Tears poured forth from Andrey’s eyes, which he tried to hide, and his lips whispered, “My boy, my boy, I won’t leave you here.” This is what we were witnessing after each meeting between the father and his son in one of the institutions for children in the most northwestern region in Bulgaria. We walked slowly and silently down the long, dark corridors, where there was a screaming silence, even though there were children in the rooms we passed by. These meetings were painful – a child in a stroller, with crooked little feet struggling to reach the floor which has deformed them, with light screams coming out of his mouth and a father who has to fight for his son and with the prejudices of the society.
Victor was born prematurely, with low weight and visible deficits. The mother finds it difficult to accept this fact, but the father is convinced that he will cope. They live in Andrey’s native village, where everyone knows him as a good and hard-working man who is not conflicted. In the village, however, they find it difficult to accept that the mother is from another ethnic group and begin to invite them to leave it voluntarily. They start to hinder them administratively and even threaten them that for one reason or another, they will force them to leave the village. They called the child protection department and sent a signal that the mother was not taking care of the boy. One day, when she was in Sofia and the father together with the child were in Vidin, the local authorities reported that a child had been left alone in the house and the parents were gone. In the evening social employees waited for Andrey and Victor at the bus station and talked to the father, and the next morning Victor was separated from his family and placed in a baby institution. Andrey left the village and broke up with the mother of his child. Too often, we silently ignore racist behavior and do not even think about the trauma they can cause to people. In this case, a one-year-old child was “sentenced” to pay for with a stay in an institution for more than a year and to be deprived of the care and caresses of his parents.
Andrey and I visited Victor and every time he smiled at me and said: “Look at him! He is my son! See how much we look alike! I want to take him home!”
Each time, after meeting the child, he cried and wondered how to dispel the clouds of doubt that filled him.
“A single father will not be able to cope with raising a child with severe disabilities!”
“He won’t be able to cook and clean for him!”
“He wants to receive social benefits!”
“This child will not be able to walk!”
“It’s dangerous for the child!”
The team of Hope and homes for children – Bulgaria stood firmly by Andrey’s side so he managed to get Victor back. The attention the father surrounded him with made the child walk, he now can pronounce a few words and after a few operations he can even climb stairs. Andrey managed to break the shackles of public display of prejudice and takes care of his child. It all is so nice, but the year and a half of struggle past Victor grew up without the family and love he needed. There is no compensation for that time missed! Since last fall, Victor has been attending school, and his father can go to work. And this was so until the coronavirus pandemic. Then they are left alone at home and even with a little money they are happy together.
“Together we can do everything”, even if we fight racism and prejudice! We can build bridges for our society to move.
Our partners from CEZ decided to support Andrey with a cooker, because Victor is already learning to eat solid food and develop chewing mechanisms, and this is extremely important for the development of children’s brains. This will give another chance for a Bulgarian family to live a more dignified life.
We and CEZ believe in the good future for Victor and secretly hope that in the future Andrey will cry only with joy.
You can support us in “Kangaroo” Action.