Firsthand experience sparks student’s fight against human trafficking

Story by Micaela Freeman | Staff Writer, Video by Rylee Seavers | Broadcast Reporter

At the age of 14, Orlando, Fla., senior Amber Katynski witnessed the impact of human trafficking after her mother heard about two trafficked Russian boys in a Florida family’s custody.

The boys, who later became Katynski’s younger brothers, were trafficked from Russia into the United States at ages 10 and 11. Katynski said young Russian boy virgins are prized possessions in human trafficking rings, so her brothers were worth a lot of money.

After being sent to a family in Florida, Katynski said her brothers spent their first three months in the United States locked in a bedroom. Months later, the Katynski family heard about the boys’ situation and took steps to legally adopt them.

Katynski said when her brothers arrived, she became aware of what had happened and understood it would change her and her family’s lives forever. She also said welcoming Kola and Vlad to their family of six drastically changed their household.

“Just to see their lives be radically transformed just coming here and knowing that they are safe with a family that loves them has been really refreshing and encouraging and kind of ignited a fire for me to be able to be an advocate and a voice who are voiceless,” Katynski said.

Katynski is now an advocate against human trafficking within the Waco community and Baylor’s campus. She said she wants to bring more awareness to the staggering statistics of human trafficking after she witnessed them in her own life.

Katynski said actively being a voice in the community can help bring awareness to the seriousness of human trafficking and help prevent future human trafficking.

“You can relate with people through their brokenness,” Katynski said. “To understand the gravity of it and the reality of it would be to look up the statistics, and keep your eyes open ’cause it’s happening all around us.”

Katynski said she wants everyone to know how to spot suspicious activity and if they do witness it, how to call the police non-emergency number. She said to look for people who don’t hold eye contact, have suspicious tattoos and a lack of work details.

In addition to being a voice against human trafficking in Texas and Florida, Katynski has contributed to the Baylor and Waco communities in other ways, including being a small group leader for her church. Katynski is an advocate for the End It movement, which is a coalition of organizations that work daily to end slavery. Katynski said the End It movement has helped her be a better advocate against sex slavery and human trafficking.

Brookfield, Wis., sophomore Eli Ashcroft, who is in Katynski’s small group, said Katynski has helped motivate him.

“Amber is such a sweet soul. She has a great passion for human trafficking and a huge place in her heart for all the victims involved with this issue,” Ashcroft said. “Watching her encourage us to follow our dreams is something she’s encouraged from day one. She is incredibly supportive and humble in all she does.”

With plans to write a novel and create a safe haven home for human trafficking victims, Katynski said she is excited for the future and grateful for the Baylor community’s support of her fight against human trafficking.