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Maria Samichkova-Belcher – a Bulgarian in Nevada: My heart remains in my homeland

"I am quite flexible and adaptable. I love changes and taking risk. I set real pragmatic goals that I always achieve if that depended on me," Maria Samichkova-Belcher described herself during our first meeting in Sofia. I listen to her Bulgarian and I find it difficult to believe that she has been living in Las Vegas for 12 years and this is her third return to her home country. She went to the US together with her mother, who emigrated back in 1998. There Maria met her future husband and later their son Nicholas was born. She has learned a lot of things during the years spent in America. Most importantly, "one needs to have a positive attitude towards people, not to criticize others, not to even criticize yourself so much. We Bulgarians are generally quite self-critical. I have also learned more about discipline. The United States is a country of rules. If you are responsible and respect the laws, you will live peacefully. This is also a country that gives you opportunities for development. The fact that I come from another country has created no obstacles for me. I have always been given a chance to prove myself. After all, the United States is a country of emigrants; there are people from all over the world," Maria says. When she went to the United States, an economic crisis started, but she managed to find her place under the sun. In Bulgaria she had worked as a journalist, but in the U.S. her life went in a different direction:

"I opened a new page and started from scratch. I have passed a difficult road of an emigrant. I miss journalism very much.”

In the United States, Maria started working in a pizzeria. After that she became a taxi driver, which helped her get to know the city. She currently serves cocktails in a Las Vegas casino, but she has been returning to journalism and is pleased to write articles for Bulgarian media. One such report in March met her with renowned Bulgarian boxer Kubrat Pulev just before his winning debut in the US.

According to Maria, there are many Bulgarians living in Nevada, as in Las Vegas alone they are between 8 and 10 thousand. A month ago the Bulgarian community in this state gave her special responsibilities:

"I will be involved in public relations. Our goal is to organize Bulgarian gatherings more often and to celebrate national holidays together with the Bulgarian school ‘Vasil Levski’. We will be looking for more serious sponsors to help this happen and also to support emigrant Bulgarians who are in trouble. Like Galina Kilova, who has been in prison in Las Vegas since 2015," Maria says.

Kilova was illegal alien in the United States, who caused a car crash, killing a man. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She has health issues, but no relatives to help her.

At the end of the meeting I am in a hurry to ask Maria what her thoughts about the year-long campaign of the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad to attract Bulgarian emigrants to return to their homeland. Is this the right way? Or is it better to focus efforts on those who have not left the country yet? "I'm not so familiar with the campaign, but I will be interested in learning a little more," Maria says. “I think it's a matter of personal choice. Bulgaria is a unique country and historically we have a lot to be proud of. Unfortunately, most people choose to go abroad for economic reasons. To put an end to this process, more jobs must be created with European-level remuneration, so that people can have a normal standard of living. My heart remains in Bulgaria and I think I will come back one day.”

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: private library

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