Gyöngyi Novák

Youth Care Programme Leader Szeged SOS Children's Villages in Hungary

From Childhood to Motherhood

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I met Maria1 when she was 17 but her story, of course begins before. She was born in 1995 in a beloved family. But after she was born her father decided to leave the family, because the parents had debates. Maria never heard anything about him again nor had she a photo of her father left. So he disappeared from Maria’s life.

Not an everyday childhood
Maria’s mother was a nurse, working hard in a hospital. They lived together with the grandmother. When Maria was 7 years old, her mother died from cancer, so the grandmother became the one who was looking after Maria. I think that is why Maria is so tolerant now and why she can cope with difficulties as well. She had to learn it and she did it well. When Marias grandmother was getting older she became blind. It was a difficult time for Maria, because she became now the one who had to look after her grandmother, do the housework and the gardening instead of playing with other children in the playground, or just hanging around with friends Maria became the “head of the family” and had to deal with all difficulties. Often Maria was hungry, so she went to the garden and ate what she found: carrots, onion, peas and tomatoes. The grandmother got a disease and had to go to hospital. Fortunately Maria and her grandmother lived in a small town, so everybody knew what was going on. One of Marias teachers took her to her home to live with her family until the school ended. Maria was a good student before, but because of these circumstances, it became worse and worse. In the hospital the grandmother died. So Maria had to go to alternative care.

Finding a nest in an SOS family
Fortunately she entered into a good SOS family; She had a good nest, built relationships. In school she had still difficulties. Having bad marks she went to a school to learn cooking. It became even worse. The SOS mother realized that Maria is very talented in handcrafts like drawing and she is also extremely creative. So she took the child to an art school. Maria did well and she was so happy with that change.

At the age of 17 her orientation began and at the age of 18 she moved to our Youth Facility. In Hungary we have a school leaving exam. If you get good grades you can go to university. At the exam day Maria went to school to accomplish it.

Having fun at the capital city
After a few hours I received a call from the police, telling me Maria is  in prison. It revealed that she met some friends and went to a shop where she stole make up, perfumes and some nail polish. The price of the items was so high that the shopkeeper called the police. At that time Maria was already more than18 years so she was held responsible for what she did. We went to the police station: Maria was really upset. She and her friends thought it would be fun to do such a thing. Spending four hours in prison was more than enough punishment for her and she had to have one extra year in school to finish the exam.

In that year Maria also learned a trade to make best use of the time. After that she successfully applied at University to study Art. She had three wonderful years in our capital Budapest, exploring the world, dealing with all the difficulties: how to deal with money properly, how to look after herself. She really became an independent young lady.

When everything changes
One day Maria came to my room. I saw that she was so embarrassed and wanted to say something very important. She told me that she was expecting a baby. She was afraid of my reaction, because in case she would keep the baby she would not get a graduation. She also showed me the very first picture of the baby. I was happy, hugged her immediately and congratulated. She started to speak about what frightened her. She became pregnant exactly at the same age like her mother did. She was not engaged with the boy, who was the father. I showed her what was still different in her situation. That calmed her down. Maria and her boyfriend got married before the baby was born. They have a nice flat in our capital and the father is so happy to have Maria and the baby around him. They became a real family.

For me it was easy with Maria, because she had good roots. All I had to do is to remind her about what already worked before. She had good imprints about relationships, love and living together in her mind and in heart. She was able to rewrite her story, and became an excellent mother. I have just checked my Facebook messages and I found a nice poem that she wrote about her son’s teeth coming out and about what hardness they have to face. That also shows me that Maria can handle difficulties in a very unique and creative way.

1 Original name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

Gyöngyi Novák

is Youth Care Programme Leader in Szeged at SOS Children's Villages in Hungary. 

For her, it is a big treasure playing life together with young people. It offers her moments of insight into how they experience the world.

The treasure of Family is the feeling of a common sense. Enjoying life together with niece and nephew, with young and old, she cultivates this feeling. Reading, in and outdoor games and gardening offer her refreshing moments.

Home is practicing the various kinds of engagements which bear flavours of work, game and trivialities.