Saturday, January 16, 2010

Баба Роза

The second баба brave enough to sit down and share her story is Баба Роза (Rosa). I spent a couple hours with Роза the other afternoon, and here is some of what I learned:

• Роза was born in 1933 in Село Пищане, a small village between where we now live and Serbia.

• She has never been out of Bulgaria, but she once went to the Black Sea by airplane.

• She had four children, two of whom have since passed away, and she has two grandchildren. The greatest joy she has experienced in life was the birth of her granddaughter.

• Her childhood was miserable. She was the eldest of four siblings, and her family was very poor. She spent her childhood working, and there was no time for fun. She had few clothes and often went barefoot, even while shepherding the family’s sheep.

• She walked seven kilometers each way to and from school before dropping out after the fifth grade after failing a class and getting tonsillitis.

• When she was twelve she nearly drowned. She and a friend were on opposite sides of a river. They both jumped at the same time, collided, and were swept away by the current. Neither of them could swim, and they were at the mercy of the river. Her brother jumped in to save them, but he couldn’t swim either and was likewise swept away by the current. All three were taken down river and slammed into the exposed rocks. Luckily, they all managed to stay afloat long enough to reach an eddy and drag their bruised and battered bodies to shore.

• When she was fifteen, she and a group of ten friends loaded into a horse-cart to attend a celebration at a nearby village. The driver of the horse-cart lost control of the horses, and the horse-cart flipped. She landed on her head, and several of her friends landed on top of her. She was concussed and remembers few details of the accident, but she recalls everyone being injured except one boy. She remembers that, instead of helping the others, all of whom were suffering, the boy got up, pulled a mirror out of his pocket, and checked to make sure he was still looking good for the party.

• A short time after the horse-cart accident, she met her future husband. She was still sixteen, and he was twenty-five. He was her first, last, and only boyfriend. They were together for two years or so before they got married. According to Роза, he felt sorry for her and wanted to save her from a life of continued misery. After almost sixty years, they are still married today.

• She recalls people from Sofia fleeing to Село Пищане as the fighting in World War II intensified and the bombing of Sofia escalated. Dogfighting in the skies over Село Пищане was not uncommon, and she remembers taking cover from bullet casings which, at times, fell from the sky like rain.

• For Роза, life under communism and democracy was and is much the same. She worked and works very hard for very little. The only difference is that she could get more for her money during communism.

• She lived without electricity until 1957 and considers it the one technological innovation that most affected her life.

• She enjoys life now more than at any other point in her life. Without any children or grandchildren to care for or worry about, she is basically free to do what she wants. Much like Ристена, she enjoys tending to her garden, caring for a few animals, and watching Turkish soap operas.

Somewhere in the woods on the outskirts of Село Пищане there is a big, old oak tree with a stone cross nearby. This is Роза's “family tree.” It’s a place where her grandfather, and later her father, slaughtered a lamb as part of a ritual marking important holidays and celebrations. The tradition ceased during Bulgaria’s communist period but has since been revived. When I get the chance, I plan on visiting the tree and perhaps even witnessing the silencing of a lamb.

Баба Роза

Роза and her husband with their two grandchildren (1987).

Two photos of family gatherings just before Роза's son joined the army (1973).

Роза and her husband (~1956).

Роза and her husband exiting the hospital with their newborn son (1955).

Two photos of Роза and her husband on their wedding day (1954).

Several shots from the early 1950s depicting village life in Село Пищане.

Роза, her mother, and two of her siblings in the early 1940s.

Роза's husband (~1960). I included this photo for two reasons. First, I like it. Second, there is a good story behind it. Роза's husband worked as a forest ranger. He patrolled his area on horseback. One day/night while on patrol, he got really, really drunk and lost his way. Despite being completely obliterated, he found his way home thanks entirely to the horse shown in the photo.

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