Berta was 14 when she was forced during the war to work on vegetable plantations, at a can factory and at a brick factory. Often the Jewish workers slept in cold fields without water or food.
Now 85, Berta sings the praises of the aide who helps her twice weekly, and who is paid by Shalom, the Bulgarian Jewish community’s social service agency, with funding from the Claims Conference. “I saw that homecare is a great help when someone can help with the basics,” Berta said. “It gives me more strength and time to help my son, and to be active and useful and participate in communal projects.”
Berta used to stop three times on the way to the grocery store to gather her strength. Now the homecare worker does the food shopping, and Berta uses her new-found energy to visit the Jewish community center, where she participates in discussions about Jewish life and visits the canteen for meals.
Before Berta had homecare assistance, she was concerned only with helping her son; now, she spoke about her love of her newfound activities. She is part of a committee preparing a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the country’s Jews by the leaders of Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church. Berta is full of ideas, including creating a brochure of Jewish contributions to Bulgarian culture. “It’s really important that Jewish parents teach the children Jewish values and Jewish history,” she said.
Berta has received a one-time payment of €2,556 from the Holocaust Victim Compensation Fund, which she saved for the care of her 59-year-old son, who recently underwent a third heart-bypass operation. Berta, who has kidney and heart problems, also receives medicines, food from the canteen at the JCC, and medical and dental care from Shalom. “People live here in poverty, but we are privileged that we are Jewish and we have assistance from the Claims Conference and Shalom,” she said.
Berta Nisim Levi-Vladimirova is grateful to the Claims Conference. “I thank the Claims Conference from the bottom of my heart for everything,” she said. “For 35 years I have been a widow, and I am head of the family with all its responsibilities on my shoulders.”