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  • Annamaria Nemeth

When loving something turns to hatred and survival...

My life has changed so much. As is typical, when I was a teenager, I hated everything about my life. Leaving home might give me a reason to fight the norms even more. School had been such a sore subject for me. From a very young age I learned to dislike everything about school.

As a young child I was sick all the time—colds, pneumonia, breathing issues, headaches. I was in and out of the doctor’s office taking antibiotics, getting penicillin shots, and fighting infections. All of this really weakened me and, compared to other kids, I was skinny and small. I didn’t know then that all this was as a result of the trauma I had been living through. That trauma consisted of both physical abuse and daily struggles to survive.

Because of those health issues, my parents decided to have me start school a year later than usual . So instead of beginning at age six, I would be starting at age seven. I was ok with that, but the powers that be were not.

One day there was a loud knock on the door and two people walked into our home. They certainly had presence. My heart was beating so hard not knowing what exactly was going on around me. They were questioning my parents about me! Why wasn’t I in school? My parents tried to explain and reason with them, but that got us nowhere. They demanded I be enrolled in school right away.

So off to school I went. Of course I would be starting later than all the other kids. That put me behind in the curriculum and so I had to catch up. That was not a problem; the academics at first seemed to come quite easily for me. I soon was caught up with everything and really loved school. Then things changed...

The school system in Romania was very regimented. For the first four years, first through fourth grade, we had the same teachers. This was not a choice. Parents had no say. That was how things were structured. I did love the fact that we were wearing uniforms. It took away the obvious differences between the haves and have nots, but it really increased focus on academic performance and school activities. That seems like it should be great for me, right? At this point my academic performance was standing out and I had caught up with everything. But no, things were getting harder for me.

People at school had begun to learn about the abuse at my home and my teacher was not very kind. It was almost like she enjoyed seeing me get into trouble. I still recall her harsh face. She had a mole above her lip on the right side, big dark glasses, and red lipstick. There was nothing warm or loving about her. She showed her nice side when kids brought her gifts, not to mention the favoritism.

My family was poor; I didn’t have gifts to bring. And also there was the prejudice: we were ethnic Hungarians. She made it very clear that she didn’t care for me much. I am not saying I was singled out; she had others she really showed her disdain towards. I wasn’t like the other kids, though. I was shy, withdrawn, quiet, and had terrible social skills. My home life really affected my ability to connect to other kids and people. I didn’t trust everyone, and stayed distant.

School became more difficult due to the circumstances at home. Doing homework was hard when my father was home. He monitored everything and expected perfection. In reaction to this, my nervousness made me make mistakes even more. Any parts of the homework not done correctly from the start involved a beating. He was angry that I could be or do anything that wasn’t perfect, so at home the beatings were intensified when my academic performance lacked perfection.

This made me hate school even more. I started falling behind, I was afraid to do my homework at home and started lying about having any homework. At school my teacher singled me out and her reprimanding involved corporal punishment and humiliation. She would bring me to the front of the class and call me names for not having my homework done or if I had made mistakes on exams. She had this thing she did. She pinched me on the bottom of my chin and pulled me to the front of the class where she proceeded to use the ruler, hitting the palms of my hands. This did not help me make friends and I quickly became the kid that was picked on and bullied. Being on the playground was torture, being in school was not better, and home was even worse.

My grades were getting really bad and I knew if I don’t find a solution or do something to change my situation things would only get worse. I did not have many choices but I had to figure something out.

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