To all who know her, Marina Chapman seems to have a normal life. She works hard in her community, having built up a non-profit that works with children from scratch, after working as a chef for many years. Behind the normalcy, however, lies a darker past, that Marina spent many years trying to put behind her. Now though, she is finally ready to share how she made it through the jungle alone.
Etching Out The Pieces
According to Marina, her earliest memories are somewhat fuzzy, though it’s not uncommon to find the details obscured by the clouds of time. In her case, however, there are important pieces to her life puzzle that she can’t remember at all.
Born sometime around 1950 in what she thinks is Bogota, Marina’s life began normal enough, but when she was between 3 and 5 years old, she would find that everything she knew was suddenly lost in the blink of an eye.
Creating Her Own Identity
Try as she might, when Marina tries to reach back through the fog of time, she can’t even remember what she’d originally been called. Marina just happened to be the name she picked for herself when she finally came through the trials that defined her early life.
She has no recollection of what life was like in her family as a child, no images even of her mother and father. She can only remember the moment that everything changed.
Too Close To Home
Given the peculiarity of her childhood, it’s natural that Marina is unsure of just how much time may have passed between each of the events that she recalls.
She was hardly more than a baby, likely around four or five, when she would be taken from the safety of her home. She seemed to recall playing outside not far from her family’s dwelling when she suddenly heard footsteps creep up behind her. Before she could run, she was overtaken.
Light Snuffed Out
As the strangers came up behind the young Marina, she can only remember that one of them seemed to cover her mouth, before holding up a cloth to her nostrils. An acrid smell burned for only a few moments, imprinting a vivid memory in her mind, before everything went dark.
Most, including Marina, believe the handkerchief was likely soaked with chloroform. When she came to, she seemed to be in the trunk of a car that was driving far away from her village.
Not Alone, For Now
In recalling the moment of her kidnapping to The Guardian, Marina said, “I saw a hand cover my mouth – a black hand in a white hanky. Then I realized there were two people taking me away.
There were children in the background – I could hear them crying.” She likely was just one of a number of children who had been kidnapped, except the rest of her story didn’t quite go the way anyone had expected. Rather than being held for ransom, Marina was left alone.
The Fringes Of Nowhere
The car stopped in the middle of the jungle, ejecting the young girl into the foliage that surrounded the dirt path. Marina at first waited where she’d been left, expecting her kidnappers to come back, but they never returned.
Instead, she would have to figure out how to fend for herself in the midst of an often harsh jungle. Though she was nearly paralyzed by fear, Marina still had some hope left that she would soon be discovered. With that, she began to wait.
Fending For Herself
The dampness of the jungle began to set in, coating Marina in a layer of moisture that seemed to make the dirt stick to her even more.
As the hours passed by and still no one arrived, she began to scream and cry, hoping that some person who was just out of sight might hear. It was no use. No matter how much she cried or how loud she screamed, Marina was still alone. Tearfully, she began to walk.
The First Night
As the day drew to a close, the lost and frightened child knew she needed to find a place to spend the night. In the morning, she somehow knew that it was time to set out in search of other humans.
She eventually found a place that felt sheltered and slept uneasily. If she didn’t find humans soon, she couldn’t even begin to guess what other horrors would befall her. She would need food, water, and a way to stay away from predators.
Looking For Others
As morning came, the sun gently peaking through the dense foliage the stretched endlessly above Marina’s head, the terrified child decided to start looking for other people. She began walking, each stretch of the jungle looking exactly like the last.
Marina couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down her face, but she knew she couldn’t stop, as new terror set in. She was beginning to get hungry, and she had no idea how she would manage to find food.
An Endless Journey
Marina was losing strength, and still, she hadn’t found any sign of human life. With her hunger increasing rapidly, Marina decided to try and find some food in the brush.
Never having foraged in the jungle, Marina wasn’t sure where to start when it came to edible plants. Marina may have lucked out when it came to her first meal, but that luck would quickly wear thin. After what seemed like days, Marina finally saw a small change in the forest.
These days, Marina Chapman seems like your typical Colombian-born English grandmother. Her energetic and spritely demeanor, however, was formed by the skills she developed during a hidden past, in which she claims to have survived the jungle as a child with some unlikely help.
Given the miraculousness of Marina’s life, the story of her survival is one that wasn’t often told, but over the years it’s slowly slipped out, revealing that her current life is a remarkable feat that shouldn’t have been possible.
Light In The Jungle
At some point, Marina recalled that she found a native village tucked between the trees. Though she tried to enlist their aid, the natives wanted nothing to do with the lost girl.
They had no common language, which only made it harder for them to trust the outsider, even if she was only a child. Rather than taking her in, the inhabitants of the settlement would throw stones at her in order to drive her away. There would still be one benefit to finding the community, however…
Scrounging For Scraps
Slowly, Marina fell into a routine, hiding in the underbrush during the day, while scavenging for scraps of food left behind in the village under the cover of darkness. She was surviving, despite the odds, but it was barely enough.
Without any human contact, Marina wasn’t even sure she remembered how to speak, and her clothes had become so torn and dirty, it was becoming harder to tell if she was even a human child or not.
Finding enough edible food each day was becoming increasingly difficult. The child often had to experiment to find things she could safely ingest, but as most animals found, that process without any guidance is trial and error and can lead to fatal mistakes.
On one particularly desperate occasion, Marina would make a costly mistake, but in doing so would find finally find some form of salvation from her lonely plight, without which she may have never made it out of the jungle.
Leaving A Bad Taste
Marina couldn’t have been sure what she had just put in her mouth, but only several minutes later, her stomach began to hurt. She had been so hungry and couldn’t help trying out the plant she had recently found, but clearly, it wasn’t edible.
As she writhed on the ground in pain, she suddenly saw an elderly monkey peering over her. Though she had lived around the colony for some time, they’d never paid her any mind, until now.
Bridge Over Muddy Water
The pain was rapidly intensifying, to the point that Marina could hardly imagine seeing another day. The monkey peering at her may not have spoken a human language, but he could see that this extra large, strange, sort of almost-primate creature was sick.
Pulling the girl along the ground, he brought her to a puddle of muddy water, indicating that she should drink, which Marina quickly did. But it would get worse before it got better.
Laying It Bare
Mere moments after drinking the water, Marina heaved up the contents of her stomach, which helped push her towards recovery. Marina had been living close by the band of monkeys for a while, but they’d always kept their distance from her.
She had benefitted from picking the food they’d dropped during that time, but now that the monkey whom she now calls Grandpa helped her through food poisoning, she decided to try and become ingratiated with the clan.
Monkey See Monkey Do
Though the monkeys were still somewhat indifferent to Marina’s presence, she felt like it was safer to get closer to them after Grandpa saved her. She would copy how they climbed trees and learned to forage in the same places they did.
She also quickly learned that it was a good idea to stand on the ground below as the monkeys brought bunches of bananas to their treetop homes because she could catch whatever they’d dropped. But still, she felt alone.
One Of The Family
Marina may still regard the monkeys as her family, but it seems like the sentiment wasn’t entirely reciprocated. The monkeys seemed to tolerate her presence, though the more time she spent in their midst, the more open they were to including the girl in their lives.
At one point, Marina even began joining them in the treetops, where they would sit and groom her, picking out all of the bugs and dirt from her long, tangled hair, just as they would to one of their own.
People Passing Through
Marina had become somewhat content with her life in the jungle, especially as many of the younger monkeys had no suspicions about the human child who tagged along with them, as she had seemingly always been around.
She still somedays longed to return to her previous life, though she could hardly remember anything about it. As the years passed, Marina would occasionally see groups of hunters in the distance, but she never tried to reach out to them. One day, that would change.
Running Towards Danger
Marina loved her adoptive monkey family, but still found herself craving human attention. After a year or more in the jungle, she has no way to know how long it had really been, she couldn’t stop herself from running over to a band of hunters.
According to Marina, she came to them on all fours, like a monkey, making the noises the primates made. One of the reasons she chose this group in particular, however, was because there happened to be a woman among them.
Caught In A Trap
Marina grabbed hold of the woman’s leg, who was startled by the animalistic creature that had grabbed on to her. It took several moments before she realized that beneath the dirt and long hair was a young girl.
The woman instructed the rest of her party to put Marina in the trunk with the birds they were collecting. She thought she’d finally found salvation, but surprisingly, Marina’s story would only become more harrowing upon reentering civilization.
A Worser Fate
The din of the nearby city of Cúcuta was startling to Marina after spending so much time in the jungle. Not that the jungle is quiet, per se, but the sounds that filled the air were different.
Crouched in the trunk of the car, several years after a similar car ride took her away from everything she knew, she hoped to return to a normal life. Instead, she would find herself sold to a brothel, where she was given the name Gloria and put to work.
Running For Cover
Life for Marina seemed to be going from one hardship to another. Though her life in the jungle had been primitive, at least the monkeys treated her well, unlike her new taskmasters.
When Marina was on the brink of being given more adult duties at her new home, she couldn’t fathom going through with the assignment, and somehow managed to escape. Life on the streets would be better than this place, and Marina was already used to fending for herself.
Taking On The Streets
Life as the leader of a band of street urchins was almost better than life in the jungle. After all, she was once again surrounded by humans, and less likely to be at the mercy of nature.
One of the tricks she often employed to steal from wealthy women was to run up to them and pull down their pants, which she explained would cause them to drop their bags in surprise. Marina would then take off, bag in hand. It couldn’t last forever.
Dragging Her Feet
Despite her luck as a child petty thief, Marina longed for the comforts of a home and a family. Life on the street was wearing her down, and she would soon discover what she thought was a way out.
Instead, it would just lead her to more suffering. Upon hearing that a former friend of hers managed to escape the band of homeless children by becoming a maid, Marina became determined that she would do the same.
Out Of The Frying Pan
It wasn’t as easy to find an employer as Marina had thought it would be. She searched for a family that would take her in, to no avail. Finding employment was almost harder than scrounging for food day in and day out, or stealing purses.
On the brink of giving up, Marina found a family that agreed to take her in as a maid, letting her sleep under their roof in exchange for room and board. It was too good to be true.
Chained To Her Work
As it turned out, the family that had agreed to take Marina in had an ulterior motive. They were a well-known crime family in the area, and suddenly, Marina found her freedom restricted once more.
This time, she was even less sure of how she’d escape, despite the previous trials she’d endured. The family had essentially enslaved her, making the child feel further than ever from the family she’d been taken from so many years ago.
Far from being rescued from the grueling environment that came along with running a children’s street gang, Marina suddenly found herself pressed into a terrible service.
The conditions with this new family were so poor, she almost wished that she were back in the jungle or on the street. The only problem was that she didn’t know how to escape. The only idea she came up with was to try and ask her kindly neighbor for some help.
A Way Out
It was thanks to the family’s neighbor, Maruja, that Marina finally found both freedom and comfort. Maruja not only took her from the family enslaving her, she gave her a family of her own.
Maruja had nine of her own children, one of whom decided to take in the little girl as her own. As she departed Maruja’s care to live with her daughter, Maria’s, family in Bogota, Maruja gave Marina her very first gift. A beautiful blue satin dress.
Not for the first or last time in her life, Marina was whisked away from the life she knew – but this time, it was for the better.
Maruja was happy to take her in, but she also knew she needed to bring the frightened little girl far away from the family that was exploiting her labor. Maruja contacted her daughter Maria Forero Eusse, who was living in Bogota with her family, and they agreed to take in Marina, despite their limited means.
Others Like Her
Marina may have readjusted to living with humans again when she was first taken from the forest, but she still wasn’t always used to playing in the same way that other children do.
The Forero Eusse family lived in a one-room cabin that was finished with only a dirt floor. They also had several children of their own to feed, but for the first time since she was ripped away from the family of her own, she was surrounded by people who cared.
Home At Last
Maria Forero Eusse recalled in a recent interview with The Telegraph, “Luz Marina was a lovely, well-behaved girl who always helped me with the chores. She was happy and honest and always wanted to be of use. She was a pleasure to have in the house.”
Her new family also encouraged her to choose a name for herself, after having been given several names since leaving the jungle. She chose Luz Marina, styling herself after a Colombian pageant queen.
Several years would pass before Maria officially adopted Marina, but as they saw the family’s good fortune increase, they decided it would be economically advantageous to move to England.
Marina was invited along, but she insisted she go in the capacity as a caretaker for the younger children. Eventually, the Forero Eusse family would return to Colombia, but Marina would not only adopt a new family, in addition to starting her own, but she would also adopt a new home.
Looking To The Trees
Marina never forgot her time with the monkeys, always impressing others who didn’t know her past with her strength and agility when it came to climbing.
She would eventually move with her adoptive human family to Bradford, England, where she met her husband John at church. Marina’s later life might have appeared normal, as she became a chef and now works with children, but slowly, slowly, she finally freed herself from the burden of her life story.