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Ivanka P.


by Stoyanka V.


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Name/pseudonym: Ivanka P.

Sex: Female

Place of birth: Valcha polyana village, Bulgaria

Place of residence: Sofia, Bulgaria

Nationality: Bulgarian


Back then


In which year wеre you born?

Born in 1946 in Valcha polyana village, Bulgaria.


Briefly describe living circumstances in your childhood:

Ivanka’s family lived in a very small house with her parents, younger sister and younger brother. Her paternal grandfather lived there as well but he was a separate household with his own room and entrance.  The whole family was sleeping on the floor in the one big room. They had an oven in the small corridor that served as a kitchen where her mother was able to bake 10 breads at once. Her childhood was marked by poor living conditions, where there was no water and electricity in the house. Her father was a barber and actually her grandfather lived in the small room he entered from the barber shop. Though, her father made his living from agriculture. While her parents were working in the fields she took care of her siblings. Later on, all of them workеd in the fields to help for the family survival. They picked tobacco leaves and spent long hours needling them.  


Briefly describe living circumstances from your teenage up to your retirement:

She studied at the village school till seventh grade and loved Bulgarian literature. She recollected that the teachers were highly respected back then. Her mother used to say they had to educate themselves in order to have more opportunities in life. Though, when she had to continue her studies at the agriculture college her father became very ill and was not able to help her move out. Then, her mother’s sister intervened and registered her at the college. She lived with her aunt in the beginning and when the dormitory was built, she lived there in one big room with 40 more girls. She remembered how they went collectively to public bath and to cinema, and had nightly check up at 9 pm. “I did not have dreams. We lived in poverty.” At 18 she met her husband and they were dating for a month and again her aunt asked how long is it going to continue that way? They got married without her or his parents present and then moved to live with his parents in Sofia. The relations within the family were very good, they respected and loved her. She was eager to learn, as a village child she didn’t know a lot of things. Working in shifts in a print house, she brought up two sons.



What were you thinking about old age when you were young?

She had never seriously thought about retirement. Though, when she was working in shifts, taking care for her men and the household, she used to think “Once I retire, I could rest and relax!” She wanted to stay home, but then realized that led to laziness, once you start to postpone activities for later and in the end all that situation makes you feel unsatisfied. She did not expect her husband to pass away and live alone. They wanted to travel when they retire. However, she did some trips with friends but it was not the same.


Please, describe intergenerational liaisons in your family?

Her grandfather lived in a separate room in their house, he did not want to eat with them but her mother firstly before sitting at the table brought him the meal. Her father passed away after her first year at the college. She spent the summer reading to him, he liked history books and walked in the yard together when he was having problems breathing. When she left for college in the autumn, he knew they were not going to see each other again and bid farewell to her. It was difficult for her mother to manage and after 5 years she got married again. She remembered how her husband’s parents were living in peace and understanding, always together, sitting at a bench on the street in front of their house, head to head, talking to each other.


Which media you consume in everyday life? What new technologies do you use?

She described herself as ‘old fashioned’ – on smart phone, no computer. She has a deal with her grandson, when he gets a new mobile phone, he will give her his old one. Also, he agreed to teach her how to use it, saying “It’s easy, grandma, you will manage!” Her friends are more modern she noted as their children live abroad and could provide for them. The television is all day on, it serves rather as a fellow. “Being lonely is a terrible thing!” she shared, especially in the evening when the house is empty and leads you to bad memories.


Please, briefly describe living circumstances in your current life?

She feels a little bit discouraged lately. Her pension is not enough to live a decent life, she feels bad that she could not help her sons. She wants to contribute more, as she always was the one to give, not to take. Nowadays, she takes care for her ill brother-in-law, works in her garden, and her days are happier with her grandson. She managed to travel a little bit when they sold a small field in the country some years ago. She went on holidays in Turkey a few times, Greece, visited Vienna and Budapest, and did a lot of excursions in Bulgaria. “Going somewhere different even for 7 days makes you forget about daily life and your routine, invited change in your life.” She enjoys watching Turkish sitcoms on TV and recognizing some of the sights in Istanbul makes her feel happy that she was there and have seen them.    


What motivates you or can motivate you?

The friends circle meets regularly twice per week over coffee and updates. Her doors are always open and the grandson is with her most of the time. When he comes, it’s as if the sun brightens the room. She says “It’s enough, my son to open the door and ask me how you are doing mother, is everything OK?”


What are the major roles of retired persons?

He is her pride and joy in life, lovingly saying “Grandma, don’t go out frequently. Take care and stay healthy!” Being alive is to enjoy life, children and grandchildren. Ivanka wants to live, learn and hear something nice. Especially, when people get older they want to go out, to be among others, to see something.


What is your message for the younger generations?

Her message to younger generations is “to have mutual respect for relatives, for all people, not to be egoistic and to keep working. For a family to be a stable one, compromises are needed from both sides.”