EBU(Senior group) Fine Work

“The braille literacy changes my life”
Slovakia Kvetoslava Holestakova (40/female)

Only a blind girl. This is what I meant for everyone in my surroundings. The people took me for a thing. But suddenly my life changed.
When I was five, my parents were helpless. They had no idea about where and how the blind child should go to school. We visited several psychological centres to find out where I could be placed. The kindergarten did not want me to go there because I was handicapped. At last, my parents learned about an institution for the blind. This institution is situated in Levoca. Me, the girl coming from the Ruthenian countryside, who hardly moved through the village and who could not say a word in Slovak, should go to Levoca? I feared for something unknown and I cried days and nights, until the day of the accession to school came. The first days were difficult. No friends, no acquaintances, and, what was worse, nobody understood me and I understood nobody.
After some time in Levoca, I learned to read and write Braille and to speak Slovak. I found several friends there that I had never had before - probably because I had not been allowed to go anywhere alone. When I came back to our village, nobody took Braille for serious. The more people defamed and abased these dots and me, the more I tried to show them that these dots can be read, too, and that the Braille is no fun.
Mr. Balek, a teacher and a friend of our family, came for a visit to our house. He had never heard about Braille before and he was curious about them. "How can you read those dots?" he asked. "So come on, read us something from your book!" These words sounded ignominiously to the others but they were a challenge for me. I sat down into the armchair where I would sit and put the book on my knees. The teacher laughed sarcastically. "This is a book?" While his cynical laughter was fading away, I started to read. All the others became deadly silent and nothing but my voice, a bit trembling but proud, could be heard. I felt that all stared at the girl who stopped being the blind girl only. I smiled and went on reading. Although I was only 9, it gave me the power to go on and not to give up. I stopped feeling like a thing at last and I started to feel like a human being, too. The Braille dots made me partially independent and so I stopped being pushed away. The teacher changed his mind and since that day he started to be interested in me. I remember one chilly Friday morning when the teacher came to our house and told me: "Take your favourite book and let’s go for a trip.” For a trip? I was excited. This word had no meaning for me in the past. Perhaps no trips had been organized and if some, there had been no chance for me to participate in them.
I got on the car and said nothing. Suddenly the teacher said: "We are going to school." I was surprised because our school had the flu holiday those days. I said: "What? But..." The teacher interrupted me: "I am going to introduce you to our school." I was proud of myself, really. I thanked the dots that I was the real human being for the others.
Our car stopped and we got off. The teacher took my hand and we entered the building where the feet stamping and noise could be heard. It was during the break and this school was something completely different to me from our school. I started to fear but suddenly the bell rang and the entire corridor calmed up. We entered the classroom where the pupils were waiting for us. We came to the lesson of literature. I was about the age of those pupils. Their comments rang in my ears: "The blind, what does she want here?" The teacher said my name and explained the children nicely why I was there with him. "You should appreciate more what you have because not everybody in the world has so much as you have. We came to show you how you should read." Children started to laugh and shout that blind persons cannot read. I started to cry. The teacher sat me on the chair and I read about five lines. All the children ran to me and started to admire me, I became their star and I could wipe my tears away. People started to take me for serious and they asked me questions. I stopped being the illiteral wench who must be hidden in the corner, I stopped being pushed away, now I was an independent person who can read and write indeed.
I used Braille while I was studying at the secondary school. Only two of us in the class used these dots. But I have to confess that we were sometimes writing the tests with one hand in the desk on the cheat sheet. We were cheating while we were answering like many teenagers. My classmate Alenka became my best friend. We were sitting together in the back desk because our Picht’s typewriters were too noisy. We were moving our hands on the paper back and forth inconspicuously behind our classmates and our teachers probably had no idea that the children who looked so cute and innocent as we did could cheat, too. Perhaps they had some idea but we two were slier than them. While the teacher was dictating, we two kept up even though other classmates were visually disabled, too, but not so seriously, they read printed books and wrote with a pen.
Now I am over 40 and I keep using Braille, for example when I read the bedtime stories to my children who cannot imagine that they should fall asleep without the bedtime story. I work as a cook and I use Braille for labeling the spice boxes at work and for labeling various writings at home. We have our calendar embossed in Braille at home, too. Although the computer offers plenty of possibilities, I cannot take it away with me. But I can take the Braille book and read wherever I am. Even though nowadays people try to replace Braille with various technology, I believe that every blind person would agree with me that the Braille dots simply cannot be replaced.


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