Migration has affected almost every family in Moldova. Young people in particular are leaving the country and leave behind elderly people who cannot and usually do not want to leave Moldova. The years go by, and these people become lonely and in need of help. Varvara Cecoi used to be a lonely senior too, until she received help from Caritas Czech Republic.
Varvara Cecoi is 71 years old and lives alone in the village of Carbuna in Moldova. She is one of the patients receiving care from the medico-social centre in Carbuna, that was opened thanks to Caritas Czech Republic together with 10 more centres in the country. We spoke with Varvara about the situation of lonely Moldovan seniors, about her memories from youth when she used to volunteer and she also told us how she recently decided to start helping refugee children from Ukraine.
What is it like to be an elderly person in Moldova?
I am 71 years old. I would like to say that my years are just a figure, but in reality it is an age that hurts because old people are often seen as a burden and we feel left out. We need care and support because we are still part of this society.
For example sometimes we need more than just a prescription from a doctor. We need a word of support. I understand the health centres do not have any time for this, but it’s also one of the reasons why we often ignore worsening health conditions and postpone our visit to the doctor.
Do you remember the first time you met the nurses from the Carbuna medical-social centre?
I thought something bad happened when the nurses, Natalia and Raisa, knocked on my door. But they came to cheer me up. They told me that we would see each other more often because I can benefit from the services of the Carbuna medical-social centre. At first, I didn’t understand how a nurse could help me without any equipment or a doctor by her side, but I was pleasantly surprised. Thanks to the visits of the nurses, I feel much better than before.
The nurses remind me of my youth. I started volunteering at a time when I didn’t even know such word existed - I was going from house to house collecting money for people’s medical needs.
That was about 30 years ago, when Moldova had just gained independence. At that time, our healthcare system was in shambles - everything was paid out of patients' pockets. I believe I have helped many people, but I never thought the time would come when I would need help myself.
How are the nurses helping you?
Every visit starts with a health check - blood pressure, body temperature, medication and other medical procedures. Then we have a cup of tea together and move on to the day-to-day needs. The nurses ask me what else they can help me with in my small household, if they can do any housework, shopping and so on.
Basically, the girls do what children should do for their parents when they become helpless.
You mentioned that you often chat with the nurses. Is this part of the therapy?
I don’t know if socialising is part of the centre’s programme, but I think that without it, the visits would not have been any different from the ones I had at the medical clinic. Thanks to the conversations I have with the girls, I slowly came back to life and even started helping other people in need myself.
Even though I have a hard time getting around and can only move with the help of crutches, I started crocheting toys for children. Some went to refugee children in Ukraine, others I give as gifts to my fellow citizens. I’ve never seen anyone not smile when they receive a toy. It means that my volunteer mission continues.
Do you have any message for the younger generations?
Dear young people,
The biggest problem for older people is loneliness, which creates other problems, including self-isolation. Isolation can worsen physical but especially mental health, as it did to me. Don't forget to visit your loved ones, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents. You can make them happy with regular visits. And please remember that we are all getting older, every day, and our rights do not change as we get older. Even as we get older, we can contribute to society in many ways - whether it be to our family, local community or society in general. And you can help us not to feel like a burden to society.
Caritas Czech Republic provides health and social services to people in need in Moldova, mainly elderly people who are often left alone with no one to look after them. We have already opened 11 home care centres in the country and continue supporting the most vulnerable people. Home care centres in Moldova were opened thanks to the financial support of the Czech Development Agency.
Did you find the interview interesting? Read more:
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