Desislava Stefanova, Bulgarian of the Year of State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad: Let’s not feel voiceless!

Desislava - the lady in the white shirt

The State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad (SABA) has handed over the Lady of the Year Award for the 9th year in a row. 15 Bulgarian women from all over the world had been nominated for raising the children of our compatriots in the spirit of respect to their roots and also for presenting this country to the world from the aspect of its millennium-old spirituality and culture. The ceremony this year turned into an emotional fest, accentuating on Bulgarian folklore. It was attended by Vice President Iliana Yotova, Vice PM for Bulgarians abroad Valeri Simeonov, Chair of SABA Petar Haralampiev and also representatives of Bulgarian NGOs from this country and abroad.

Head of the London Bulgarian Choir Desislava Stefanova has been distinguished for 2017. The devotion of the young lady to Bulgarian folklore has managed to capture people from different nationalities, inviting them to an emotional folklore adventure. Her formation participated in a contest only once and won the award for best choir of the year at the BBC Radio 3 Open Choir of the Year 2006 – 2007. Desislava has been passing her love for the Bulgarian musical tradition to the youngest ones – the pupils at the Bulgarian school with our embassy in London. “Working with amateur singers is my biggest thrill. I love brave and dedicated people,” Desi says. She was really excited to take the statuette from the hands of Vice President Yotova . “St. Zlata of Maglen serves as an example to all of us on how one defends Christian faith, values and patriotism,” Mrs. Yotova commented the choice of the award’s patron.

“Being a Bulgarian lady is not an easy task today, especially if you live abroad – you need to be ambitious and stubborn, but that’s a feature of the Bulgarian women, who are strong. You can see a true Bulgarian lady here,” Iliana Yotova outlined and turned to Desislava: “You pass on a tradition from one generation to another. Upon winning the BBC contest your children were asked what exactly had attracted them to the choir. The answer was: beauty and harmony. You made them dress up in traditional clothing, feel our spirituality and what is most important – they are aware of the existence somewhere in Europe of a small nation with rich history and rich and beautiful soul. I wish you all the best and I would like to ask you and all the other guests tonight: please, help us with all your influence in the countries that you live in – and of course, with the huge help and ambitions of the Bulgarian institutions – to finally make an old dream come true and establish this International Institute for Bulgarian Language. Thus our traditions, customs and songs will be spread out even more and the beautiful Bulgarian language will be studied abroad.”

Desislava Stefanova (left) receiving the award from Vice President Iliana Yotova

Desislava Stefanova dedicated the award to our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, quoting one of her choir’s members: “Whenever I sing I feel like performing a sacred action – as if my sound can heal the sick ones, may split the atom. The songs create a great spirit in our choir; they make us feel like a family, discovering the world together.”

“I would like to ask you at this very moment – when was the last time you had that feeling – that you were discovering the world or splitting the atom? I can assure you that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers felt that every time they sang. And they sang to heal, to split the atom, to bring in the spring or the rain. I dedicate this wonderful award to them – to our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who made it possible for us to be here today. I feel lucky to be gifted with that voice. At the same time voiceless people are the unhappiest ones. What I mean is that in today’s world we can all sing, talk and even shout. I would like to call you on – let’s not remain voiceless, let’s be the most powerful voice and be proud of our past, looking straightforward into the future in the bravest manners of all - and singing!”

English version: Zhivko Stanchev

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