A Volunteer’s account of her life In Bergamo Italy, During Lock Down
The following is an edited version of a telephone interview given by a volunteer from Volontario Squadra REDONA 1 to the editor.
INTERVIEW DATE: 12.04.20
Living in Bergamo during this pandemic has taught me how to be comfortable being by myself. A reality I had never thought possible let alone strictly necessary! My emotions have become extremely concentrated, some days I am super happy and others super sad. Then there are times I am okay with just ‘being okay.’ It’s bizarre…honestly.
Having no terrace, I peer down through the windows in my apartment to watch the people walking around, I always wonder who they are and where they are going.
In the beginning of the lock down, knowing I would have extra time on my hands and a desire to help the community. I went to the Commune and signed up to help people in need. What I found was an impressive organised system of volunteers, it was an uplifting moment for me.
During the day I am responsible for four single elderly women. In the evenings I report (via email) on their situation to my supervisor and fill her in on my daytime errands. These ladies are fun! They are extremely grateful, but their demands can sometimes feel endless, its comical. It doesn’t help that language and requests get mixed up. This means that sometimes they are forced to try new things and sometimes… I have to make two trips to the store. We are all trying our best and thats what is important here.
It must be difficult for these women who normally are very independent. Today completing a simple task can threaten their lives. Like picking up medicine from the pharmacy, going to the store for groceries, getting money from an ATM, paying bills. They cannot do these things anymore, but I happily do it for them.
The other day one of the old ladies told me her friend got really mad with her on the phone – ‘big fight they got into’ is what she said. Of course, I asked ‘what happened?’ The friend was frustrated that I was helping, and she didn’t have a volunteer of her own. So the old lady responded, ‘yes, because you are at home with your husband and a few other people. I am living by myself, I’ve got nobody.’ – – To have nobody in a time like this is a hard reality, I has happy that I was there to listen.
There is loss all around, everyone seems to have lost someone or gotten sick. The dad of a family I am close to got the virus. His wife was terrified, he was in ICU for a while. I would pass by their balcony during the day to see how they were doing. His wife was really trying to hold it together especially for her daughters, but I could see the fear in her eyes. Luckily, he did recover and is back at home.
My landlady was not as lucky. She is a typical Bergamaschi, an older lady, very serious and business-oriented. She runs the whole building where I live. Quite often she would tell me about her brother, he was living in a nursing home. She would make the trip over to him in the afternoon to see what he was eating for lunch, a bit controlling, but she loved him with all her heart. Unfortunately, he got the virus and passed. I made her some cookies and left them outside her door. When I saw her the next time, she was no longer that strong Bergamaschi woman, her walls had come down. We stayed our distance, and I listened as she told me about a part of her that is now lost.
I am fortunate, I have not lost anyone. I do miss spontaneous interactions with people, but I am always grateful for my health especially now. In the future, I want to remember this period, I want to remember how I learnt to ‘Be’ with myself.