Episode 5 Battling Bullying Part 2

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Better Together With A Life Worth Living
Episode 5 Battling Bullying Part 2

Hosted by:  Veronica Nikolica Guests: Virginia Nikolica, Sue Bondy,  Zoran Mitrovski, Jim Sweetman

Excerpt Episode 5 Battling Bullying Part 2:

In the second part of our podcast on Battling Bullying. We’ll hear the continued story of, Virginia, and some of her experiences of being bullied in the workplace.

Veronica N  00:07

Welcome to Better Together with A Life Worth Living. I’m Veronica Nikolica.  Our stories teach, inspire and bind people together.  Thank you to William McCrae for sponsoring this episode. Mr. McCrae is the former Director of Education with the Windsor Essex Catholic School Board.  Welcome to the second part of our podcast on Battling Bullying. We’ll hear the continued story of my sister, Virginia, and some of her experiences of being bullied in the workplace. Virginia would need her arsenal of support, including longtime friends, Zoran Mitrovski and Sue Bondy. I knew I couldn’t protect her as I tried on the playground at school. I assumed there would be more protection for Virginia when she started working, enforceable laws to protect everyone from bullying at work. Virginia got a job supporting customers by telephone at a large company, Virginia. What was management like when you first started?

Virginia N  01:18

Well, at the beginning, they were great. They were supportive. You know, I had a desk close to the bathroom. And, you know, they were supportive with computer help and things. Then as time went on, it seemed like the harder you work, the worse they treated you.

Veronica N  01:35

That’s kind of curious, right?

Virginia N  01:37

I couldn’t understand it. I believe that it was their way of trying to push me out the door. There was no way I was going to go until they let me go.

Veronica N  01:48

At one point you weren’t driving Virginia. And you met Sue Bondy at a Bible study through church. Sue welcome to our conversation. What did you offer to Virginia?

Sue B  01:58

Well, hello, hello to both of you, Veronica and Virginia. And you too Zoran. I was in the Bible study with Virginia, we actually went to the same church. When I found out that she couldn’t drive to work, I just thought, ‘Well, I kind of work in the middle of town, and it’s not too far out of the way’. So every day I picked her up and that few times turned out to be a year and a half. The more I got to know, Virginia, we just got closer, and I had I picked her up to go to church. After church, we went to a Saturday night service, so we were able to socialize after. They were Virginia’s friends anyway, I was the stranger to be perfectly honest. So it was just all part and parcel of life and it was a good one. I got to know Virginia, she has one disability, there is a million things that Virginia can do. When I hear your stories, I was bullied. And, you know, so I knew that feeling of being marginalized and being tossed to the side of the, the road and so on. I didn’t feel like it was help, I just felt that it was friendship.

Veronica N  03:21

Can you talk about the bullying like what did you endure?

Sue B  03:24

When I was a child, at six years old, I was in a tobogganing accident lost half my tooth in the front. I was just six that had just grown in and I lost it. Back then we’re talking 1954 – 1955. So you didn’t go to the dentist unless you had to have a tooth pulled. I mean, that’s just the way it was. I was teased incessantly. I had a freckle face, and I kind of red hair and, you know, reddish blond hair. It was just all the time. On my way home from school every day, every day, these two brothers threw me in the creek, and we had to go by this little creek and I come home I’d be muddy and, and crying and like Virginia, the scrapes on my knees and it just never stopped. So, but the teasing about the tooth, constantly. I started babysitting when I was 11 and when I was 13 I got my tooth fixed. And that’s when I was able, like Zoran says, to arm myself with that arsenal of support. I could then see a future I could smile. I could smile without covering up my mouth. I could look forward to something and there was hope.

Veronica N  04:47

What did that mean to Virginia to have someone like Sue care so much for you?

Virginia N  04:51

Well, that was incredible because she came right at the time in our lives when mom had just passed away and that was in the middle of devastation. She’s a good friend and like a mother, you know, taking care of me and making sure everything was okay. If there was something I needed, Sue would get it.  Or, I would tell her that I really wanted to go to a concert in Detroit. I need someone to go with. She’s like, wow, I’ll go with you. Then when we got there, and there were a million steps, Sue would get us better seats than we paid for. That was the awesome part for me.

Veronica N  05:35

Virginia, can you just tell us how important it was for you to know that Sue was really listening to you, when you were driving to and from work or to the concerts or taking it to get groceries, all the different places that she would drive? And you guys would spend time together? Or at the Bible study? How important was it to have someone listen?

Virginia N  05:53

Oh, it was important, because there were someone that understood me and decided to stick around anyway.

Veronica N  06:03

What does that mean?

Virginia N  06:05

I never really had a lot of friends. Sue was a good friend. That’s the one good thing that came out of working for that company, I made a really good friend. And, we’re still friends to this day. We really enjoy going out to dinner.

Veronica N  06:24

There we go. But to have someone listen and really understand, does that make a difference in terms of experiencing and overcoming something like bullying?

Virginia N  06:34

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely! They take you to a whole new level.

Veronica N  06:40

Things only got worse for Virginia at work. Sue was no longer allowed to walk Virginia, the few feet from the front door to the elevator, or walk her up the stairs when the elevator broke down.

Sue B  06:52

Most of the time, the elevator didn’t work. And so Virginia had to go up three flights of stairs, and come down those stairs at the end of the shift. So in the morning, when I would drive her to work, I would like to take her in, she didn’t have her walker at the time, it wouldn’t have done much good anyway, with having to walk upstairs. While the building had security, at first, they wouldn’t mind that I sometimes walked her over to the elevator. But then it just was no, you’re not going to do it. You know, how can anyone treat another person like that? How could anyone not have empathy? You advocated for her when she was in school. I decided, no I’m going to advocate for her when I can, so I took on the role, right, wrong or otherwise. The injustice was just beyond. And to me that’s abusive and bullying, whether it’s with words, or not, it’s with actions. And I know that everything has to be accessible. I understand that. But it isn’t. It just isn’t. They say it is. They’ll put a sticker on the door. And it’s not. It’s not accessible. I’d like them all to try to navigate some of these situations and see what it’s like and experience it.

Veronica N  08:17

Virginia, what happened eventually at this company?

Virginia N  08:21

Well, in time, the the harder you worked, the worse that treated you. And I didn’t understand that. But I do now, they were trying to get rid of me. I refused to go. But it didn’t make any sense to me. Because the manager that was there at the time, she thought I was terrific. Then for the last two weeks I was there, I would say good morning and then she wouldn’t be able to look at me. She looked like she was going to cry. And I wondered what was wrong. And two weeks later, I was gone. But it was not her decision. It was the company we outsourced for.

Veronica N  08:59

Now, what did they do in order to precipitate letting you go? What happened with your desk?

Virginia N  09:06

They moved it to the other side of the room where I was too far away to get to the bathroom and back and you know, 10 minutes or less, it was impossible.

Veronica N  09:16

What did you try to do?

Virginia N  09:17

Well, I tried to run back. And we all know what happens when I do that. I just fall you know or take a flying leap.

Veronica N  09:25

I can’t imagine what that would have been like trying to run to the bathroom and run back and falling because they would you had to log in on your computer. Is that correct?

Virginia N  09:32

Right, to be back in time. It was just one of those things. The reason I got when I was let go, ‘We’re letting you go without reason but not without cause’. What does that mean? They said, ‘you can go peacefully, or we can call the polic’.

Veronica N  09:56

Why did you want to stay then in that kind of environment?

Virginia N  10:00

I figured that I had no place else to go. Who else was going to hire me? What opportunity was going to come up?

Veronica N  10:08

So what happened when you looked for another job Virgina?

Virginia N  10:12

Well, I was having a tough time. I sent out 1300 resumes and nothing happened. Things weren’t moving. That took over a year, and I thought I would never get a job again.

Veronica N  10:25

Let’s bring Zoran Mitrovski back into the conversation. Zoran, how did you fit into this picture?

Zoran  10:33

I did to Virginia what I do with my students, it just create a different pictures. As we talked, I looked at her resume said, ‘You know, I think I can help you out here’. As we’re talking, as we’re working together all of a sudden, her hope comes back. Then she she starts fighting even harder. Again, incredible tenaciousness of never quitting. Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can do this. Great. My philosophy was all it takes is one. That’s That’s it?

Veronica N  11:07

Is that what you kept telling her?

Zoran  11:08

All it takes is one. And eventually someone will see her tenaciousness, her humility and her ability to talk on the phone. She’s fantastic. She’s a hell of a listener.

Veronica N  11:21

And you were a dispatcher as well, at one point, that was your favorite job.

Virginia N  11:25

That was my favorite job. I’m sorry that the jobs moved to Toronto or I’d probably still be there.

Veronica N  11:33

But it helped you get to where you are. So I remember going with you to interviews. And we had confirmed the day before or that morning, and then you’d walk in and what would happen when you went to go for the interview?

Virginia N  11:45

Well, there was one company I applied to, and I thought I’d be qualified. It was a telephone company in the city. Soon as they walked in, I could see the fear in their eyes. I thought, why are they so afraid of me by that point? I was using a walker when I handed them my resume. And they said, ‘Oh, okay, well, we’ll call you’. It’s like, I was made of glass and they thought I was gonna break or something.

Veronica N  12:16

They had no idea how tough you you really are.

Virginia N  12:19

But I thought, well, I don’t think this is the place for me, it’ll have to be another place.

Zoran  12:26

Hence these are the kinds of things that the more the Virginias of the world, the more people that go and break those those those ceilings and open the compassion to understanding one another, our society becomes bigger, we become better.

Veronica N  12:47

So Virginia, how did you finally find the job that you have now?

Virginia N  12:50

I guess I should throw this in. Because this is what happened after applying to so many jobs. I was so frustrated. I went my living room, sat on a chair. And I said, God, I dare you to get me a job. And three days later, the phone rings. That’s my manager. He’s saying, ‘Are you still interested at a position here?’ And I said, Of course he said, ‘When can you start?’ I said, ‘Immediately’. He’s like, ‘Great’.

Veronica N  13:22

And what did he do to support you when you started working?

Virginia N  13:25

Well, I needed extra computer help and he always made sure I had it. At one point, I had a broken down computer, so they sent me one that they weren’t using anymore.

Veronica N  13:38

What did that mean to that someone was willing to do that for you?

Virginia N  13:41

That was amazing. You know, but I was not alone in there. It was not just him. He was a big part of it. There was also Insight Advantage. Whenever I needed help when my computer would break down, I would need a new hard drive or something, they would step in and supply one that they didn’t need.

Veronica N  14:02

So you had built an arsenal of support.

Virginia N  14:06

You know, they said they would do anything to keep me working. And you know, I kept working until the pandemic started and was off for about a year and a half. And now we’ve just gone back to work.

Veronica N  14:19

You’ve endured so much bullying in your life, and I’ve certainly seen it and the cruelty of it. What impact did that have on you looking back now thinking back to all these stories now?

Virginia N  14:31

Well, I don’t know. I just I guess I didn’t have a high opinion of myself until I started getting around people like Zoran and then I met Sue. And that blew me away.

Zoran  14:48

Just one word, invincible. When you go through so many obstacles, I can’t speak for Virginia, but I’ve certainly had the pleasure of watching her. Once you go through all this stuff you go through, enough is enough. It takes a lot of wherewithal, a hell of a lot of support, and just raw willpower to get her done.

Veronica N  15:17

What have they meant to Sue and Zoran?

Virginia N  15:20

They are two people, that I can trust, that I can count on. And of course, Jim as well, you know. The people that believed in me and thought I was worth hanging around with as they say.

Veronica N  15:37

Jim Sweetman was our veterinarian for some 40 years before he retired, he became an integral part of Virginia’s arsenal of support. Jim told Virginia to call him at home with any issues, even house repairs. I remember also that you gave Virginia your home number and you said, if you need something, call me like, don’t be afraid to call me at home. Can you talk about why you went out of your way, so often for her>

Jim S  16:06

Well she lives alone, and she needs a friend. So why not give her your phone number. We had no emergency clinic in those days. So she needed help. I’d go to a night and help her. But that’s just just a service you give to your friends and your clients.  That’s why our clinic is very successful.

Veronica N  16:27

From the heart what would you say to someone like Virginia who’s been bullied?

Jim S  16:31

You got to let that the trash go behind you. Keep going forward because if you keep the garbage in your mind, you’re not going to be a good person. Just let the garbage go and have fun.

Veronica N  16:49

Thank you to William McCrae for sponsoring this episode. Mr. McCrae is the former Director of Education with the Windsor Essex Catholic School Board Welcome back to our podcast on Battling Bullying. I’m Veronica Nikolica. Our guests are my sister, Virginia Nikolica, and longtime friends Zoran Mitrovski and Sue Bondy. They have messages for people who are being bullied and for anyone who is a bully. Virginia, what would you say to someone who’s being bullied right now?

Virginia N  17:27

I would say don’t give up the fight, you will find somebody that’s going to support you and care about you. You know, if the bullies outnumber your friends, then get away from the bullies. They’re just cowards. You don’t want to hang around with cowards. You want to hang around with people that have guts?

Zoran  17:51

Simply win. That’s all. Prove to them they were wrong. I loved it. When I became a teacher. I was sitting next to the teachers that told me that I couldn’t. It was sweet.

Veronica N  18:08

Where was this?

Zoran  18:08

OSSTF (Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation) meeting? I sat next to some of the teachers. ‘Don’t I know you?’ Oh you, you know me.

Veronica N  18:15

Who taught you and told you that? I couldn’t that you couldn’t do it?

Zoran  18:19

Oh, just go to college or university? And so

Veronica N  18:22

Did you tell them that you had a degree?

Zoran  18:24

Well, no. They asked me what I was doing in the meeting.  I said, ‘I’m one of your colleagues’. The whole thing is, the answer to that question is just damn win. Prove that they’re wrong. And then use that knowledge to help other people that are struggling.

Sue B  18:46

I agree with Zoran. You just prove them wrong. You do everything in your power to not believe them. And Zoran said it earlier as well. You have to reset. Reset your brain. And for every encouraging word that you’ve ever heard from anybody, you know, take that to heart don’t take the discouraging word.

Veronica N  19:11

Virginia what would you say to someone who is a bully? Someone who is bullying someone or many people in their life?

Virginia N  19:20

Well, if you’re a bully, and you think bullying is going to get you somewhere, it won’t get you anywhere. Not only is it going to hurt the person, you’re bullying, it’s going to hurt you. Because as they say what goes around comes around.

Veronica N  19:41

What would you say to someone who was bullying? Someone who is a bully.

Sue B  19:45

You really have to get to the bottom of where your anger is and redirect it. You have to put a more positive spin on it. Get the help you need, as Zoran says, you have to get that arsenal of support. And if you’re the only one who can give yourself that arsenal of support, then you know, picture yourself successful. But don’t take your frustrations out on someone who cannot defend themselves.

Zoran  20:20

Yes, there’s a lot of darkness. Why don’t we become lit up and make this world a better place? I mean, take a look what they’ve done with the virus, the world came together and and they came up with a solution. Well, why can’t we do that with bullying? Why can’t we do that in teaching people with disabilities to be accepted? I love what Sue just said, to advocate for the people that can’t advocate for themselves. The other piece to the puzzle is, when when you’re being abused, you don’t know who you’re looking for to get help.

Veronica N  21:01

Zoran how important would you say it is for your students to have at least one family member to support them?

Zoran  21:08

I think it’s it’s critically important. I see the difference all the time where the student that has that support over time, that student will blow away everybody else. Because it’s just a little bit at a time, a little bit of time, they get stronger, they get stronger, they get stronger, and when they fall, at least they have somebody. We’re relational beings and so when we fall, pick you up, dust you off, it’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.

Sue B  21:40

Virginia, it’s Sue again. And you have mentioned how important Zoran and Jim and I are in your life. And I just need to know,and the people who are listening need to know, how important is Veronica in your life?

Virginia N  22:01

Veronica is my older sister, as everyone knows by now. She was always there through all the pain that since I was a baby taking care of me like a second mom.  Poor Veronica. My mother would be in the room panicking, and crying and Veronica would just have this worried look on her face like I was gonna die or something. But I couldn’t figure out why everybody was so upset, because I just brushed it off. Every time something would happen with me physically or whatever, it’s like, oh, well, we’ll just get through this and everything will be okay. But nobody knew I thought that. I wish that I hadn’t fallen so much, etc., and then all the other things, because people worried so much. I wish that I hadn’t made so many people worry about me.

Sue B  22:57

So how important is all of that to you to know that you can depend on your sister?

Virginia N  23:03

Well, that’s that’s meaningful, because I don’t know what I would have done. She was being the legs I couldn’t be and, you know, going to the grocery store and all those kinds of things. She wondered if I would ever get through it and at one point, so did I. I didn’t know when I was going to be back to my normal self. What happened was a good friend of mine, Wanda, I think she was so worried about me. This is getting off topic with Veronica, she encouraged me to go see a chiropractor in Windsor. After six treatments, he got me back to my old self.

Veronica N  23:43

The pain was gone, which has been a real gift.

Virginia N  23:46

Veronica was the one that took me to the appointments because I still couldn’t drive.

Zoran  23:52

Yeah, I’m beginning to see her connection with what Virginia said in how resilient the winners are, that have gone through the hell that she’s gone through. The word I think I can come up with is selfless. As I listened to her stories, she never once said, ‘Oh, woe is me. Oh poor me’. She’s always worrying about oh how Veronica’s thinking or how my mom is thinking. She’s never become the victim. What can we do? We need to care. Stop our busy lives and just look into the eyes of another human being that’s suffering and provide help. Zoran what would you say to someone who is a bully? Would you tell them to get the help they need? That’s the problem. It’s like alcoholics. They’re hurting everybody else around them. But because they haven’t admitted to themselves that they have have an issue they’re never gonna stop. Because they’re going after the weaker individual in order to gain power for themselves. Take a look what happens, what happened to Virginia! It’s disgusting.

Veronica N  25:16

The way you were treated was disgusting. It wasn’t right. Just so you know, you know, I was there, it was hard not to be able to stop it. Just so you know.

Virginia N  25:28

I felt powerless. I wish that there would have been more I could do. I wish I had fought harder.

Veronica N  25:34

How would you fight harder

Virginia N  25:36

To try and be like everybody else.

Zoran  25:38

No, you don’t want to do that. You’ve seen where the world has come to. Because everyone wants to look like everybody else. No, no, no.

Virginia N  25:47

Well, I want to be a combination of all my good friends.

Zoran  25:50

You are.

Virginia N  25:52

A piece of everybody .

Zoran  25:53

You are.

Virginia N  25:54

Now if I could only become a millionaire.

Veronica N  25:59

Well, maybe that’s a good place to end. That’s perfect. Thank you, Virginia for sharing your very personal story. While this has been quite a time, quite a time for me, and I have to say Virginia, I learned a lot. Even talking to you about all these experiences, things I and I didn’t even know as your sister. It’s remarkable when you start to go deeper how much is actually in there. Thank you for sharing these personal stories about bullying and how you overcame your challenges. I honestly didn’t even realize the depth of it. And I was there with some of the people who formed your arsenal of support including Zoran Sue Bondy, and Jim Sweetman, and that may encourage anyone who may be experiencing bullying. Thank you for listening to Better Together with A Life Worth Living. I’m Veronica Nikolica.  Know who you are, decide where you will go and choose a life worth living.  Thank you again to William McCrae for sponsoring this episode. Mr. McCrae is the former Director of Education Windsor Essex Catholic School Board