Bulgarians around the world long to be heard in their country. This is the idea that united the participants in the 8th session of the World Parliament of Bulgarians held in Sofia on November 4 and 5.
This is a structure formed during the first Grand Assembly of Bulgarians around the World in 2008, when the participants urged citizens’ organizations and NGOs in Bulgaria to listen to what Bulgarians around the world have to say, to their problems and aspirations. An Association of Bulgarians in the World (Assobulg) was set up and the World Parliament of Bulgarians elected – 200 MPs in all, 100 from Bulgaria and 100 from the Bulgarian community abroad, elected for a period of five years. The parliament was set up with the express purpose of upholding the rights and the interests of Bulgarians around the world.
“We had a record number of people representing the Bulgarian community around the world at this session – 87 out of the 100 delegates from abroad,” Academician GrigorVelev, honourary chairman of Assobulg told Radio Bulgaria. “And they were very active – they all formulated their problems and we all agreed that the Bulgarian state is doing very little or practically nothing for the Bulgarian diaspora. Based on the things we discuss here, we have been sending out a White Paper of reports for seven years, but we never get any answer from the institutions, they do not even acknowledge they have received it. We will now send it to the media in the country as well – in the hope that somebody will listen to these problems.”
And the problems are connected with issuing documents of Bulgarian origin; the shrinking numbers of people who declare a Bulgarian origin from the historically formed Bulgarian communities abroad; difficulties in the study of the Bulgarian language by youngsters for lack of teachers etc.
“The World Parliament of Bulgarians is a great help to all those living outside Bulgaria – we can each state our problems so that they may be heard here, in Bulgaria,” a delegate from Moldova said, addressing the participants. Another compatriot from Skopje called for more active contacts with government institutions so specific ideas aimed at addressing the demographic collapse may be put to discussion. The Bulgarian side presented the opportunity offered to young Bulgarians from Ukraine of studying at the Technical University in Varna. This year the Ministry of Education and Science increased the quotas for young people from the historically formed Bulgarian communities in Moldova, Ukraine, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and the Western Outlands, and now 1,000 such students are able to obtain an education at Bulgarian universities. Though their arrival in the country of their ancestors may be a long-cherished dream, it also comes with a host of problems like poor housing conditions, said Natalia Krasko from Ukraine.
Natalia Krasko has a PhD in ethnology and teaches history and ethnology at the Melitopol State Pedagogical University in Ukraine. She has been taking part in the sessions of the World Parliament of Bulgarians since 2013:
“What the organization does is to help us meet at least once a year so we can share our problems and state what each one of us can do. We rely on our own selves. When we meet here, we become friends on Facebook and keep in touch, exchanging information, and any one of us can help solve a given problem. For example, in 2012, Melitopol and Sliven in Bulgaria became sister towns thanks to municipal councilor Ivan Ivanov who is now chairman of the public council of the Bulgarian Bessarabian-Tavriandiaspora.There are more than 100 Tavrian Bulgarians in Sliven now.”
In her interview for Radio Bulgaria Natalia Krasko describes the life of the Bulgarian community in the town of Melitopol and how much the children want to learn Bulgarian, and talks of the role played by the BalkaniMelitopol Bulgarian Culture Society which has been making efforts to preserve the Bulgarian language and tradition for 25 whole years.
English version: Milena Daynova