How do you change a life lived in tears?
Valerija was born with cerebral palsy and has had five operations on her right leg so far. This would be challenging enough for most children, but Valerija’s family life in Croatia was even more difficult. Alcohol abuse, separations, violence and her father’s prison sentences were all part of the mix.
Life only got harder. No kindergarten would accept Valerija, due to her disability. Her mother’s solution to dealing with the issue was to lock Valerija indoors all day while she went to work. When she was finally old enough to go to school, she was bullied. This went on throughout primary and secondary school.
At home it became clear that there was one set of rules for Valerija, and another for her brother and sister. Excluded from normal family activities, Valerija soon found herself receiving abuse from her siblings. This turned to regular beatings and humiliations, which Valerija endured for years. She tried running away from home. She attempted to kill herself several times. Her parents remained unmoved. Her siblings continued to abuse her.
Finally, at the age of 17 and feeling desperate, miserable, lonely and abandoned, Valerija was able to phone a special helpline. The helpline put her in touch with the House of Opportunity team at Varazdin. And now things are different. Valerija was made welcome. The team support her, and she has made friends with the other House residents. Valerija desired very much to go to college and study psychology. Eventually she wants to be able to help young people who have suffered like she did. She had struggled with her schooling, but after settling into the House, made good progress towards her final exams, which she passed last August. Valerija then enrolled in the Faculty of Croatian Language and Pedagogy in early September. Step by step, Valerija’s dream is coming true.
Before she joined the House of Opportunity, Valerija told the team that she “spent most of my time in tears”. Now, Valerija is happy and grateful that she sees the possibility of putting her past experiences to some positive use. It will take effort, determination, and yes, more tears, to reclaim all the years she has lost, but the House of Opportunity will continue to give Valerija all the time she needs.