My name is Dražen, I am 19 years old. Until I was 7, I lived with my mom, dad, brother and two sisters. We had very difficult living conditions. We lived in an old, dilapidated house, often without hot water and food. Dad was an alcoholic. I remember Dad beating Mom and yelling very often. As our parents did not have the conditions for us children, the social service came to pick us up. I will never forget that day; I cried a lot and I didn’t understand why they were taking us away from home. My sisters were placed in one foster family and me and my brother in another.
I didn’t really like school because it was hard for me to study. Unfortunately, no one has ever shown me how to learn. Due to bad grades, I was punished. I was allowed to play outside with friend only sometimes. Dinner was at 7pm and there was no going out after that, ever. I was often locked in a room and cried. I was hurt by injustice. I wondered, why?
When my older brother went into independent living, my world collapsed. That is when the physical and mental abuse began, like what happened to my brother. I had to replace him in hard work and it was never good enough. I was always guilty. At one point, I thought – I don’t want to live anymore!
My one bright spot was our dog, Bonnie! Bonnie gave me hope. I was counting the days when I would get out of this prison.
When I turned 18, I decided to go to the House of Opportunity project, where my brother, my everything, was living. And then I started breathing with full lungs, I found myself! I have found people who hear me, understand me and help me. I am now free from guilt, harassment, slavery, prohibition. I have a new life and I am very happy and grateful. I have a good job, I am learning to cook, I started driving, I am discovering life! The words I often hear from presenters are, “you can” and that lifts me up and encourages me, makes me go forward bravely.
Dražen is a resident of the House of Opportunity in Varaždin, Croatia.