Maia Razmadze, 43, Telavi

“I was born in Telavi. My father was deaf and my mother was hearing impaired. I had a grandmother, a very educated woman, who brought me up and gave me various skills so that I could avoid discrimination in that environment. As you know, during the Soviet times such people were even more abused and over 80% had problem adapting. We were lucky because my father worked in a restaurant, in an adapted environment, not in a social enterprise, which was a rare exception at the time.

As regards my current situation, my son Nika had birth asphyxia. This, coupled with genetic predisposition, resulted in that he is hard of hearing. He can however hear with an aid and speak a little. I use both sign and spoken language to communicate with him.

The fact that my child had disabilities precluded our participation in public life. I have walked a difficult road to get to this point. Nika was not accepted in a public kindergarten, and he was dismissed from a private kindergarten after a while. The reason was that he had behavioral disorder and had locked the teacher in a room.

I was socially vulnerable and without a job. Working was out of the question because I had no-one to leave the child with. Kindergartens refused to accept him and no job would accommodate to my schedule. I was doomed to be a mother beyond the poverty line, with a child with disabilities to take care of. At that time, when all the doors were slammed in my face, I was completely helpless; I could no rely on anyone, even my own self. As if I was lost in a maze and couldn’t find the way out.

When it was time for Nika to go to school, all the schools rejected him. There was only one alternative school for hard-of-hearing children in Tbilisi, where my boy was warmly welcomed. It was difficult for me to part with my child and leave him for the whole week at school, but I decided Nika needed it very much and he had better be in that micro social environment, and acquire the skills and the education the school offered. He still goes to that school and spends 5 days in Tbilisi. He already goes and comes by himself in a taxi. After Nika went to school I had free time on my hands to start working. I am divorced with my husband and I was doing a physical work, my father supported me too to have a minimal income.

My child’s behavior has improved, but the attitudes have changed drastically too. For years, I couldn’t visit friends. My boy had deviant behavior and I didn’t want to hear ‘she could have come alone, why bring him along…” any more. Recently, society has become more open which is largely due to our, mothers’, efforts. We are enthusiastic enough to do many things for free, because we know this will change the future of our children for the better.

I am also a victim of violence from my husband. Violence was one of the main reasons the baby was born with disabilities. This was the reason I did almost nothing for my child until the age of six and finally decided that I had leave. As my father is hearing impaired, I was directly blamed for our child’s disability, even though the doctors said the reason for hearing loss was birth asphyxiation, not the genetics. 90% of it was caused by the conditions I was in during pregnancy when I lived with my husband’s family – alcoholism and then rows and abuse, my premature labors, and then asphyxia… Every time I try to explain it to the child’s father he laughs it off and claims it’s all about genetics.

When I made the decision, I was the first to leave. I was driven to this decision, because they did not let me have the child and I was thus bound to that place. In two weeks’ time, they brought the child to me themselves – they seemed relieved to get rid of us both. It is extremely difficult to take care of a child with disabilities, moreover that the child could hear only me, because nobody else had contributed in his upbringing.

At the moment, I am a sign language interpreter in the Kakheti area. I was drawn to this field because I want to be beside my son and it hurts that these people are isolated, deprived of information. I try to take them to meetings or cultural events, anything that might interest them, and interpret for them. I am never reluctant to do that. In the beginning I was wary of speaking freely and doing simultaneous interpretation, but now I can easily do that!”