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My name is Marina, I am an autistic girl’s mum. I work as a dispatcher in the Belgrade Fire Brigade. More precisely, I am the one who sends fire-fighters to the scene, whenever serious fire starts. I married my favorite fire-fighter. Last year was very hard and tragic for me – I lost my youngest sister, my dearest and biggest  support. She passed away at the age of 35 from cancer.

This blog is an expression of gratefulness and appreciation for women who made this wonderful project possible and an explanation how this relates to me.

When Ana got in touch to ask how I was, I shared all my worries with her.

My sister, my support was gone. I live as a subtenant. I do not drive but I have a driving license. I feel helpless and lost most of the time. How would I be able to ensure safe future for my child? Uh, when I recall that conversion now. All thoughts firmly tangled into a giant coil.

Ana’s decisive ‘everything will be all right’ tone explained that I should not worry. My child will be secured since she is entitled to my or my husband’s pension and will always be granted special care. She will have enough money for a good life and will never burden to anyone. I should start driving since I need freedom and independence. Ana always likes to say that when a woman takes over a wheel she has actually taken over ‘her life’s steering wheel’. I will be free if someone starts looking after my child occasionally. ‘Why don’t you bring her over to the Association’, she said, ‘we have to get to know Andjela so that we can look after her’.

She calmed me down.

This was when I heard about the project ICU MUM – I see you Mum, and I hear you, she wrote aiming at enhancing quality of life of mothers, informal caretakers of children with developmental issues. This project has been funded by the Australian Embassy in Belgrade. She offered me to take part in it and I literally froze. She explained we would be making podcasts enabling mums to share their stories and added – you will be there, too! I swallowed the lump in my throat.

‘We will have entrepreneurship and public appearance training within the project as well’, Ana added. I took a decision – I would participate. I love learning and training, and these topics sounded interesting.

We started bringing Andjela to the Association on regular basis, on Thursdays and Saturdays. She has adapted much quicker than I expected and loves socializing and her time there. This is what matters to me most. I want her to be pleased and willing to go. We met a volunteer Ada there and she has become our additional support in looking after Andja. It turned out she lives 5 minutes away from us. We have also met special educators Nikola and Mihajlo.

The day came. We started recoding podcasts in February and I was the first mom to tell her story. I managed not to cry, even when I briefly caught Tamara, a woman helping us with the PR and saw her wiping tears while sitting behind the camera and monitoring the process.

We all got together on 8th March when the Australian Ambassador H.E. Mr Daniel Emery visited the Association. I met some mums for the very first time and we were hugging as if we knew each other for years. This visit, by such an eminent official to our second house, was a special honor and message for us – we are not alone and we are not invisible.

Training within the project was also extremely interesting and useful. I attended workshop sessions on regular basis. This shows how important I have found them. Mums were listening to lectures and brooding over their businesses, socializing and exchanging everyday stories. We laughed together. Workshops helped me understand whether I should embark on entrepreneurship. There was no need. I should find a well-paid hobby and work on the Association’s projects with Ana. I also realized what my attitude should be like for public appearances. This is useful since my job is a public one. Useful in many ways, as I have already said. I was able to practice my skills in the safe environment, with women I share the greatest pain with, and now the greatest joy as well.

My podcast story was aired on 11th May. Excitement and panic at the same time. At first I did not want to watch it. I thought I was disaster and God knows what I said there. I was fidgeting around until my Dragana came, my step-daughter who looked after Andja in most difficult situations. Her curiosity and support encouraged me. It is incredible how strong and fearsome we are, but fragile and insecure at the same time. This is also one of my insights after this six-month self-work.

We watched the podcast together. I cried a lot. I cried for my sister’s loss, I cried because only now have I realized how difficult it all has been, really hard. It still is. How much I miss my sister. How poorly I felt while she was being treated, and how much my daughter distanced herself from me. I was really lucky to have someone in all that madness. Families suffer a lot unless they have someone to help! Families are sometimes not sure when and where to ask for help. This does not mean they do not need it.

After watching ‘my show’, I have assessed that it was all ok, I was at peace with everything I’ve said, and even maybe with what I’ve survived. I have shared the video on my Instagram profile. And then messages started coming.

‘Is there anything I could do to help you, do the dishes, vacuum clean, take Andja out with Dada. Please let me know!’

This text was written by my goddaughter Iva who is only 16. She told her mum that she never taught how it was for me. My podcast opened new horizons for her and her future. She offered help and even reminded me two weeks later. It was then I realized how good it was to have opened up.

‘I’ve watched the podcast, is there anything I can do? Please do not hesitate, I am here to help if I can.’

‘This is really nicely said, I am proud.’

‘I watched the podcast and I am very proud of you, I started crying more than once. I love you.’

‘Well done, I am so proud, sending a hug.’

‘I watched it yesterday, I was breathless.❤ I would very much like to sit down with you and have a nice, long chat. ❤ Your energy is everything.”

I was reading and crying. All of this because of one guest appearance in a podcast and my story I have shared. It has never occurred to me that I can send the message in this way, say how I feel. I thought I was alone and that people would not be interested in hearing what I have to say. I was even annoyed no one had offered to help me…These are my thoughts from the very beginning and the vicious circle from my story.

Now I cannot wait to see every new podcast and a story of a yet another mum sharing similar destiny. I have cried while listening to all of them. I am so proud of us, how brave we are, how we managed to muster up strength and courage to tell them. Not to mention how much we strengthen while sharing them with others!

I have a special place in my heart for two mums now – Sanja and Nikolina. They speak in a clear and comprehensible way, bravely revealing their truth. They are pure essence. They can say what I am still unable to or unaware of. They are my strength and courage. I know they feel the same. I love you girls! I LOVE YOU ALL.

This project ‘ICU MOM’ is a symbol and the reason why I have opened to the world and started taking good decisions. Its timing was perfect, exactly when I needed it, with my dear Ana and Evo ruka Association.

THANK YOU from a Mum who has finally felt seen and heard. We are moving on together.

All episodes of the podcast series I see you mum, And I hear. you can look HERE.