Children are very cruel. They say everything they see and call everything by their proper names. Adults cannot do that. We say: "Nine-year-old Alena cannot hear from birth." And the children in the street point a finger at her and shout: "She's deaf!"
We say that the father of the children drank and fought at home, that he made the life of his family hell. And the children in the street say: “Your drunkard dad kicked you out of the house! Nobody needs you..." These are simple words said by little children, but they bring so much pain, resentment, and tears.
“It’s good that Alena doesn’t hear that - she would get very upset,” - the older sister, 13-year-old Christina, says. – “I'm an adult already, I'm used to such words, but they would hurt Alena. Everything makes her cry”.
And eleven-year-old Dima listens to us and keeps silence... What can he say? He's not little, what to discuss, the things that that malicious tongues say. He needs to work to take care of his mother and sisters. He works at a car wash.
"You are just eleven years old, Dima!" - I say.
"I'm already eleven!" - a real man answers me.
“Ma’am, speak slowly and loudly. I cannot hear you"
- Nino, please, first of all, tell us about your youngest daughter and a health problem she has.
Nino: Alena can hardly hear, she has been using a hearing aid for about two years, but she has not learned to talk properly. My girl suffers a lot. For instance, when you ask her to bring a cup or a hairbrush, she does not understand what it is about, she simply does not know the names of the objects. She stares into your eyes, then begins to tremble or beat herself on her leg... It’s because of nerves. Besides that, she has developmental delay.
- One can’t notice that...
Nino: Alena looks like a completely ordinary girl. Nothing hurts her. But I see her mental anguish, her efforts to understand what we are telling her, her tries to figure out what to answer, her tries to put words into sentences. The hearing aid brought her some relief, of course, but it used to be a kind of horror. When I called her, and she did not hear, she was getting hysterical, and started tearing her hair! Now she cannot run, jump, play with the children - she is afraid her hearing aids will fall out. But it's still better than hearing nothing at all.
"Mom loves you, baby"
- Does Alena go to a regular school?
Nino: Yes, but it is very difficult for her. She is simply unable to master the school curriculum. Of course, we have no money for a special school. We visited so many doctors, we waited for each hearing aid for six months - because at first you can apply for financing just one aid and after that you can ask for the second one. Because of this, Alena went to school one year later. The doctors said that she had to get used to it, it was necessary to see if she could use it at all.
- And do they laugh at her at school?
Nino: Everyone at school knows about our situation, they put themselves in her shoes. Teachers are undemanding. Alena needs to learn to speak without gestures, to pronounce words. Thanks to the teachers, they addressed the authorities, and we were financed for the speech therapist lessons. Hopefully that will bring a result, and my girl will finally become able to talk like everyone else and will not feel flawed. In October she will take examination to find out if the operation can help her. I don’t know yet whether the state will finance it, but it would be great if doctors would give us at least a small chance. I pray to Lord - day and night asking to relieve her suffering!
- When did you notice that there was something wrong with your daughter?
Nino: To be honest, I did not notice that right away. I noticed that Alena was putting her right ear to everything, for example, to the TV. At that age, when other children usually start babbling, she did not even try to say anything, she explained everything with her hands. But my neighbors and relatives said that this happens - many children start talking late, and we just had to wait. My husband used to say that “it was I who was deaf, and that everything was fine with the baby.” I could not argue with him. But when she turned four, I sounded the alarm.
- And what did you do then?
Nino: A therapist, who worked in our village said it was a brain problem. In the city of Zugdidi, doctors could not determine the cause. It was only in Tbilisi where the doctors determined that my daughter simply did not hear. They said it was too late to operate on her. I cannot describe with words what I felt. I felt guilty, I felt pain... I am not trying to make excuses, but you cannot even imagine in what a nightmare we have lived for 15 years. And there was no money either for travel, or for doctors - for anything at all.
- Could you give us more detail? Please tell us what happened.
Nino: It hurts me so much to recall this. My husband drank heavily. When he was drunk, he was losing his mind and used to kick all us out. I addressed everyone for help! I asked to provide him with medical assistance, to talk to him, to convince him... But our neighbors, our relatives, village administration - no one wanted to interfere. But they often teased my children in the street that their father was a drunkard. I took care of his bedridden mother for many years, let her rest in peace, and when she died, my husband said he did not need me anymore and that I could get away...
- Why did you tolerate that, Nino?
Nino: Probably, the family is the main thing for any women! I didn’t want to ruin the family, I endured it to the last, I didn’t want my children to accuse me that I left them without a father.
- But your children saw everything! They understood everything!
Nino: You are right! The day came when my eldest daughter Kristina told me that it was impossible for her to endure it any longer, that she could no longer live like this. After his last binge he kicked us out of the house – we had just our slippers on, I only managed to take documents... My distant relatives live in Poti, so I decided to move here. My parents and brother live in Abkhazia, and I had nowhere else to go.
How cruel many children are! And it's good that the baby doesn't hear. If she heard all the hurtful words of her peers, she would cry day and night...
- Did your husband have problems with alcohol from the very beginning?
Nino: Yes, he had them from the first day of our family life. I think he started having this problem even before that. He kidnapped me... I was not going to get married at all. I studied to be a nurse in Tbilisi and went to Jvari for practical work in a hospital. It was right there where he saw me - he was in a hospital with a spinal injury. As soon as he was discharged from there, he started pursuing me. I refused to date him, but finally he grabbed me by the hair and pushed me into the car. Since then, my life turned into hell. God knows, I endured as much as I could, I still hoped that he would change. But do you see how it ended? Now we have no home, no money, no food. But I see that it is better for the children to be here, they are happy, they are no longer afraid that their drunken father will break into their room in the middle of the night.
"Children sleep on the floor, but they are not afraid that their drunk dad will come in the middle of the night and start crushing everything."
- Do you pay rent for this room?
Nino: Sure, I pay 100 GEL. I did not manage to find anything cheaper. You can see how damp it is. And the furniture? Beds, armchairs, a sofa - everything is falling apart. My son sleeps right on the floor. We have no table, no chairs. Our good neighbors gave us clothes. We asked to give us empty boxes at the store, and we put our clothes there. We have no closets We neither have hot water in the bathroom. This old spoiled electric stove serves us both for cooking and for heating in winter. Sorry for such details, we even heat the water for bathing on it.
“How can it heat? It doesn't warm itself. And we manage to cook on it and warm water for bathing"
- How do you manage to cook on it?
Nino: Well... I put the beans to cook in the evening, and the next day they are ready. We don't have much to cook, but it takes a very long time to cook porridge, pasta, or soup...
- What means do you exist on?
Nino: We have been getting social allowance since last month. My parents used to send us some money from their pension, my cousin also helped us. But for how long can we live off him? He has his own family; he works at a car wash. My Dima followed him, he goes to work with him.
- Is it true, Dima? How do you manage to cope?
Dima (11-year-old): To be honest, I can only vacuum the cabin. But many people like how I work, they praise me, give me money or food. I bring everything home to my mom and sisters!
“I am already an adult. I'm eleven years old. I have to work to keep my mom and sisters. I like to work at the car wash"
- Well-done, you are a real man! Do you study well at school?
Dima: Not very well, to be honest. I like to play ball, I like to walk around with boys, and I like to go to the car wash with my uncle. When I grow up and I will make sure that my mom, Christie, and Alena have everything they need!
- Have you already decided what do you want to become?
Dima: Yes, I will be a policeman, I will keep order.
- And you, Kristina, what do you want to become when you grow up?
Kristina (13-year-old): I want to become a doctor, but I haven’t yet decided what kind of a doctor.
"In the village they teased us, they called us drunkard’s children, and they called Alena the deaf"
- Do you like your new school?
Kristina: Yes, the children here are very kind, no one laughs at me and Alena!
- Did they offend you in your home village?
Kristina: Yes, they teased us, they called us children of drunkard, and they called Alena the deaf. She would have told you herself, but she cannot talk like everyone else...
- And how does she do her homework?
Kristina: I help her, I really want Alena to study well so that she can get good marks. I study with her, and Dima plays hide and seek and tricks with her.
- Smart girl!
Kristina: I do my best. I also help my mom around the house because I am already quite an adult. But we missed almost the entire school year because we have neither computer nor a telephone.
- Kristina, what are you dreaming about?
Kristina: I really want us to have a TV! We could watch films and all sorts of TV shows all together! And we really need a laptop, tablet, or phone, at least something, so that we can learn.
"Tell the lady that you dream of a doll, tell her"
- What about you, Alena, what are you dreaming about?
(The girl looks at me very carefully, trying to read lips. I don't know if she understood my question. “A doll, tell a doll,” - the older sister whispers in her ear, “you don't have one,” but Alena just nods.)
Nino: They kept closing and opening the school this year, but my children cannot study online.
- What else do you need besides TV, computer, and dolls?
Nino: I don’t even know. I am embarrassed to ask. We are permanently short of food, we sleep on beds which are falling apart. You can see what we are cooking on. Probably, it would be faster and more convenient to cook on a camp-fire. It's so hard to cook soup all night long. We have nothing at all. Even all this junk that you see here does not belong to us! I really feel sorry for my children... My heart breaks, that's why I decided to contact you. I still can't even get a job as a cleaner - Alena needs so much attention.
- And finally, what is your biggest dream?
Nino: All my thoughts are about Alena. If only the doctors could restore her hearing! This is my biggest dream - I pray to God for this. And, of course, for my children to live a normal, calm life, to have at least all the basic things. I don't need anything else. It is not my children’s fault.
"I want to hear what my mother tries to tell me."
Friends, Nino Gelandze and her children - nine-year-old Alena, eleven-year-old Dima and thirteen-year-old Kristina - are in trouble. The unhappy woman literally found herself in the street with three children in her arms. Her youngest daughter Alena is disabled, even a hearing aid does not let her live like other children. And it remains unclear whether doctors will manage to restore her hearing. They huddle in a pitiful, damp tiny room, they have no normal beds, tables, chairs, closets. They live from hand to mouth and are deprived of the most basic amenities.
Nino Gelandze and her children will be happy to get any help: food, clothes and shoes for children, beds, gas stove. And children just dream of TV!
You can visit them and provide all possible help to the Gelandze family. Their address is: Poti, 8 Nelly Arziani Str, Apartment 16.
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