I only felt good and happy when I was with my grandmother
Systems need to understand and respond to the trauma that children in conflict with the law have experienced – a story from a 17-year-old boy in conflict with the law
I sometimes sit in my room, and I want to cry. I feel bad about all the things I've done. I feel anger and shame. I worry about my future and whether I will meet the same fate as my father.
I don't recall much from my early childhood... I don't know how to recall. I just remember the way my parents argued, and the bruises on my face. I don't remember a good incident from home... just problems and arguments. My mom and my dad were constantly in some quarrel. I tried to stop them arguing and stop them from fighting, but nobody cared about what I had to say.
The one person that did care about me was my grandmother. She loved me a lot and she tried to get me away from that environment. When I was young, she used to take me for walks in the park, or to the swings. I only ever felt good and happy when I was with my grandmother. When we returned home, she would cook something comforting for me to eat.
But to be honest, I don't remember a single nice thing happening at home. I knew that when my father was absent for a longer time, he was in prison. And so, I took a wrong turn and started going down a bad path. With other children from school, we started to mix with bad company and started getting into trouble. During that period, when my father was in prison.
When I was 11, my mother took me to a home. She said: “You’ll only be here temporarily, but it’s important that you study, that you're a good boy and that you don’t cause any trouble”. That was our last conversation. When we arrived, my mother signed the papers and she left. The only thing I know is that she took my younger sister with her. I don’t know anything about them since then. I try to understand her, it seems she found it tough to deal with me and the problems. I am not in touch with my mother’s relatives. Honestly, I think they’re angry with me, but I don’t know...
After a while, I was moved from the first to another home, and the first thing I did when I went out was to look for my school friends. And we carried on in the same direction. Thefts, robberies. We would break into houses. We found money quick and easy, and that is what we wanted. In addition to the robberies, we also stole money from people on the streets, even from officials. We would pick dark streets, then 5-6 of us would get together and we would attack the person to get their money.
Before coming here, I stayed at the prison in Ohrid. The court sent a note that I should check in there. The conditions were not the same as they are here [educational correctional facility], it looked more like a prison. You eat, you have half an hour to walk around, and then they lock you up. After a while, they transferred me here, in the home.
Here we study. I'm at a higher level, I have 10 classes. My favorite activities are drawing and writing. And we also have time for sports activities, so we play football, basketball.
I regret what I have done, but there is no chance I will repeat it. I sometimes worry about the future, but when I leave this place, I will try to create a new life for myself, to find legitimate work, to have a family. I don't want to be perceived as if I'm a crook. I want to finish school and have a normal life. What I didn’t have as a kid – to be a parent who has a decent job.
The story is part of the campaign “I am more than what happened” which is implemented within the frame of the programme “Just(ice) children – EU for juvenile and child-friendly justice” funded by the European Union and co-funded by UNICEF to support the Government reform efforts to ensure the justice system protects the rights of all children who come in contact with the law.