They call Bulgaria their “ancestral homeland” and thus manage to convey in a single word the love of their native land that they inherit from the moment of their birth. And because their patriotism springs right from the heart, like love, it is not flashy and ostentatious.
Victoria Voitovic brought tears to the eyes of the jury members on the TV show "Voice of Bulgaria" with her rendition of the Bulgarian folk song "Ah where is my beloved". Victoria comes from Taraclia, a district inhabited by many Bulgarian refugees in Moldova, and speaks the language of her ancestors and, just like them, keeps very much alive the memory of all things Bulgarian brought after their migration from the Bulgarian lands to Moldova during the Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774).
“I love Bulgarian folklore a lot and I feel a great desire to perform it, all the more so that my mother is also singing folk song very well”, she says. “I love them because they carry a deep sense of patriotism, and they also contain information about the history of the Bulgarian people. Folk songs remind me that my ancestors also came from Bulgaria”.
The Bessarabian girl has graduated with a degree in history, studied for a short period in Bulgaria, but then chose to return to Taraclia in order to work with young people, conveying to them her love of her birthplace, culture and traditions. And also she organizes cultural events such as the "Oblache le byalo" song contest and the festival where children from the surrounding areas come in folk costumes and recreate Bulgarian customs through songs and dances.
“Everyone here speaks Bulgarian, albeit with a little dialect," Victoria says. “Being the centre of Bulgarian culture in Moldova, Taraclia preserves it by respecting the traditions and events involving children, through the Bulgarian schools and universities. In addition, we observe all the holidays handed down to us by our ancestors - Christmas, Easter, March 3, and at Saint Lazarus Day we can see little girls dressed in Bulgarian national costumes singing songs. And I am glad to see all this because in today's globalized world the local culture is gradually being forgotten and young people are interested in other things. That's why it's important to preserve what’s our own - and when we dress in folk costumes on a festive day, it’s one way to remember history and to take on festive roles.”
But how do Bulgarians in Moldova, amounting to some 65, 000 people, live beyond national consciousness and memory?
“We live like people like everywhere else - children go to school and young people go abroad because there's no work," Victoria says. “Otherwise we are interested in everything that makes us happy - culture, sports, and travel. Our town is small with about 15,000 inhabitants and many people live in a village where they have gardens and produce everything themselves. I think we have much room for growth and must work more for the education of the people of Moldova in Bulgarian self-awareness. Of course, this is what the school institution and the parents are doing, but because of the high migration level many children stay with their grandparents and that is also a big problem. I myself worked a little in Bulgaria and came back because I see that I can do something useful here. I wish there were more of my peers in Moldova so we can grow and develop here, but we do not have factories, we do not have infrastructure that would allow a young person to return. That is why the Bessarabian Bulgarians are now everywhere - in Europe, in Russia and in America. People just leave Moldova”.
Victoria does not for the first time hear the assumption that Bulgarian communities abroad feel much more Bulgarian than their compatriots within the country. And this has its explanation - Bulgarians living in Moldova live in small towns and villages and feel as a strongly united community, bound together by their mission to remember why their ancestors came here 200 years ago. “I like the sun, the sky, the forests and the sea - everything is beautiful in Bulgaria and I feel happy for the people who can experience this every single day”, Victoria says in conclusion, hoping that one day if she feels that she can contribute to her homeland, it will welcome her with open arms.
Author Diana Tsankova
English Rossitsa Petcova