This is the story of the 98 year old Dobri Dobrev of Bailovo village in Bulgaria, who’s become the most generous benefactor of the largest Cathedral in Eastern Europe.
As they say the child's best role model are its parents. Dobri's parents displayed acts of kindness and giving, this in turn affected Dobri's young mind. His mother worked at an orphanage and this noble old man paid the orphanage’s power bills because they were too high and the power was going to be cut and children left in the cold.
Dressed in his home-spun clothes and ancient leather shoes worn in winter and summer, he could often be seen standing outside the church St. Alexander Nevsky in Sofia somewhat detached and silently clutching his tin-box for coins. You can see him everyday when you passby. Grandpa Dobri holds the key to people’s hearts. Softened at his very appearance, we all rush to put a coin in the hands of the elderly man. Dobri Dobrev says he seeks for redemption and asks God for forgiveness of his sins; his humbleness is unparalleled.
Apparently he gets up early everyday and walks the 10 kilometre route from his village Bailovo to Sofia whether it is winter or summer, even in the largest cold and freeze, wearing only old raunchy clothes. He enjoys speaking to the busy passers-by and kisses the hand of everyone who stops for a chat.
To people in Sofia he’s been known for many years simply as Grandpa Dobri – the beggar.
In 2010 during filming a documentary about the Nevsky Cathedral a journalist working for the Bulgarian national TV found in the church’s archives a shocking discovery – the most generous private donation that the church ever received was by no other than the old beggar – Grandpa Dobri. It was an astounding EUR 20,000.
The 98-year-old Bailovo Saint has not touched even a single penny from the money we all thought he lived off. He apparently lives only off his 100 Euro a month retirement and what people kindly leave him – mainly fruit and bread…
Now, having chosen a life of a hermit, he tours the churches on public holidays, raising money for temples and monasteries. Ten years ago, when he was “still young” he says, he used to walk the distance from Sofia to Bailovo and other places – now he travels around the city by bus.
He donates to churches. He collects money from people and gives it to God. After years of giving, he says that everyone will understand what is the meaning of donating all this money to the Church. And with his child-like sparkling blue eyes he wishes everyone good health and God's grace. He tells us to love God and turn to him because only he will give us love. Youth and money go away, friendships are not sure, beauty is for a few years, the vanity of life is short. Dobri tells us where the truth is - God is truth. And judging by the reaction of people he is right because most of them cry when they see his holiness. Seems like a real saint, one who kisses the hand and loves. Hardly can be seen such amazing goodness and saintliness elsewhere in our times. Once he was attacked by bad teens and good people come to his aid. Teenagers began to flee and he went after them to forgive everyone!
Most likely Dobri’s good deeds will remain a secret. People say he’s also helped numerous needy people living in shelters. Yet, he doesn’t want to talk about it. When you GIVE don’t do it for the PR or waiting to get something back from it, give like grandpa Dobri – from the heart.
This is the reason for his unbelievable energy he's got even at this tender age. He gives from the heart, body and soul.