Hearing the sound of my mother crying, three years after the day I was born, felt scary. I had seen my mother upset before but never realised that such a sound was produced. Everything changed that day.
I was born in Poland in a fairly rural area. I had to travel countless times around the country for hearing tests. There is no health insurance available in Poland, and my parents had to apply for a loan to be able to pay for travelling expenses, doctor visits and, of course, hearing aids.
Prior to receiving hearing aids, I had quite the temper – just like any other child who lives in silence, due to not knowing what everyone around me wanted from me. This temper made my doctor speculate that my potential for any form of academic success was very limited.
Even when I was fitted for hearing aids, I was discriminated against. When my parents would apply for [mainstream] schools, I’d get rejected without a glimpse; instead, I was offered places at special schools. If it wasn’t for my parents’ single-minded, gritty determination and resilience, I would not be where I am now. They have left everything behind – their job, friends and family – just so I could have a dignified life.
We moved to a country that gave us hope: Scotland. We resided in Glasgow (Parkhead, to be specific) in the tenement flats. However, another battle was about to commence. Learning a second language, as a four-year-old, hearing-impaired boy whose parents did not speak English, was a tough beginning.
Through nursery and primary school, step by step, I started to acclimatise to this new reality. I was very apprehensive, taciturn and timid when meeting new people. I may have improved since but, on reflection, even now I’m still pretty shy. There are situations where I’d rather run away than speak up; however, I know I’m growing up and my life is changing, and it’s only me who can control my future.
I believe that, with resilience and hard work, you can achieve anything and make your dream come to existence, regardless of your disability. I don’t yet know who I want to be in the future, but I know for a fact that I will decide on it – not others who were trying to judge me on my disability, not my ability.
This is an edited version of “Ode to a Boy”, a reflective essay by 16-year-old Dalziel High pupil Nikodem Bieniek, written for his National 5 English folio