Sasa Mladenovic, who is Serbian and works as a nurse at Casa Arkati, spent seven weeks of lockdown with the residents at Casa Marija in Sliema to be with his wife Sandra, who is lead nurse at Casa Marija, and his two sons Vuk and Ognjen.

The lockdown, an initiative taken by CareMalta to protect the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic, began on March 16 and ended on May 24.

“When the company decided to kick off the project in its elderly homes, I knew that my family and I would face a big challenge,” says the 41-year-old nurse who came to Malta in 2016.

“We couldn’t join the lockdown from the very beginning, as our older son had chickenpox. So we entered the second phase and stayed till the very end. At the beginning, I was worried if my boys would manage in a new environment, locked in with many new people with different habits.”

But Sasa was surprised to see how quickly they adapted to the new lifestyle.

“They were disciplined and participated in many activities with the elderly residents and staff. I made it a point to organise their day in the best possible way throughout the seven weeks. We carried out school tasks they received from their teachers, played board games together and also took part in fitness classes,” he says.

The lockdown experience has served to bring Sasa and his two sons even closer.

“Both my wife’s and my working shifts were kindly arranged by the managers at Casa Marija, so that one of us could always be with our boys. I always had my sons around me, spending every minute I could with them. The journey has made me realise that my family is my biggest success in life. I’m happy to say that we came out of this much more connected to each other. I will remember this experience for as long as I live,” he says.

As a father, Sasa remembers every moment about his boys – the day when they were born, their first tooth, word and step, along with every birthday, holiday and cartoon they watched together.

“My sons have made me a better person. While being a friend to them, I try to teach them about what is good and what is wrong. They need to be good people before being successful men.

“Our first outing after the lockdown was a special dinner with the boys, followed by ice cream and a walk by the sea. This Father’s Day, I will definitely be wearing the T-shirt my boys bought me last year, saying ‘My dad is stronger than Superman’. I’m so proud that they see me as their superhero.”

Senior nursing manager Noel Borg, who led the team at Casa Arkati during the company’s lockdown, spent 10 weeks living with his daughter Jael and wife Edel, who is a lead carer at the Zejtun Home.

“You can endure anything as long as you are with family. However, one becomes more sensitive to one’s new surroundings”.

His daughter Jael refers to the 10-week lockdown journey as ‘The Experience’. “Having diversity at heart, she really enjoyed the different aspects of the different cultures among the staff and the way everybody interacted with her,” her father says.

“She took part in most of the activities organised for the residents, and her days were packed, from early mornings to late evenings. I spent time with her mostly in the evenings and on Sundays, but she followed me everywhere, all day long.”

Did father and daughter become closer during the lockdown?

“Jael experienced a change in character during the time we spent living together as a family. Since I missed out on so many moments when she was growing up due to work commitments, during the lockdown I could see her more and make the most of our time together,” her father says.

It was home sweet home for the family on the last day of the lockdown, but Noel, Edel and their daughter Jael couldn’t help but cherish the many good memories they built together on their extraordinary journey.