Grandpa Dobri: The Saintly Beggar

June 17, 2020
Grandpa Dobri is one of those characters who seem to have come out of the pages of fiction because of his great peculiarities. In times when material possessions are the most important things for many, this man gave an example of an enormous generosity and great nobility.

His name was Dobri Dimitrov Dobrev, but everyone knew him as Grandpa Dobri. He became a real character in Bulgaria and his fame spread to many other countries. Many also nicknamed him “the Saint of Bailovo” due to his amazing generosity. Although he was a beggar, he became an example of nobility and integrity for the whole world.

Grandpa Dobri was born in Bailovo (Bulgaria) on July 20th, 1914, and died on February 13th, 2018, aged 103. Very little is known about him, because, like all great human beings, he became known more for his works than for biographical details.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

-John Bunyan-

What made this man famous was the custom he adopted and maintained during the last 18 years of his life. Every day, he walked more than 6 miles, from his hometown Bailovo to Sofia.

There, he would beg and then donate everything he got to churches or charitable institutions. Day after day, he did the same, despite his advanced age.

The palms of two hands.

Grandpa Dobri, an enigmatic character

Actually, not much is known about Grandpa Dobri’s life. People say that perhaps everyone who’s lived in Sofia during the last 20 years has crossed paths with him at some point. For many of them, the figure of this old man in rags went unnoticed; others, however, knew his story and considered him to be a saint.

Some people had the custom of taking children to the old man for him to kiss their hands. They saw him as a person gifted with an angelic halo, and his example was contagious. In fact, when he died, many of those who knew him asked for his canonization. They considered him a true example of faith and love.

Dobri walked the streets of Sofia and begged everyone who crossed his path for a coin. He would then donate the money, mainly to churches. People estimate that, in total, he collected and donated around 40,000 euros during the time of his pilgrimage.

When Grandpa Dobri was asked why he did this, he replied that, in the past, he did something wrong, which is why he made it his business to do this hard penance every day, in order to try to get God’s forgiveness. He wasn’t a beggar all his life; he began his mission in the year 2000.

Where did Grandpa Dobri come from?

Grandpa Dobri became famous on social networks and in the media when people discovered what he was doing. Through different interviews, we discovered a few things about his life. Most, however, remained shrouded in mystery.

We only know that his father’s name was Dimitri and that he died during World War I. He was raised by his mother, Katerina. Grandpa Dobri was apparently enlisted in the army during World War II. One day during the war, a bomb landed near him, exploded, and took away virtually all of his hearing.

People say that he married and had four daughters, two of whom died young. Everything else is a mystery. We only know that, in the year 2000, he donated all his goods to the church and to charitable institutions. It was at that point that he began to beg, only to donate everything that he received.

A hand with a heart.

A real character

Grandpa Dobri lived in great poverty in the sacristy of a church. He barely had any furniture and received a state subsidy that allowed him to eat. He slept on a tablet with this inscription: “One must not steal, lie, or commit adultery. Love others as God loves us”,

Those who met him received a smile and a kind word. They say he had a docile character and that every conversation with him inevitably led to God. If someone didn’t want to listen to him, then he didn’t get annoyed at all. There was a documentary about his life, which was entitled Silent Angel.

In addition to this, a famous Bulgarian graffiti artist named Nasimo made a huge mural dedicated to this man that is still on display on a high building in Sofia. His death was mourned by the whole country, but many consider him still to be present with them, due to the indelible mark he left on those who benefited from his kindness.

Iztueta Goizueta, G. (2013). “Hogar es una palabra mágica”: Hugo Scholz.