Баба Роза (Rosa) is the most recent баба I interviewed. Here is some of what I learned about Роза.
• Роза was born in 1939 in Село Гургулят (Gurgulyat), a small village located nine kilometers from where we now live.
• Роза has two sons and three granddaughters.
• Her parents were loving and kind, and she and her three siblings (two brothers and one sister) had a peaceful and happy childhood.
• As the baby of the family, Роза had minimal responsibility growing up (usually nothing more strenuous than feeding the family chickens and pigs), and she often played with friends. Among other things, she played with toy dogs made of fabric and went sledding.
• Роза’s family had three steers, a cow, a calf, a horse, a donkey, 50-60 sheep, plus pigs and chickens. Each year they would raise baby pigs until they were large enough to sell. They would sell all the pigs except for the mother pig and one young female. The mother pig would then be slaughtered in early winter, and the young female would serve as the new mother pig the following year.
• During World War II, Роза recalls a convoy of Russian soldiers and horse-carts heading through the village on their way to Serbia and eventually Austria. She also remembers hearing about the bombing of Sofia from people who had evacuated the city to Село Гургулят.
• She met her future husband when she was in second grade and he was in fourth grade. They liked each other and started “dating” when she was in ninth grade. At the time, dating consisted of nothing more than going for walks together. A joint coalition of parents and teachers (something like the PTA) kept an eye on the kids and strictly enforced a curfew. In any event, shortly after they started dating, her future husband joined the army and left town.
• From eighth grade through eleventh grade, she attended the school where I now teach. It was the only high school in the area, and eleventh grade was the final grade. She said discipline was not an issue whatsoever. There was no drinking, no smoking, and no drug use. The worst thing that went on was boys playing cards. She recalls her class in eighth grade consisting of nearly 200 students. By the time she graduated from eleventh grade, the number of students had dwindled to fewer than fifty.
• She graduated in June, got married to her sweetheart in November, and gave birth to their first child the following November.
• Like some of the other баби who grew up in villages, Роза lived without electricity until she moved here (she was twenty-one at the time).
• In September of 1959, she and her husband and first child moved from Село Гургулят to our town. She says this was necessary because there was no work in the villages. The local cooperative operated out of our town and was giving away land in an attempt to grow the city. Initially Роза and her husband rented a house, but, in May of 1962, they started building. They finished their house, the first one on the block and still Роза’s home today, in October of 1962.
• For thirty years, Роза was a housewife and an accountant, learning like a sponge from more senior colleagues.
• She once visited Romania for three days as part of her work with the cooperative, and she later visited the former U.S.S.R. on an eight-day holiday.
• Роза liked the social order and security that communism provided. Everyone who wanted to work had jobs, unlike today where none of the young people who live around her have jobs. She also liked the food better, claiming it was more organic. As a result, she is proud to have been and to be a member of the “Червената Бабичка,” a group of old women who remained loyal to the communist party and were largely responsible for keeping them in power in Bulgaria even after democracy came to the country.
• Роза is at peace with and proud of the way she has lived her life and wouldn’t change anything. She has lived an honest life and remained true to herself and what she believes in. She wants her granddaughters to live similarly. Despite having an affinity for Turkish soap operas, she advises her granddaughters to live simply and to avoid the stress of living a soap opera type life. She also stresses to them the importance of having God in their lives.
• She thinks the biggest problem with the world today is that people waste too much time trying to become rich instead of enjoying the company of family and friends.
• She also thinks that the “ignorant” men she grew up around were wiser than the educated people of today. Her reasoning is three-fold: first, back then people were living life instead of watching it and learned through personal experience as opposed to instruction or observation; second, people were more moral and less inclined to cheating and stealing because they feared being shamed by the community; and third, they were God-fearing.
Баба Роза now.
Баба Роза then.
Interestingly, Баба Роза's family didn't have a camera when she was growing up, so she doesn't have any photos until after she was married. I suppose the lack of photos tells as much of a story as the photos themselves would have told. Anyway, here are some family photos from over the years after they got a camera.