Mira's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.
In 1988, Mira was only 17 years old. She lived in Tirana, the capital of Albania with her family consisting of parents and a younger brother. Her boyfriend was not the man she would like to marry. He was three years older than her, and she had not told her parents about him.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was very shocked. I told my boyfriend and we both decided we should have an abortion. I could not tell my parents. They would send me away from home, or they would, in a state of shock, be looking for a person where I had to have an abortion. But in either case, they would be very worried. Relatives, friends, neighbours, would all accuse me of being "a bad girl”, and in the company of friends I would always be followed by their contempt.
The only thing I thought about was getting rid of that nightmare… I wanted to have an abortion. I had some fears: first, because I did not want my parents to find out, second, because the opinions around me were very negative. If such a thing were to be known, I would be called a “dishonest girl”. No one would want to marry me. Another problem was the relationship with the government. I would be called an undesirable person for society.
I made the decision myself, but my boyfriend helped me find a woman who had practiced such things, that is, a woman who could provide abortions outside the medical system. Everything had to be done in secret, otherwise we could be arrested.
It was not easy. I do not remember in detail how my boyfriend found the contacts. I do not even remember the name of the woman who had to perform the abortion procedure… If I could, I would like to forget them all. Abortions at that time were illegal. We had to go in the evening, in the dark to a house, where the procedure would take place.
That moment was like a nightmare. I do not remember where the house was, somewhere in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital, Tirana. I only remember the room: poor, dirty, an old woman, with a thick voice (as if she had smoked cigarettes all her life). She said kind words to me, so that I would not be afraid and stay still.
The room was dark. The woman told me to lie on the floor on an old blanket. Nearby I saw a pan with some spears, scissors, folded cloth, and cotton on it. In those moments, I did not think of anything, I was not afraid for my life, I just wanted to get rid of that embarrassment.
The whole procedure lasted 15-20 minutes. I wanted to leave that place as soon as I could. My boyfriend paid the money, I do not remember how much the payment was. The woman who performed the abortion did this work mainly for money (her salary was insufficient to support the family).
If I think about what happened now, it is just an old, dark memory, sometimes it seems like it was not me. The inability to have a normal abortion with a good medical standard is the only reaction that comes to me now. As for the choice, I made it myself, I would do it again, (but of course in good medical condition).
I could even be in jail for my choice. If I were spied on, discovered by someone, the police would come to my house and I could be expelled from school, even from the city. At the same time, the woman who performed the abortion would be sentenced to prison.
This was the law of that time. I had no right over my body and over my choice. The woman would be punished for breaking the law. I had known many other girls who did what I did, it was the way it was at that time.