Conversation with a child who was brought up in an SOS Village.

Panni is 10 years old, she has lived with her homeless mother up until the age of five, up until now she has been living in the SOS Children’s Village Kecskemét with her foster-mother and seven other children. It was difficult to believe that this kind, slim and talkative girl had behavioural problems at school. (Pictures are only for illustration)

Do you remember how you got here?

Yes. Firstly, I got to know Noémi and Zsani from the village, and my SOS mum.

Where were you before coming to the SOS village?

I lived in an institution for some months. At first, mum came with me to the foster home in order for me to get used to it. At the start, my mother came along, but not always. I remember it was mum who introduced Mummy to me. Mummy brought me some plasticine, we would play with plasticine together, but then the others in the foster home stole it. When Mummy came back the following day, I told her that the plasticine was stolen by the other children, but I would like to keep the box.

Do you have two mothers?

Yes, my foster-mother, Mummy and my real mother. I am asked at the school how it is being at SOS. I say that it is good to be there with mum. Which mum? –they ask me. With my foster- mother.

At school, what do they think about you living at the SOS village?

Sometimes there were problems with me, I was mocked, but not because of the fact that I live in the SOS, but because I talked dirty.

What kind of problems did you have in the school?

I talk dirty. If the teacher told me something, I told her: come on, I don’t wanna do that. I did not take out the book and Mr. Imre, the teacher wrote in the message book that my parents should pay more attention to me. I always did the opposite of what they told me. But now I don’t do that. Mummy promised me that I would get a new bicycle, but finally I did not get it due to punishment. I should for being a good girl, for not having any problem at school or at home. I would like to get the bike, I would like to have fun.

What about the other children, do they talk dirty?

Only Zsani, with whom, I made a friend. I learnt it from her. At that time I quarreled with my friends. But now I don’t talk dirty and I made up with my friends. I would really like to pick myself up, I really want the bicycle. Sanyi and Patrik have already got bikes. When the first problem occurred, we talked about it normally with Mummy and then she asked me if I wanted to go to swimming. I went and I ventilated the stress.

Isn’t there any other punishment?

Not here. My mum told me that in her childhood, she had to kneel on maize when she was bad.

Your birth mother?


Does she visit you now?

Yes, she was here on the week before Easter. Originally she would have come on Easter, but she did not come. Certainly something came up. I ask every day Mummy (foster-mother) when she will come. And she always tells me that I don’t know something came up. There is a trampoline in the garden, when I’m jumping I always look towards the direction from where she normally comes. It is said to me not to take it to heart, because something came up.

She is still homeless?

Yes, she lives in a tent in the forest.

When you lived with your mother, did you also live in a tent?

No, on the street.

Do you have any sibling?

Yes, I have an older one. He is 22 years old and he is a security guard.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I would like to be a doctor. Or,  if it is not possible, a hairdresser. But I also thought of being a florist.

Will you have a family?

I will have. I would like to have one child, a little girl, a good family and I would like to live in a house with a garden or in a block of flats. But maybe I prefer living in a house, because I love flowers. I promised myself that I would give everything to my child. She wouldn’t be a spoiled kid, but if she is a good child she will get what she wants. If she is bad, she won’t.


Don’t you get everything?

I get everything here. It is good for me and I want it to be good for my child also.  

Do you ever think of what it would have been like if you had stayed with your birth mother?

Not really. I concentrate on learning and on what’s going at home.

How are your grades?

Math is very bad. I got a two in this half-year, my other marks are three or four. I got a five in gym. I am good at pitching, throwing the ball and aikido. I also do folk dance.

What would you like to do during the summer?

I would like to help mum and to have fun. We go on holiday to Lake Balaton and to Harkány, there is a school camp in Tőserdő. Now, I want everyone to have fun. A small baby is going to arrive here soon. She will have to wake up during the night, and I would like to help her to not to be tired.

How do you help her?

When we have lunch I polish the place matts, and I pack. I play with Janka and with the little ones, and with Patrik.

Patrik was recently taken away, he was adopted. How did you feel about that?

Well, I could not process it easily. I also cried. The four of us loved him from when he first arrived in the village.

Can I have a look at you room?

Yes. On my bed, this is my frog which sleeps with me. I got it from my mother, three or four years ago, before my dad battered her. This is the only souvenir that I have from her. This is my diary. I write in it that I miss my father, my mum and my brother.

Does your father also visit you?

No, because he battered my mum so that her rib was broken and she went to the hospital. My father was jailed and he will have his trial soon. My mum told me that she forgave him, because father taught her how she could live alone. I told her not to go over the top, from now on he is not my father. If he dares to touch you, I will call the police.

And still you miss your father?

It is difficult, because I love him.

Were you together when you lived on the street?

No, I was just with my mum. He is not my birth father. That one left my mother when she became pregnant with me and I don’t know him. Then, I had several fathers, one after the other; one threw us out, and the other beat my mum. So now I cannot trust any man, because if he beats my mum then I’ m gonna go really crazy, so bad.

Translated by Emese Gurzó

Reviewed Jessica Mazey Holland