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14 Feb 18

Bulgaria Mourns Hermit Famed for Generosity

Bulgaria is grieving over the death of the urban legend, hermit and church benefactor Dobre Dobrev, who passed away on Tuesday at the amazing age of 103.

Martin Dimitrov
BIRN
Sofia
For Bulgarians the ascetic elder was a symbol of selflessness and faith. Picture: Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Bulgarians are mourning the loss of Dobre Dobrev, known as Dyado Dobri [grandpa Dobri] or the “Saint from Bailovo”, who passed away on Tuesday at 103 years of age.

An iconic figure, well-known and loved by several generations of Sofians, he also was the largest single benefactor to the city's St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and a symbol of selflessness and hope. 

In 2009, he donated 37,500 leva, around 18,000 euros to the Orthodox Cathedral – money had had collected bit by bit for decades and kept in the bank account of a family member, until he shared his intention to donate the entire sum to the Cathedral.

Born in 1914 in the village of Bailovo, 43 kilometers east of Sofia, he was famous for his ascetic lifestyle, long white beard and stooping figure.

The old man gathered money in front of Sofia’s churches for decades, later donating it to restoration works.

Despite losing his hearing in the 1940s, according to him due to an Allied bomb exploding in vicinity, he was always happy to share a few words with the strangers who left him money.  

During his lifetime, he donated at least 5,000 euro to the St Cyril and Methodius Church in his hometown in 2005 and 12,500 euros to repair the Eleshnitsa Monastery and the Gorno Kamrtsi church.

It is estimated that he donated more than 40,000 euros to different places of worship across Bulgaria.

In 2016, he withdrew to the Kremikovtsi monastery, just outside Sofia. He left his cell rarely, and only after tourist groups left the site, the abbot, Serafim Yanev, said in April 2016.

Dobri had a mural painted of him by the Urban Creatures artistic crew on a Socialist-era block of flats in the Geo Milev neighborhood in Sofia.

During his lasy years, he became an unsuspecting media celebrity, with a Facebook profile following of almost 300,000 people.

News of his passing brought thousands to pay their respects while hundreds more went to Bailovo, where his body lies, awaiting a funeral on Thursday 15 February.

Dobry had four children and outlived two of them, as well as his wife, Ivanka. In the past few years, one of his daughters took care of the old man.

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