"This is my life" says Dali as she flips her thick [SOS'] family album. The pages are filled with photos of toddlers making sand castles, eleven-year-olds riding bikes, first-graders learning to swim, blushed teenagers, young people at work. Hair styles, backgrounds, apparel. "Many smiles in my life," comments Dali as she begins the story of her first SOS children, two identical twin boys by the names of David and Alex*.
Childhood under attack
Born in Abkhazia, in the northern part of Georgia, David and Alex spent their early childhood in this troubled region. When the war erupted, the twins were little to understand, but big enough to remember. After losing their relatives, some of whom were shot before their very eyes, the boys and their brother were taken to the capital and entrusted to the care of the newly opened SOS Children's Village Tbilisi.
Being her first SOS children, Dali was unsure of the initial reaction. "I was introduced to them as their SOS mother to what the twins asked what took me so long and started running around shouting 'our home!'. I admit I was taken by surprise, but I was very happy," explains Dali. Not everything went so easy, though.
"I knew their histories, yet I couldn't imagine the things they went through," says Dali with a solemn voice. She hardly slept a full night in the first months as an SOS mother. "They'd wake up at night screaming that the tanks are coming and hide under the beds to dodge bullets. They relived every moment of the war again and again. It took me months of consoling and comforting to assure them they are safe and protected."
In the quietness of Dali's home and in the calmness of her character, David and Alex managed to find peace and were able to slowly put their past behind them. They became interested in their SOS mother's hobbies and passions, one of which, coincidently enough, is art.
The twins became her biggest helpers in making handicrafts, paintings and turning the front garden into a little masterpiece of which the entire SOS family is proud. "David and Alex love to garden, but in a more unorthodox, let's say artistic way. It's not simply growing flowers, it's a combination of plants and trees and ceramics and cosy small chairs creating a true outdoor haven," explains Dali.
The yard work helped the twins to learn patience and discipline; they came to love nature and its order, but also appreciate hard work and cooperation. When time came to choose professions, both boys decided on computer animation, combining their artistic tendencies with new age technology.
The twins completed their studies in time with high marks while working. "David and Alex quickly realized they'd have better job opportunities if they have more work experience in their résumés. Waiting to finish studying in order to start working was too much, so they did both at the same time," says Dali.
Happy sons, proud mother
The twins are independent for less than a year now. They live together in an apartment close to the village and visit every Sunday. David has a job as a computer animator in one local television station. "When he worked on his first show, he called to let me know he's credited. We all watched and clapped when his name appeared," smiles Dali with a twinkle in her eye.
"Alex works, but hasn't found a steady job yet. He dreams big and wants to have a high-paying job." When Dali tried to persuade him to start off modestly, Alex resisted. "He said 'Mom, I want to have a big salary, so I can fulfil my childhood promise and give the first salary to SOS [Children's Villages]. I found my family here and I have to pay back, at least a bit'," a lonely ray of afternoon sun sparkles in Dali's glossy eyes.
"David has a serious relationship and plans to marry. His girlfriend became part of our family since the moment she first came to visit. She even calls me mom," Dali's eyes are now filled with tears. "Her parents were here as well, David wanted to show them his home and family. They thanked me for raising their daughter's future husband."
The plans and dreams of the 23-year-old twins don't stop there. True role models for their younger siblings, they already have a plan for the future. "My boys said they want to buy a four-storey house, one each for the two of them, one for their younger brother and one for me when I retire. I tell them their happiness is my castle," finishes Dali the story of her twins.
The album is open on the picture where the twins, now grown men, are photographed with their SOS mother in the garden for their SOS family home. They are all smiling.
* For privacy reasons, the names of the boys were changed.