A Girl Feels Seen

23rd February 2022

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Kalina from Poland is gifted with an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift

By Sarah Tyllianakis

The house where Kalina* lives is in a deprived area. Slush, demolished houses and laundry drying on the fence on this cold December day give the Polish town a sad, desolate atmosphere. But Kalina does not see all this. The 15-year-old girl is almost blind and can only make out a little bit with one eye. She also nonverbal and her access to the world is limited.

*Names changed

After Kalina’s mother left without saying goodbye, her grandmother (who is also taking care of Kalina’s uncle who has special needs) became her state-approved foster mother.

Kalina attends a special school for children with additional needs and feels most at home when she knows where everything is. Anything new scares her because she doesn’t have a lot of ways to communicate with people and show her needs.

Nikola’s grandmother tells Operation Christmas Child Germany’s Director Alexander Becker about the challenges and at the same time the love for her granddaughter and foster daughter.

 

The home where Kalina, her grandmother and her uncle live is an old house in need of renovation. The light in the living room flickers uncomfortably and the cold creeps through the cracks. A storage room is to be converted into a separate room for Kalina at some point. But although the social worker is committed to it – as long as there is no heating in the room, Kalina continues to sleep in her grandmother’s bed.

Kalina's hme

There is no toilet or hot water in the apartment. Large pots are used to heat water on the stove. It is a laborious process but the family does not know any different.

 

Kalina sits on this bed when she receives her shoebox. Her practiced fingers wander over the scarf and hat, which have been lovingly knitted. She doesn’t see the bright colours herself, but immediately pulls the hat over her head and then puts the scarf around her neck. Even if she was almost blind from birth – she knows immediately what she is holding in her hands.

Kalina and her grandmother

She carefully and curiously takes the various presents out of the box. She smells and touches everything that has been so lovingly selected. A yellow tambourine conjures up a smile on her face. But above all, the little teddy is admired in detail. Later she gets her grandmother to pass her a bag of cuddly toys. She knows them all and proudly shows them off. They are old, worn and yet dearly loved. She holds her new teddy close affectionately.

Kalina and her grandmother

Although Kalina lives in her small, restricted world – this Christmas she feels seen. Someone knew that children like her needed a ray of hope in these challenging times. To her it is a sign that although she lives off the beaten path, she is still being seen and that’s the message that Operation Christmas Child has been bringing to children like Kalina for 26 years. The God of heaven sees and provides.

 

FOOTNOTES

Photos by: Simon Zimpfer

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