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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

How to bring up an ordinary exceptional child?

The Day talks about this with the mother of 10-year-old Vitalii Nechaiev, the youngest genius and the winner of the 12th International Guiseppe Sciacca Award
4 December, 2013 - 17:43
LAST SPRING VITALII NECHAIEV GAVE TWO LECTURES ON THE HISTORY OF UKRAINE TO 3rd-YEAR HISTORY STUDENTS AT THE CHERKASY UNIVERSITY / Photo from Nechaiev’s family archive

Vitalii Nechaiev, aged 10, from Zvenyhorodka, Cherkasy oblast, was recently awarded the title of absolute winner of the 12th International Giuseppe Sciacca Award. This extremely talented boy received this prize in the Vatican. Let us remind that in 2011, Nechaiev was awarded the Pride of the Nation prize in the category “Rare Talent.” On November 16, Nechaiev was awarded the Giuseppe Sciacca Award at the Pontifical Urbaniana University. The award was founded in 2001 in honor of the deceased Italian boy, who was known for his exceptionally high moral character and magnanimity. So, the world recognized the talented Ukrainian boy as an example for new generations.

Nechaiev and his mother Olha spent three days in Italy. Almost day-long sightseeing tours round Rome and the Vatican were organized just for them. It was the boy’s first trip abroad, and he was impressed by the cultural and historical monuments he saw, as well as by the Tyrrhenian Sea. He shared his impressions with The Day.

“First, I was awed by the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum. Then, I was a bit nervous during the award ceremony at the Pontifical University. And on the last day, I had all the time to rest. Rome was great fun. My most vivid memories of Italy are the ones of the sea and St. Peter’s Basilica. The sea over there is not like ours. It is much more interesting. We arrived in the evening, when it was especially beautiful, and sort of blended with the color of the sky. Actually, I want to see the whole world. European countries especially.”

Are you still fond of geography and history the most?

“Yes, I am into history more at the moment. I have not chosen my profession yet. There are so many of them, just like the sciences. I will choose what I like the most.”

We spoke with Olha Nechaieva, who also has an infant daughter, about how a talented child should be brought up.

“Vitalii’s recognition in Rome was absolutely unexpected for us. There are a lot of smart kids nowadays, but Vitalii was recognized as an absolute winner, he became a laureate of the international prize for talented youth. He really works a lot, studies, and reads. He already managed to share his knowledge with the students of the Cherkasy University.

“Father Bruno Lima, President of the Giuseppe Sciacca Award, learned about our Vitalii. After a counsel, the jury unanimously decided that Vitalii should become laureate. We did not believe in this until the very last moment, we did not know if we could come.

“This international prize has not yet been awarded to such young individuals. If I am not mistaken, no Ukrainian had ever been absolute winner of the Giuseppe Sciacca Award before.”

Do you have a specific model of early childhood development?

“In fact, I have never had any such system of development or education. People still cannot believe that such thing is possible. Vitalii started reading when he was four. To be honest, we did not even notice it. Then my boy started asking for a lot of books. We did not have the Internet, or a PC, for that matter, back then, so he only read books. We started giving books to him as presents or just buying them.

“The first encyclopedia he read was about astronomy. Then came the geographical and historical ones. Vitalii has quite diverse interests. He says that when he read about astronomy, he became interested in how life originated on the Earth, where people came from, the history of humankind, and so on. That is how he got from the ancient times to the present.

“When he was three and a half, we could understand what he said perfectly, and when he was four, he started saying things that impressed us. At such a young age Vitalii showed incredible math skills. Even though nobody even taught him how to count. At the age of four, as soon as Vitalii learned someone’s birth year, he said how old they were right away. It was a shock for us. Our son’s abilities developed very rapidly. He absorbed information like a sponge. He read those encyclopedias shockingly fast. To be honest, I did not even think he was reading them. I thought he was just looking at the pictures.”

Do you help your son with the studies?

“I never taught him. In fact, I was afraid that the knowledge I might give could cause some harm. I wanted Vitalii to spend more time outdoors. Back then he did not want to play outside, he just read books all the time. I was very worried about that, but thankfully, we got through that stage and nothing bad happened.

“Since Vitalii read books and knew a lot in the kindergarten, we decided to send him to school at the age of five. The first three years of school were quite boring for him.

“I never thought about bringing up a child prodigy, and I do not force him to do anything. Vitalii decides for himself when it is time to study or play. He grows up like any ordinary child. I do not notice how all this extraordinary knowledge comes to him. I still do not know how he can hold so much information in his head.

“Vitalii is an excellent student at school. He wins school contests all the time. And he never studies at night, he does not learn by rote. We just came back from Italy, and the next day he participated in the Ukrainian language contest and won the first place. And he did it without preparation.

“Vitalii considers himself to be an ordinary kid. He behaves and looks like the rest of children. But his knowledge exceeds any imaginable concept of a child of his age. He knows a lot about history and geography. Even though sometimes he forgets things. Vitalii says that it is as if he has already known all these things, and now he just remembers them. Everyone thinks that Vitalii has phenomenal memory, but I have a feeling he already has all this knowledge.

“On the other hand, he did not want to play outdoors before, but now he has plenty of friends, he spends time with peers. Lately, he has been playing computer games with his friends every once in a while, they call each other on Skype on such occasions. In summer, he likes rollerskating or playing football. In general, he is not into PT much. We need to help him develop physically, because he is too skinny. Perhaps, we will try to go into martial arts. I want him to become more self-confident, because he lacks that. Sometimes he is even uncertain about his knowledge.”

Vitalii was ill often before, how does he feel now?

“He slowly outgrows these diseases. Due to the fact that his brain is extremely active, his body lacks fructose and sucrose. The problem is that Vitalii does not want to eat fruit at all. He only eats a bit of bananas and oranges. If he ate more fruit, he would never get ill at all. And I do not want to feed him with pills and other artificial medicines. Let everything happen naturally.

“These problems will go away with time. But we must be careful and eat only natural food. He only eats home-cooked meals.”

What are you going to spend the scholarship on?

“Vitalii received a one-time cash award, a thousand euros. Frankly speaking, we are going to use this money to pay debts. We paid 12,000 hryvnias to be able to go to Italy. This includes a personal financial guarantee at the visa center (6,000 hryvnias), the passport, visas, tickets, translation of documents... It is hard for a single mom in our country to take her child abroad.”

You can be called a heroic mother: you bring up two children single-handed.

“In reality, nobody needs this kind of heroism. That is just how life went: I met such men that it seems to me it is better to bring up kids alone. I just protect them. Some women live for their husbands and do not notice their kids, and I live only for my kids. Vitalii told me once: ‘I do not need anything, I only need you here and a piece of bread to eat.’ I am perfectly calm with my children, we communicate normally, we never have any quarrels.”

What is Vitalii’s attitude towards fame?

“We try to avoid talking with journalists in order not to traumatize the child. In fact, all this fame is encumbering. I decided to talk about this publicly only to find an answer to the question ‘What should I do next?’ I hope, there is a person who can tell me what should be done with such kids. Perhaps, he needs a different study program, or some special conditions. Or there are some educational institutions for such children. It is hard for him. His psyche is still very tender.”

By Oleksandr SOLONETS
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