Tuesday, May 06, 2008


As societies advance and its citizens become ever more productive, larger numbers of able bodied individuals are called upon to help keep the economic engine humming. This often translates to both the husband and wife in a family going out to seek work to provide for their families. This means that family units will be called on to move away from their ancestral lands and property to far off cities and countries. The 'raw deal' inherent in the setup starts when individuals turn older and their children start to follow the self-same patterns of moving out to find jobs, careers and partners. Old and infirm individuals of what was once a vibrant workforce start to demand more attention because of their very condition - growing old. Societies previously used to solve this by having larger groups of families live around extended pieces of property in close proximity or have forms of ‘joint family’ to help distribute the involved care for the older ones in their midst. The new order does not allow for this luxury as the nature of the modern economy calls for localization of specialized skills and concentration of specific attributes on the trained workforce. OK, where am I going with all this – the above train of thoughts was initiated after I recently read a story on sign and sight that weaves these disparate ramblings more elegantly. The article touched on the following:

- The practice of outsourcing such that the outsourcer can concentrate on more important topics…
- Aspects of living away from one's lands and a resultant feeling of detachment…
- Women supporting their men and children rather than the traditional order we were used to…
- Loneliness and emotional baggage that comes with finding newer ways to make money.
- Care-giving that was natural in agrarian societies tending to be foreign to industrialized ones.

Overall, a great story.

I know that Vurshets lives two parallel lives. Its men and children stay home, while the women travel to work in Italy. Almost every woman in town has either already worked in Italy or is making plans to do so. Some have not been home for years. They all work as badante - care workers privately hired to look after the elderly.

None of the women I meet in here thinks of her work as badante as hard work. "It's hard for them (the Italians), not for us. They don't know what hard work is. I want to see them work a two-decare field of corn, the way I used to." For many, taking care of an ailing elderly person was part of their responsibilities at home. The only difference here is that they get paid for it. No one thinks of it as hard work…. especially after they've worked hard, physical jobs in Cyprus or Greece, or poorly-paid ones in Bulgaria.

Something that came as an even greater surprise is that they encountered loneliness – the loneliness of someone who is confined to one space for 24 hours a day. It's a new, unfamiliar experience for all of them; their previous lives were lived in the company of husbands, children, family, friends and colleagues

Eduard Von Grutzner (German, 1846 - 1925), 'A Good Vintage', Oil on panel, 9" X 7" (Image from a Christie's auction book)

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