city centre. She speaks good English, is intelligent, polite to a fault and has never asked me for anything. I’ve had to force money, drinks and food upon her in the past. She carries herself with pride and dignity.

She has a boyfriend, let’s call him Yuri, but I rarely see him. His pitch is on another street which doesn’t form part of my daily commute to and from work. Her pride and joy is her little black and white dog who is forever at her side. Cynics might say the little girl lost routine and cute dog are all part of the scam, to make mugs like me part with our loose change. Maybe, but I honestly don’t believe this is the case here.

She gets hassled a lot by men on the street. I witnessed such an incident the other day. She politely told the guy, a fellow rough sleeper, to go away but he persevered for some time before stumbling off, clearly under the influence of something. I felt awkward and uncomfortable. Sasha is streetwise, she can fight her own battles, but should I have intervened and said something?

Risked a punch to the head? A knife to the guts? But there I go throwing stereotypes around again. It’s so hard to get to the bottom of these people, you barely scratch the surface. I’ve joked to Sasha about interviewing her for my next book and next time I see her I’m giving her a copy of the first one. She’s a reader and seems intrigued that one of my main characters is a young homeless woman.

Our streets are saturated with such young, lost souls and they all have a story to tell. I can’t help them all but if we all do just a little bit more then we can collectively make a massive difference. So if you pass a Sasha today, or a Maggie or a Yuri stop and talk to them. Ask them how you can help. Even a five minute conversation can make all the difference to them. Show them you care.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

29 thoughts on “Sasha

  1. That was very noble of u dear.A few days back I was traveling by an auto(a mode of transport in india) and the driver told me his story about how he lost all his loved ones in the village and only he survived since he was staying here in mumbai.He wished death for himself and I spoke to him for a while trying to give him some hope.i dont know how much it helped him but I was happy that I was there and he could vent out his emotions and anger instead of keeping it inside him

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love that you stop and talk to homeless people. I often want to do that when I pass but the honest truth is I’m nervous. The vast majority of the homeless people I pass are men and I guess rightly or wrongly that makes me feel vulnerable. I wish I had the boldness to do what you do.

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  3. When I worked in our Nation’s capital city (Ottawa) I would often walk by an older gentleman who appeared to have been in the streets for some time. I always stopped and said hello and asked him how he was getting on, and we would chat for a few brief minutes about the weather or something as equally innocuous. He wore a wedding ring and I had asked after his wife one day and his reply was a sad smile, which, to me spoke volumes. It’s been some ten years since I left Ottawa and he still crosses my mind from time to time, and I always hope he’s wintered well.

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  4. both ends of a ladder are equal in importance and value, just as humans are. to save myself and the recipient any embarrassment i’ve adopted the technique of saying, “i just now found this dollar and i’m wondering if you could use it.” those words seem to reduce the natural tension between us. john

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  5. I love your heart for all people. I love too, that you were able to identify your stereotypes of people groups and actively work to overcome those by pushing past them—cautiously. I love that you first see the good in people and root for them by not being presumptuous or forcing what we deem as “health” on them. Loving people where they are and as they are—what a gift you bring to the world!

    Liked by 1 person

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