Broken arm, waist pain, an armchair and many books – the key to a new friendship

Photography: Vanya Klecherova

Veska Dermendzhieva is 83 years old and lives in Plovdiv. She is one of the elderly people in the city, to whom Caritas Home Care workers in Plovdiv help to live their old age with dignity.

Veska likes to spend time reading. She reads the Bible. “I love reading books, and I have piled a lot. All of them are on Biblical themes. I have my own corner at home – my favorite armchair, with a table beside it where I can spend hours reading. And when I disappear, everyone knows what I’m doing”, Veska tells her everyday life and looks at Galya, a nurse at Caritas’s Home Care. “Galya, I have no music, let someone sing”, she laughs, she probably wants to dance to mark this kind visit by Galya and Gery – the Caritas co-workers whom she feels like her own family. “Some time ago I had a dog, a poodle, very nice, they brought it to me from Greece. I loved it, but it’s gone now, “she says, and then she sinks into her thoughts away in the years to fetch the best of them.

“I worked until my seventies. But one morning, on my way to work, I fell on the rails, while crossing over the railway and I hit my head. Then my daughter said, “Enough. You will not work anymore!” But I would have worked to date if I had not fallen, but … I thought I would not live until 80 years, and see what happened.” She smiles again. “My daughter lives in America. She has been there for 10 years. She comes back sometimes, otherwise we’re on the phone. She has two children who graduate this year, a boy and a girl, so far they have only come to Bulgaria once. They have dual citizenship. My daughter and her husband are together all the time, they help each other, they get along very well.”

“While working, I was never ill. Now, my legs hurt me, or now and then I have some pain – either in arms, in the waist or in the heart. And I forget a lot, if I put something somewhere, then I go around looking for it and I cannot find it. I am now an old lady … But it would be nice to happen this why – Galya coming from time to time, as well as some other people. I am very pleased with Galya and Gery, very much”, says Veska with a smile.
Galya has been visiting Veska for about a year and a half, when she had a broken hand. “And my waist hurt me a lot. I sat here on the armchair,” she says and points at her beloved armchair. “And Galya took care of me”.

“Veska’s day follows a healing scheme. She takes a lot of medication, especially for the heart and for memory, because she forgets a lot” Galya begins to tell, but Veska quickly interrupts her: “Even when I read, I cannot remember anything. And I’m calling – why do I read now, only wasting my time?”
“Why don’t you forget the payday date for the pension?” Galya asks her gently.
“In a few years, I will forget it too,” says Veska optimistically.

“No, you will not. Why do you drink pills? Simply books are not interesting to you, that’s why you do not remember them.”
“The ones I am reading are interesting, are not they for God?”

From their friendly conversation, from the jokes they exchange I can see so much closeness and warmth as if they were very close friends or longtime partners who have long lived the seriousness of their relationship and are now enjoying the sheer pleasure of communicating with each other.
“It is very nice not to work, you can dispose of all your time. Chatting to your loved ones and friends on the phone. Sometimes, but only rarely, it’s boring,” says Veska on her life, but once again she can give color and a spirit of adventure to the grayness of uniformity.

She first heard of Caritas and Home Care from a friend of hers, who after a heart attack and a hospital stay received care namely from Caritas co-workers. Her friend said, “Why don’t you look for support from Caritas?” So it happened, Veska called Caritas when she had her arm broken. She was thinking of looking for someone to help her anyway, but she did not imagine she would trust a stranger. When she heard her friend’s suggestion, she trusted her and since then her home is visited not only by a nurse, but by a close person, because she went along with Galya very quickly. Galya is aware not only of her health, but also of all her family ties and relatives, who are often a topic of their head-to-head chat. This friendship has been going on for a year and a half.

When she is not engaged in any of her daily activities, Veska just switches on her electronic photo frame she received as a gift from her daughter. They start to pop up one after another there: her daughter, her grandchildren and her son-in-law, and life stops being as boring and lonely as her. “I have so many pictures that I can watch them all night,” Veska praised, holding all her large smiling family in every photograph.