I Dreamed of a Life on Wheels
As told by Zoya Dimitrova
At 15 years of age, I was enjoying the realization of my dream—happily performing and traveling with the circus. Then, on September 4, 1970, tragedy struck. One moment I was gracefully sailing through the air. The next moment I was plummeting to the ground.
I WAS born on December 16, 1952, and lived with my parents and one sister in Sofia, Bulgaria. At that time, Bulgaria was a Communist country where religion was tolerated but very much discouraged. The majority of people simply did not believe in God, and of those who did, many chose to keep their beliefs secret. Although my family was nominally Orthodox, I had no religious upbringing and gave no thought to God.
It became evident at an early age that my real interest was in sports activities of all kinds but particularly gymnastics. When I was 13, a man came to our school searching for a girl to be trained for the circus. I was recommended by my gymnastics teacher. I was thrilled to be driven in the manager’s car, an American automobile, to interviews and trials by a group of trainers. To my delight, I was chosen. This was the start of a strict regimen of rigorous training and practices that lasted for more than two years. Then, when I was 15, my training was completed and I began my life on wheels—a life of touring with the circus. At first, I traveled throughout Bulgaria and then to countries of the former Soviet Union and even to Algeria, Hungary, and the former Yugoslavia.
For three blissful years, I was living my dream. Then, while I was performing in Titov Veles, Macedonia, the accident described at the outset took place. I was performing an acrobatic act high above the crowd. My partner, suspended upside down, would twirl me up in the air and then catch me as I came down. I missed his hands, and when my safety rope broke, I plunged 20 feet (6 m) to the ground. I was rushed to the hospital, where I was found to have a broken arm, several broken ribs, and a broken spine. I remained in shock for a few days and had no memory of what had happened. When I recovered sufficiently, I realized that I was paralyzed from the waist down. Being young, however, I remained optimistic that with therapy or an operation, I would be able to walk again and possibly even return to performing with the circus.
For the next two and a half years, I received treatment in several sanatoriums, still clinging to the hope of recovery. Eventually, I had to accept the fact that my dream had ended. Now, ironically, I had to adjust to “a life on wheels” far different from the one I had dreamed of—a life in a wheelchair.
The Start of a New Life
After living such an active life, I thought that this adjustment was impossible. Having lost all hope, I fell into depression. Then, in 1977 a young man named Stoyan came to my door. Upon learning that he was the brother of a former colleague, I immediately invited him in. During the course of our conversation, he asked me about my hope of recovery. Disillusioned and disappointed with life, I replied that there was no hope. When he told me that only God could help me, I replied bitterly, “Well, if there is a God, why am I in such a situation?”
With this opening, Stoyan, who had recently become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses while working in the United States as a circus artist, very kindly explained to me the Bible’s wonderful promises for the future. I was thrilled to learn that soon the earth will become a paradise. The promise that “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore” touched my heart. (Revelation 21:4) How I longed to regain my physical health! I immediately agreed to have a regular Bible study. Thus started a new life for me. At last, I had found the basis for real hope!
I eagerly looked forward to my Bible study each week. First I studied with Stoyan and then with Totka, a very kind Witness. With her help, my knowledge of Bible truth grew rapidly, and I dedicated my life to Jehovah God. At the time, there was no one in Sofia who was qualified to perform my baptism, so I had to wait for the visit of a brother from Macedonia. On September 11, 1978, about one year after I started studying the Bible, I was baptized in the bathtub in my apartment. My baptism as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses brought me deep joy, and my life took on real meaning.
The Bible truth that I learned burned like a fire within me. I eagerly shared my new-found hope with everyone who came to my home. Unfortunately, no one seemed to take me seriously, perhaps thinking that as a result of my accident, I was not completely normal.
A Grievous Mistake
At the time, Jehovah’s Witnesses were under ban in Bulgaria, and there were only a few Witnesses throughout the country. There were no congregation meetings that I could attend, and association with others who shared my faith was very limited. This, coupled with my failure to realize the danger of close association with those who do not live by Bible standards, led to my making a grievous mistake.
My conscience tormented me relentlessly, and I experienced the excruciating pain of being alienated from Jehovah God. Crushed and ashamed, I poured my heart out to Jehovah in prayer, begging his forgiveness. Later, with the help of loving Christian elders, I was restored spiritually, and I regained my joy in serving Jehovah. How I treasure the privilege of serving Jehovah with a clean conscience and associating with his clean organization!
Happy Despite Limitations
My accident 40 years ago shattered my dream of a life of performance and travel and left me confined to a wheelchair. Yet, I do not look back with sadness and regret, as if my life were a failure. Bible truth has helped me to realize that my dream of happiness and fulfillment in a life with the circus was connected with things of little permanent value. I have witnessed how former coworkers who continued their careers with the circus have experienced bitter disappointment in their lives. On the other hand, I have found the greatest treasure—a personal relationship with my Creator, Jehovah God. This has brought me far greater joy than I could ever have found in a life with the circus.
In addition, I have experienced the joy of seeing many others gain knowledge of Bible truth and dedicate their lives to our loving God, Jehovah. When I began studying the Bible in 1977, there were only a handful of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria. Even as late as 1991, when Jehovah’s Witnesses were first registered after the fall of the Communist regime, there were not many more than a hundred Witnesses in the entire country. What a joy it has been for me to see the steady increase in the number of Kingdom publishers to the present peak of almost 1,800!
There is still much work to be done in Bulgaria. Many are searching for knowledge of God’s Word. This can be seen in the outstanding attendance of 3,914 at the 2010 Memorial of Christ’s death. I thrill to contemplate this proof that Jehovah has blessed the small beginnings in Bulgaria. Before my very eyes, “the small one” has grown to become “a mighty nation,” as foretold at Isaiah 60:22.
Another source of joy and a real highlight in my life was the release of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Bulgarian. This took place in August 2009 at the “Keep on the Watch!” District Convention that was held in Sofia. The release of this Bible in my own language was a dream come true! It will undoubtedly be instrumental in helping many more gain knowledge of Bible truth in Bulgaria.
Although my disability limits what I can personally do in preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom, I find great joy in sharing Bible truth with my neighbors and anyone who comes to my door. On one occasion, I called from my balcony to a neighbor as she was passing by. She accepted my invitation to come in, and after I shared several encouraging thoughts from the Bible with her, she immediately accepted my offer of a Bible study. I was overjoyed when she was later baptized as my spiritual sister. I have had the privilege of helping four people to the point of dedicating their lives to Jehovah.
Perhaps my greatest joy and encouragement come from regularly attending Christian meetings with over a hundred brothers and sisters, who have become like a family to me. Living in a country where special transportation services for the elderly and infirm are not provided, I find it a challenge to go to congregation meetings. But I am very grateful for the loving care of a young brother. For each meeting, he carries me from my apartment to his car, from his car into the Kingdom Hall, and then back again. How I thank Jehovah for the privilege of being part of such a loving spiritual family!
Looking back, I can see that things in my life have turned out very differently from what I had dreamed of in my youth. Serving Jehovah has brought me the greatest happiness possible now and a marvelous hope for the future. I treasure God’s promise that in the paradise earth, “the lame one will climb up just as a stag does.” (Isaiah 35:6) I look forward with full confidence to the day when I will leap from my wheelchair, restored to perfect health and vigor.
[Blurb on page 30]
“My greatest joy and encouragement come from regularly attending Christian meetings”
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“A real highlight in my life was the release of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Bulgarian”
[Picture on page 29]
I began my performing career at age 15