Useful and Happy Despite My Blindness
As told by Polytimi Venetsianos
I was playing with three siblings and a cousin when a small object flew in the window. It was a grenade, and when it exploded all three of my siblings were killed and I was left completely blind.
THE date was July 16, 1942, when I was a young girl only five years old. For days I was in and out of a coma. When I regained consciousness, I sought my brothers and sister. Upon learning that they had died, I wished I had died too.
When I was born, my family was living on the Greek island of Salamis, near Piraiévs, the port of Athens. Despite our poverty, we enjoyed a peaceful life. All of that was shattered with the start of World War II, in 1939. My father was a seafarer in the Mediterranean. Often he had to dodge the submarines, frigates, torpedoes, and bombs of both the Axis and the Allied powers. Greece was living under the boot of Fascism and Nazism.
Taught to Hate God
Because of the terrible conditions during the war, Mother lost a fourth child in death. She suffered crushing depression, developed tuberculosis and, after giving birth to her sixth child, finally died in August 1945. Religious neighbors began to say that we were being punished by God. Trying to be encouraging, but only making things worse, some Greek Orthodox priests said that God had taken my brothers and sisters to heaven to be little angels.
Father was indignant. Why would God snatch four little children from a poor family when he has millions of angels with him? These beliefs of the Orthodox Church fanned strong anti-God and antireligious sentiments in him. Thereafter, he wanted to have nothing to do with religion. He taught me to hate and despise God, stressing that God was responsible for our pain and misery.
Like a Beast in a Cage
Shortly after the death of my mother in 1945, Father also developed tuberculosis and was confined to a sanatorium. My baby sister was taken to a public nursery. Later, when Father got out of the sanatorium and went to the nursery to get her, he was told that she had died. I was placed in a school for the blind, where I spent the next eight years of my life. At first I was heartbroken. Things were particularly desperate during visiting days. Most of my blind schoolmates had someone to visit them, but I had no one.
I behaved like a beast in a cage. I was called the menace of the school. As a result, I was beaten and would have to sit in the ‘naughty chair.’ I often thought of putting an end to my life. Yet, in time, it became clear to me that I had to learn to be self-sufficient. I came to find satisfaction in helping blind schoolmates, often assisting them to dress or to make up their beds.
Priests told us that God had made us blind because of some terrible transgression of our parents. This only stirred up more hatred of God, who seemed to be mean and malicious. A religious notion that made me fearful and resentful was that the spirits of the dead go around harassing the living. Thus, despite my love for my deceased siblings and mother, I was afraid of their “spirits.”
Helped by My Father
In time, Father came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was amazed to learn from the Bible that Satan, and not Jehovah, is the source of pain and death. (Psalm 100:3; James 1:13, 17; Revelation 12:9, 12) Soon my enlightened father started attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, made spiritual progress, and was baptized in 1947. A few months before that, he had remarried and now had a son. In time, his new wife also joined him in worshiping Jehovah.
At 16 years of age, I left the school for the blind. How comforting it was to return to a warm Christian family! They had what they called a family Bible study, which I was invited to attend. I attended out of respect and politeness, although I was not really paying any attention. My strong feelings against God and religion were still overwhelming.
The family was studying the booklet God’s Way Is Love. At first, I did not take an interest, but then I heard Father discussing the condition of the dead. This captured my attention. Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 was read from the Bible: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.”
I began to realize that my fear was unjustified. My dead mother, brothers, and sisters were not able to harm me. The discussion then moved to the topic of resurrection. My “antennas” were fully deployed. Joy welled up in my heart when I heard the Bible’s promise that under Christ’s reign the dead will come to life! (John 5:28, 29; Revelation 20:12, 13) Now the study was very interesting to me. I eagerly anticipated the day of this family discussion, and despite my blindness, I would prepare well.
Gaining Spiritual Eyesight
As I progressed in Scriptural knowledge, misconceptions about God and his dealings vanished. I learned that neither I nor anyone else was made blind by God but that the root of all evil is his Adversary, Satan the Devil. How regretful I was that because of my sheer ignorance, I had blamed God! With unquenchable thirst, I increased in accurate knowledge of the Bible. I attended and participated in all the Christian meetings, although we lived many miles from the Kingdom Hall. I also actively participated in the preaching activity, not letting my vision impairment hinder me.
How happy I was when, on July 27, 1958, a little more than 16 years after that tragic moment that left me blind, I was baptized! I had a fresh start and was full of hope and optimism. Now my life had a purpose—to serve my loving heavenly Father. Knowledge of him had set me free from false teachings and had given me the courage to face my blindness and its difficulties with determination and hopefulness. I regularly devoted 75 or more hours a month to preaching the glorious good news to others.
In 1966, I married a man with whom I shared the same goals in life. It seemed that together we would enjoy a happy marriage as we both worked toward increasing our activity in the preaching work. Some months we would devote scores of hours to that lifesaving work. We moved to an isolated area near Livadiá, central Greece. During the years we were there, from 1970 to 1972, despite the oppressive military junta then in power in Greece, we were able to help several people learn Bible truth and become baptized Christians. We were also happy to assist the small congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that area.
In time, however, my husband began to neglect Bible study and attendance at our Christian meetings, and he finally abandoned Bible teachings altogether. This caused a lot of tension in our marriage, which ended in divorce in 1977. I was utterly devastated.
A Happy, Productive Life
At this very low period of my life, Jehovah and his organization again came to the rescue. A loving Christian brother explained that if I let the situation caused by my former husband rob me of joy, then in essence I would be a slave of him. He would be holding the key to my happiness. About this time, an older member of the Christian congregation asked for help to improve her preaching ability. Soon I was fully absorbed in what brought me the greatest joy—engaging in the ministry!
Then another Christian offered this suggestion: “You can continue helping in places where you are needed most. You can be a lighthouse used by Jehovah God.” What a thrilling thought! A blind person being “a lighthouse used by Jehovah God”! (Philippians 2:15) Without delay I left Athens and went to live in the village of Amárinthos, in southern Évvoia, an area with very few Bible teachers. With the help of friends there, I was able to have a house built and to care for my needs sufficiently.
So for more than 20 years now, I have been able to devote several months each year to some form of increased preaching activity. With strength from Jehovah, I manage to share in all forms of the ministry, including calling on people at their homes, conducting Bible studies with interested ones, and speaking with people on the streets. Currently, I have the privilege of conducting four Bible studies with persons interested in our Creator. How happy I have been to see three congregations spring up in this area from just a handful of brothers 20 years ago!
Two times a week, I travel more than 20 miles [30 km] each way to attend Christian meetings, determined not to miss even one of them. When—because of the lack of visual contact with the speaker—I catch my mind wandering during the meetings, I use my special Braille notebook to take brief notes. In this way I force my ears and my mind to pay close attention. Furthermore, I have the privilege of having one of the congregation’s meetings conducted in my home. People come from the nearby villages to attend what is called the Congregation Book Study. Instead of always expecting others to visit me in my house, I take the initiative to visit them, something that results in mutual encouragement.—Romans 1:12.
When I lived with my father as a teenager, he never treated me like a blind child. With patience and persistence, he spent much time teaching me to do things with my hands. This practical training has enabled me to take good care of my garden and my limited livestock. I work hard at home, keeping the house clean and preparing meals. I have learned that we can find enjoyment and happiness in the simple things of life, in what we have. I have been able to accomplish many things with my four remaining senses—hearing, smell, taste, and touch—and this gives me immeasurable satisfaction. This has also been a marvelous witness to outsiders.
Sustained by My God
Many wonder how I have managed to be positive and self-sustained in spite of my limitations. Above all, credit must be given to Jehovah, “the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) After I lost my vision, I often thought of suicide. Thus, I do not believe that I would be alive today if it were not for Jehovah and Bible truth. I have come to realize that our Creator has given us many gifts—not only vision—and that if we utilize them, we can be happy. Once when Witnesses preached in my village, a woman said to them about me: “It is the God she worships who helps her accomplish all these things!”
All my trials have drawn me closer to God. This has been very faith strengthening. I am reminded that the apostle Paul also suffered from what he called “a thorn in the flesh,” possibly an affliction of his eyes. (2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 4:13) This did not prevent him from being “intensely occupied” with the good news. Like him, I can say: “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather boast as respects my weaknesses . . . For when I am weak, then I am powerful.”—Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.
Above all, my Bible-based hope that in the resurrection I may see with my own eyes my dear mother, sisters, and brothers definitely has a positive and beneficial effect on me. The Bible promises that “the eyes of the blind ones will be opened” and that “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Isaiah 35:5; Acts 24:15) Such prospects fill me with optimism and eager anticipation of the glorious future under the Kingdom of God!
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My father, who studied the Bible with me
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In my kitchen
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With a friend in the ministry