I affectionately call Марусія (Maroosia) by a nickname: "Merma." Now, Orest has told me that merma is a Ukrainian word that refers to an old, unattractive woman. I had no idea - this nickname was not meant to be offensive for Maroosia, it is just the result of me asking her what her name was. Her verbal skills are weak, yet she was able to answer quietly, "Merma." And so I refer to Maroosia as Merma, as an innocent term of endearment.

One of the eldest girls of the Internat, Merma is 26 years old. She is a child at heart; her abilities reflect this. She adores anything that is soft and cuddly, whether it is a stuffed animal or another person. I've often been the target of her bear hugs. I sometimes feel as though I have a shadow, when Merma is trailing behind me when we are outside in the park or in the courtyard.

Merma is taller than me, and I don't think that she realizes how strong she is (for example, the bear hugs - I've been squished as a result of these on several occasions). She tends to scrunch up her face to express her moods, whether she is happy, sad, excited, or scared. For the most part, Merma is non-verbal. She communicates by various gestures and sounds, and once in a while uses the few words that she does know.

Merma is also fascinated by random objects, just as several of the other girls are. Objects may include string, paper, a broken toy, or a scrap of garbage. She was especially ecstatic on our animal theme day, when I gave her a chicken puppet - her face was priceless. Merma also loves bubbles, holding hands, and her pink tshirt :)

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