I lost my eyesight a year after I was born. But I have lived for 40 years without any care about the reality that I am blind. When I was born, I caught the degeneracy of retinal pigment owing to the optic atrophy, which was known as an incurable disease. My parents did their best for my cure but it was useless. I only listened to the sound of other chil- dren’s playing but it was impossible for me to imagine them.
Later, I heard that I could go to school. When I was taken to the Taedong School for the Blind it seemed to be a light to me. I repeatedly asked a teacher in charge of my class if I could study. She said embracing me, “Sure is. You can achieve everything when you exert great efforts.”
One day I headed for a room attracted by clear and fine sounds of a musical instrument. A teacher led me into the room and told me that it was a violin. When she asked me if I wanted to be a violinist, I said, “Yes, I’m eager to learn.”
I was full of confidence and hope of learning to play the violin. At that time there were senior pupils from some circles who were learning to play instruments including accordion. As I knew it, I became courageous. Teachers taught me everything about the violin including its shape, characteristics of each string and how to use the bow. I was often confused about the strings and sounds, but teaching voices were always full of tenderness in earnest. During the period I cultivated the sense of my fi nger tips, and I became as sensible as if I played the violin using my own eyes. An incomparable hearing power came for me at that time.
I sometimes recollect the day when I made my debut at a concert held on the occasion of the founding anniversary of the school. I was afraid I might be a laughing stock for my mistake. I was so nervous that I put too much stress on the bow. One string was broken. There was a moment of embarrassment, which was soon followed by a loud applause from the audience. Thanks to the applause, I returned to my senses and I continued to play the violin with the remaining three strings tapping all my abilities. The audience clapped their hands until my performance finished. Then, I recited a poem impromptu. Now whenever I remember it, I find it surprising, and I don’t think I’m such a kind of person. I chanted that I felt happiness on the stage that my parents could not provide me with, and I declared I would be a great character admired by people around the world. Now I am working to attain a new target of learning a foreign language. It is so difficult that I sometimes feel like to give up, but when I remember the impressive applause which gave me strength and courage, I feel refreshed.
After graduation I decided to give performances at some major construction sites so as to dedicate all my abilities I developed at school to my country.
One day I visited a construction site to give my premiere. I was excited to hear the sounds like the whistle and the buzzing crane. My heart swelled at the performance when the audience cried encore twice and thrice for my song. I could not see their faces, but their sincerity made me confident that I could achieve anything I hoped for.
Later I learned the accordion, guitar, cello and even computer thanks to the true-hearted assistance of those who were impressed by my intention not to idle my life away. At that time I was sometimes seized by the self-confidence that I was born to enjoy success and happiness. However, it would have been hardly possible if I had had nobody to look after me.
I cannot forget the year 2004 when I was miraculously saved from the jaws of death. In September that year I was rushed to the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital due to an acute pain – just before childbirth. When I was delivered of a child it was all right, but I was almost dead as a result of haemorrhage. Learning the fact, a lot of people donated their blood to me. Doctors had consultative meetings day and night, and I was administered priceless medicines. When I cuddled my pretty baby after I got full well, I was full of determination to exert myself for the sake of my benevolent country, rather than feeling the happiness of being a mother.
In 2016 a lot of people in the northern area of my country became homeless in a great flood. It seemed they were just the kind-hearted people who saved me by giving their blood. I knew I had to do something for them. I began to make a quilt with the help of my daughter and prepared some food as well. Now I entrusted the Mangyongdae District People’s Committee to send them to the northern area. To my surprise, this brought me a state citation— I had never imagined it. When I was called for the first time at the relevant ceremony I was full of pride of being a dignified citizen of the country.
I am still blind. However, I readily declare that I’ve enjoyed my life under the warm care of the country, which never discriminates against any people. It sheds fresh light on me so as to help me go ahead without any frustration. It is more than my eyes. I am seeing the prosperous tomorrow of the socialist Korea, a great garden of human love.
Ri Chun Hyang,
resident at Neighbourhood Unit No. 10,
Tangsang-dong No.1, Mangyongdae District,