EBU(Senior group) Excellent Work
“How Braille Has Changed My Life”
Czech Republic Linda AMMBROŽOVÁ (28/female)

This story documents an incredible intervention of fate into several human souls, the common denominator here being the script, i.e., Braille script.
My familiarity with Braille occurred in primary school. I’m legally blind so I was told that knowledge of Braille would be to my advantage. In our school, there were not that many people who had mastered Braille; thus, I considered it an excellent idea to get to know something that the others would not understand. I was tempted by the notion that I would be able to record my secret wishes and desires, would be the only one who could read them, and nobody else would be able to understand them. I was all the more pleased when my wise Braille instructor suggested that it would, for training purposes, be most appropriate to obtain a pen pal.
I was exuberant – my pen pal turned out to be a girl of almost the same age from another town, another school, with other friends and experiences. To give the full background to the story, it’s necessary to note that, in my family, I was the only child, who would appreciate with extreme eagerness the presence of a sibling. With this new friend, I had a feeling as if of acquiring a sister who understood me, fathoming all my worries and joys.
At the beginning, our relationship was developing very tentatively (we were just cautiously treading around one another), but in due time, we cultivated mutual trust that resulted in inseparable friendship. We at times compared ourselves to Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. I was eagerly awaiting each letter in a thick envelope with embossed dots which I’ll be able to read in darkness under my blanket. After several months of correspondence, my faithful friend entrusted me with her innermost feelings and sufferings. I was truly moved when she wrote that I was the only person who knew and who could understand. Frankly speaking, at that time I didn’t know why, but that was what I was – or, rather, we both were to learn later. Nevertheless, I was flattered by the fact that someone had confided in me with her secret. It is now my turn to share that secret with you.
My friend – let’s call her Sandra – had been staying since her sixth birthday in a residential school for the blind. For each whole week long, one remains torn away from one’s home and family, and so there was no wonder that she would at times long for her parents and her nursery-room, her little girl’s nook. According to Sandra, she and her mother were very close; Sandra said that her mother was her best friend. She used to describe their relationship in extraordinarily moving terms. All that appeared a bit surprising, for, during adolescence, everybody should obviously experience a conflicting period with one’s parents who seem not to understand what is best for us, where we just have to be and why, what is currently in. However, with Sandra and her mother, it was totally different - Sandra could disclose everything, and that everything was always understood and solved without any conflict.
This harmonious relationship was, however, shattered by a piece of news that struck Sandra as a bolt from the blue, caught her unprepared and much too weak to be able to bear that news. It was still not the right time, but – as the saying goes – misfortunes arrive on wings and depart on foot. Sandra was just in that dangerous age when such news was received with great difficulty – she had a feeling that the whole world plotted against her, and she was not able to fight the fate. What then was that news? Sandra overheard a conversation between her mother and a friend on whether the time did not come to tell Sandra that she had been adopted – it’s not sensible to hide it from her any longer, is it, she is, in any case, old enough, isn’t she? … But she wasn’t. Sandra was at that moment feeling deceived, estranged, familyless, and deprived of trust towards her best friend, mother, whom she trusted so deeply and who so mercilessly betrayed her.
This extremely emotional and sincere confession was the last communication I had from Sandra. It hurt me so much, I was feeling her sadness through the raised dots of her letter. I longed to help her – but how? What to write, what to say in order to make the pain less intensive and not to make it even more intensive? Her family took Sandra away to sunny Italy where her father got a lucrative job, and where Sandra was supposed to forget, and a new life in a new country was to weld the family again and strengthen their mutual trust. I was missing my pen pal very much; from Italy, I got only one card and that was all. As time went by, my memories of Sandra were becoming more and more blurred. With the increasing number of years and cares, what remained was only a dear memory.
As years were passing, and I was also approaching the day when I was to learn information that has changed my life, though not so fundamentally as the news from Sandra’s mother. It happened ten years later, when I was already an adult woman with rational view of the world, and, most importantly, with detachment which allowed understanding and empathy as regards actions and motivation of others. Thus, I didn’t consider as condemnable my mother’s communication that, when she had been very young, she became pregnant but father of the child was not ready to take up responsibility of a familyman; they, therefore, decided to get the baby placed in a nice, committed adoptive family. Naturally, I wanted to learn about my sibling as much as possible. It’s quite amazing to suddenly have a sister or brother living somewhere. My mother, however, didn’t know much because the adoption law was very strict; the only thing she knew was that she gave birth to a daughter on May 18, 1977.
I made the best of this limited information as one couldn’t do anything about it, and there was no point in intervening in life of a young woman who, most probably, does not even have any idea about the existence of a parallel family. It just occurred to me that my “lost sister” celebrated her birthday on the same day as my “lost friend Sandra“. I had neither of them, while longing for both of them.
However, the game of fate was not yet to be over. The unexpected intervention from above was still to come. Several months later, I found in my letter-box an envelope fitted with the well-known label “Free Matter for the Blind”. Being intensely surprised, I eagerly tore the envelope open. It contained several fully-embossed Braille sheets – from Sandra. It took me almost an hour to peruse her life confession, what she had been doing and how she had been faring all those long years of silence. It seemed impossible that she should make herself heard again. She is now grown-up as myself, has her own family; still in Italy and happy – she was on excellent terms with her parents, the adoption business had allegedly opened her eyes; the world where she now lived opened the opportunity to search for her biological mother. In conclusion, Sandra wrote: “I have found my ‘lost family’ and have a younger sister. We have a lot in common – mother, life outlook, and bad eyes …! I love you, my little sister!“


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