The Braille Alphabet in my life
- From the absolute ignorance to the gladness of knowledge -
by Constantin Surugiu
I was born in 1960, in a beautiful village from Moldavia, in a family with 10 children. Since my birth, I have had serious problems with my eyes; My parents took me to the hospital and after the doctors consultations, they knew I would be blind. Over time, mother was to tell me that a neighbour, coming round her and observing I was blind, adviced her to put a pillow over my mouth and this is it. I had an older sister and two younger brothers, the others were to come later. In our playground I could walk alone, but in other places my sister was guiding me. I perceived the light a little but I felt I wasn’t like other children because they saw the ball and I only heard it, they could avoid many obstacles wereas I blundered into them.
I heard many times my parents conversations and they worried about me. I was an eager child who wanted to know a lot of things and to try different experiences. I was playing in my father joinery workshop and I often hit myself with the sharp tools; I was doing little houses from the wood pieces, resulted after furniture manufacturing. I liked very much little animals and I played with them. I was climbing the trees grabbling for fruits, I leaped over fences, I went at a river-bathing with other children, but my mother was terrified about it, and she was right. Once, the shore crumbled beneath our feet and I fell into the deep water; it was a matter of chance I was still alive. I did all the childhood mischiefs.
Later, I was to practice even the hammer throwing on the field; I tied a rope on its tail to bring it back easily. First of all, I whistle to be sure there is no one around. When my sister went to school, I learnt poems with her, I was doing math exercises and I memorized everything very easy, I sang and told stories to my brothers that I had heard only one time.
My relatives spoke around me I was unable to learn in our village as my sister and I should go at Tirgu Frumos, in Iasi County, where there was a special school blind persons, and here I could be a lettered individual one day. I didn’t imagine how could I learn in a different way than my sister whom I found her in the house the books, the notebooks and the pens that she used. I went at an examining body from the town Suceava and they made me the file to go to school. On 15 september 1967, together my mother, I left with the train at Tirgu Frumos. We were distributed in a preparatory class where we learnt a lot of things and it was to help us to enter the first class. We were only 10 children and we played games which educated the attention, the orientation, the power and the thought. We infixed skittles into the orifices of a grating, creating various circular figures; we worked up from plasticine or paper all kind of objects; then, we were given to feel them, we were told what they are used for, and we were helped to describe them.
In the first class, our teacher said us we would learn an alphabet called Braille which is used by all the blind persons in the world; it was invented by a blind frenchman, Louis Braille, in 1829. She gave us a slate and a stylus and she taught us how we can use them. For writing the paper is punched with the stylus from right to left, whereas for reading we have to feel the paper with our fingers from left to right. We endeavoured to punch the paper as much as possible and when we took it out of the slate, we observed a lot of meaningless dots and I was afraid I would never be able to learn this alphabet. I had no solution so that, I continued to work and finally I succeeded. I needed a lot of reading exercises to enjoy the benefits of Braille Alphabet. My happiness was great when I started to understand words and read texts from the primer. During the holiday, my parents and brothers wanted to see how I was writing and reading. I showed them, but they didn’t believe till they dictated me a text and then I read it precisely. I felt as if I was an important person.
The teacher also brought us a calculating tool with braille ciphers and she taught us to use it in order to do arithmetic exercises. I started to read articles that informed me a lot in the braille magazine of the National Association for Blinds from Romania, New life. Therefore, I read all the braille library of our school and I was very prideful. I was very happy because I could enjoy the light of knowledge. I took notes at the school, I learnt to read the musical notes and thus I settled into singing at violin, a great contentedness for me. I learnt to play chess and the braille notations of this game. I graduated a high school and a trade school for massage. With the aid of Braille Alphabet I kept the register of patients from the hospital where I have worked for 28 years. I helped my sighted nieces to do their homeworks who obtained good results at the school. I made a family alongside a sightless woman and we have a respectable social status, we manage to have a child and the work and the honor are our principles. The Braille Alphabet always helped me, I used it to inform myself and to regularize my life. I practised the journalism as amateur, writing articles for the magazines National Association for Blinds from Romania where I shared my experience and capability. I was one of the founders of a magazine for blinds, Radar, and the most interesting articles were published in a book called The Price of Success.
From a sightless child, without possibilities, the Braille Alphabet made me a dignified individual, with an accomplished social status, and the happiness of living. Aristotel said that the roots of education are bitter and its fruits are sweet.
Thank you Louis Braille for your wonderful invention!