Meet Yulia Matsaenko from Synergy Bulgaria

Volunteering to make a difference

Edited by Tamar Weisert.


Hello, I'm Yulia. Originally I'm Ukrainian, but Bulgaria is my fourth country of residence, so I consider myself to be more European. These days I'm a part of Synergy Bulgaria, working as a mentor and a life and career coach.

The idea behind Synergy Bulgaria is to empower young people through experiential learning and coaching to lead a purposeful life. We organize both local and international training and events intending to raise social change makers, as well as helping everyone to grow personally and professionally. We're also becoming a platform for local young people to implement their own ideas. I think this is what makes us different from other NGOs: our doors are open, and we're ready to support you. If you're in line with our mission and values, we'll be glad to help your idea happen.

The Synergy Bulgaria team is very international. We've got Yassar and Ina, who are Bulgarians, and both have got quite a story. Yassar is originally Palestinian and once struggled with linguistic and cultural adaptation as many expats do. Ina lived in the Netherlands for seven years before she decided to move back to Sofia. There is me who moved to Sofia in June 2019, and four current volunteers: Paula from Spain, Alessio from Italy, Boti from Hungary, and Ilias from Greece. We also expect Zoe from Greece to join the team on June 1, but let's see how the situation is in the world.

I wish I knew how much I would miss good coffee and Brazilian Zouk. Back in Kyiv, we've got very high standards for coffee, and I had quite a struggle finding a decent coffee place in Sofia. I was fortunate to discover Green Deli Cafe with its perfect Ethiopian Arabica one of my first days after moving here. Brazilian Zouk is a social dance I was practicing for the last 2.5 years back in Ukraine. The Zouk scene is almost absent here, and I genuinely miss it. The only solution I've found so far is to attend international Zouk festivals and start dancing Kizomba.

For now, I'm staying in Bulgaria. I moved to Sofia for love. When my boyfriend and I were considering living together, there was no option for him to move to Ukraine because of the business he runs in Bulgaria. At the same time, moving to a different place is not a new thing for me. It took me five months to prepare financially for relocation and three weeks to manage my apartment back home and pack my things. These days I see Sofia as my headquarters. I travel every two months (or used to travel, ha-ha) for training, dance festivals, vacations, and work, but I enjoy the feeling of coming home to a small cozy apartment in the center of Sofia, and my fitness routine at Pulse.

If you make up your mind to come and stay in Sofia, be ready to act proactively. To be honest, Sofia is not the most vibrant city, and people here are not the most outgoing (mainly because of the language barrier), so you should approach them first, and organize a routine, parties, and gatherings. At the same time, it's an excellent environment for new business ideas: many opportunities are not taken, and many services are needed. Just find your niche!