It is not easy to find a prostitute in the Lourdes of the North, the Jerusalem of the West. Prostitution is illegal, as it is in a growing number of European countries. A taxi driver told me I should be able to find one near the station, in front of the McDonalds. And I did spot some working girls, maybe four, walking up and down, looking at their phones and pretending to call, but actually carefully sizing up all passers-by. Local girls, or at least Eastern European, and not able to speak English – or so they said, when it became clear I wasn’t a potential customer.
Of course there are always loopholes in anti-prostitution-regulations. In Vilnius, a very Catholic city, these loopholes are a bit more complicated than in other places. A local explained that I needed to place an add on a dating website, that wasn’t really a dating site. That’s how I found Kim, who had placed a profile in Lithuanian and English, saying that she was ‘looking for adventure and interested in meeting men,’ and after exchanging two e-mails I could call her and agree to meet on a grey and windy day in a bar on Zalgirio Street, not far from her apartment in the northern part of town.
‘I don’t do this all the time,’ she says. ‘I also work in an office.’
But like many Lithuanians, she doesn’t earn enough to live on from her office job.
She is wearing faded blue jeans, Puma sneakers and a red T-shirt.
‘And I only do it with men I like.’
She is 26, about 1m70 and has dark hair – and doesn’t look like the picture on her profile.
Isn’t that a risk? That men expecting a blonde will be disappointed?
‘No,’ she says, ‘they understand that I won’t put my real picture on a website. And they like what they see.’
Of course it is all a matter of taste, but I think she looks as good or bad as in the profile.
When did you start this job?
‘Two years ago. When I broke up with my ex. I wanted to take revenge on him.’
‘He had cheated on me, with one of my best friends and some others too, so I wanted to get even.’
And make money at the same time?
‘Sure.’ She has placed some of her goods on the table: an iPhone 5, her LV-handbag and her cigarettes, Sobranie.
How many times a week do you work?
‘It depends… In winter more than in summer. I had a customer this afternoon.’
Why more in winter?
‘Men need warmth then, I guess.’
She has finished high school, but not her studies. ‘It was marketing & communications. I didn’t like it.’
So she started to work, first for an insurance company, then for a bank, four days a week.
What would you like to do if money wasn’t an issue?
She thinks for a while, lighting a second Sobranie. ‘I would want to live in Moscow and have a family. I don’t know what I would do. Maybe sleep more.’
She looks quite tired.
‘Are you Russian?’
‘Yes. Well, Russian-Lithuanian.’
Do people know what your second job is?
‘Of course not. Only my two best friends know. One has tried it also.’
Why you don’t want people to know?
‘That’s a stupid question.’
What is it like with the customers? What do you think of them?
‘It is work. I don’t think of them, I’m not interested in them.’
Can it be fun or nice too sometimes?
‘Yeah, sometimes it is okay. Some regular customers bring presents sometimes. And sometimes there is a nice-looking customer. Or one that doesn’t smell bad. Or doesn’t treat me like I am an object.’
What do you think of guys paying for sex?
‘I think it is a bit sad, to be honest.’
Is it right that it is illegal? And are you afraid of getting caught?
‘They won’t catch me. And besides, the fine is not that high. But yes, it is a good thing that it is illegal. Prostitution is bad.’
Do you travel?
‘Not a lot, but I would like to.’
‘Where have you gone?’
‘Rome, Mallorca, Greece. And Russia.’ She looks a lot happier when asked about her travels.
‘What do you think about Europe?
‘What is there to think about?’
Do you feel European? What do you think of the EU?
‘I don’t feel European. And the EU I don’t know. I know that Lithuania is a member and we can travel more easily now. That is good. But I don’t want the euro because it makes everything more expensive.’
Do you read newspapers or watch the news?
Do you vote?
She checks her phone, answers a message and says: ‘Have to go now, a friend is coming over.’
A friend or a customer.
‘A customer, but I like him.’ For the first time during the interview she looks sort of happy.