Can Bulgaria become a place for a safe multilingual and multicultural environment?

“You Are”, a project lead by Anna Thevenin, Cristina Idjilova, and Maria Volkova, aims to help and support victims of physical and psychological violence

Edited by Olena Cytryna

What is your story – where you do come from? What do you do in Bulgaria?

The story of „You Are“ is based on a mission that united us. We all have various backgrounds, not only professional but also cultural and social. 

Anna: I am French and German and have moved to Sofia several years ago. Originally, I was supposed to stay 6 months, but time flew so fast, and now it is hard to believe that I am still here. I am working here, and enjoying all the beauty that life can offer me. I am actually often asked why I decided to move from Western Europe to Eastern Europe, since most of the time it is the other way around. I usually answer that this is all a matter of perspective. For me, it is a country with opportunity, where everything is possible.

Cristina: I am from a small country called Moldova and I have been living in Sofia for the past 9 years. My story is a little similar to Anna’s. I came here to study, wanted to leave the country after I graduated university, but then… things changed. I fell in love with Sofia and Bulgaria so much that leaving was not an option anymore. I found a nice job and met amazing people along the way. I truly enjoy the city and I do believe we have a lot to offer to each other. We have a promising future. 

Maria: Even Though I have lived in a number of countries due to my family and my studies, in a way I was raised in Bulgaria. I am from Sofia and I have spent the majority of my childhood and youth here. I have always been amazed and inspired by our culture but wanted to travel all around the world, meet new people and get to know foreign cultures. All while also promoting the Bulgarian one, which I am very proud and fond of. It was a unique experience to have, but at the end I always felt like coming back here, building my future and implementing the “know-how” and the “good practices” I have encountered abroad.

Why have you chosen Sofia?

Sofia is one of the few EU capitals that has preserved its charm of rich history and at the same time is moving towards modernity with new foreign investments. Sofia is a city that gives people freedom to choose their path, be who they are and want to be. 

We have chosen Sofia for all these reasons. It became our home, it is the place we met each other, became friends and now we are ready to make an impact with our organization. 

Tell us about “You Are” – what is your mission? What are you planning to accomplish and how can the international community help you?

Our project is called “You Are” and its main mission is to help and support people who have been victims of physical and psychological violence. As unfortunate as it is, we have been witnessing a lack of support towards the foreigners who do not speak Bulgarian. However, the doors of our organization are open to everyone. We want to create a safe, multilingual and multicultural environment where each one of us would be able to share experiences, participate in different workshops, educational programs, and events related to personal recovery and growth. In the time of the pandemic we need to stay united more than ever. The international community is a key element to our project, as it has become an integral part of Bulgarian society in recent years, especially in big cities. We believe that through such a network we can reach more people who might use our help. 

How has your life changed since you’ve settled here? 

Maria: It has been a long time, I have been considering where I would like to start building my future and in the context of the pandemic, I had made my decision to return home, to Bulgaria, and give it my best. I am not sure how my life will change yet as it is a specific period but I do believe that all the opportunities are ahead of us.

Anna: I am the type of person who is always seeking for further development and likes to stay open minded. Honestly, I only realised that I was on my way to settle after 6 years spent in Bulgaria. All I can say is that I feel this is the place where I should be and until someone shows me I am wrong, I won‘t change my mind. 

Crisi: I cannot say that my life changed a lot, maybe only my views on future plans. Once I settled in Sofia and I knew I wanted to spend a big part of my life here I started looking for better opportunities work wise. I became more focused on learning more about Bulgaria and travelling around. And I got a cat!

Regarding our organisation, it was the missing piece of our settling down that allowed us to feel a fully complete part of Bulgaria.

Would you consider moving back home, or to another country, or would you stay here? Why?

For now none of us is considering moving to another country. We are just at the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Our life is here and especially now, with the NGO and goals we want to achieve, Sofia is the place to live. Apart from that, we still have a lot of things to explore in Bulgaria and the Balkans in general. In the last years, Sofia has developed so much. Can you imagine that when we moved here „google maps“ were not accurate, there was no „food panda“ and the business park was almost non-existent?  

What would be your piece of advice to a newcomer here? 

Our advice would be to embrace Bulgaria and try to get to know the best side of it, as there are definitely opportunities and chances if you reach for them. Come here without any judgement and be part of the change. If you don‘t feel fine, share it with our organization, you are not the first one moving to Bulgaria and certainly won‘t be the last one. In the end you are the most important person in your life.

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