Three-quarters of the way to Sofia, I stopped in a small village, hoping to find something to still the increasing growl in my stomach. A tiny general store was still open, and after I politely greeted the proprietors in my almost-perfect Bulgarian, the owner and his wife clucked over me traveling alone and invited me to dinner at their home. After I explained that I was expected in Sofia, they quickly wrapped up some bread, cheese and olives for me. Their warm smiles made a quiet zing of pain go through my heart; I was coming to love this country more than I’d ever anticipated.
And Velichko would have kidnapped their daughter and sold her into slavery.
A thousand tiny cuts. One each for Anna and her friend Lara, for the women we’d managed to save, and for the hundreds more we hadn’t.
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