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"To return to your native house" – a Bulgarian woman in the Czech Republic

A conversation with Bulgarian artist Nadia Surel

Photo: личен архив

Bulgarian Nadia Surelova-Novotna, with the artistic pseudonym Nadia Surel, has been living in the Czech Republic for 20 years. She graduated from the Arts High School in Sofia, and has been working in interior design in a small town near Prague for more than 15 years now. She says that she feels like an artist of spaces – the rooms which we live in, where our days pass: “I am very interested in them and it is very important in my work how these spaces affect us, how we manage to balance, to live in them.”

Nadia Surel was in Sofia for the opening of her exhibition "HOME SWEET HOME", which can be seen until October 10th at the Czech Cultural Centre in the Bulgarian capital. Everything in her exposition is dedicated to the home, which can be built anywhere in the world, but in her exhibition she portrays the coziness and colours of Bulgaria.

"When you have spent 20 years in your homeland and the other 20 years abroad – for you the home is where your children are, where you work and where your days pass", says Nadia:

"My home in Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic is like a Bulgarian oasis. That’s where my Bulgaria is. A large table greets us from the door. And it is great because of the hospitality inherent in the Bulgarians. In my home there is warmth and natural materials, all the characteristic elements of a home in Bulgaria. I have always lived in a village, I grew up there. That is why I say that I have had a good childhood in the village of Yasna Polyana close to Burgas. Many of the details I have included in my exhibition are taken from there. For example, I have a large ladder that depicts the bride. I also put a bridal crown on top. It is made of pieces from the dresses of my grandmother Nadezhda, whose name I bear. We, Bulgarians, are very strongly attached to our traditions, folklore, embroidery. These symbols remind me of the Bulgarian spirit, they are typical for our people, I love them very much. Our folklore is colourful and beautiful, Bulgarians have a refined taste and this is evident in their style of clothing and the furniture in their homes.”

"I am not very close to the patriotism associated with the celebration of various national holidays. I have a lot of special dates – both Czech and Bulgarian, but in my family we celebrate the main holidays – Christmas, Easter. I also mark the rest, but we do not attach so much importance to them," Nadia says.

"This year I felt full of energy because of my trip around Bulgaria”, she explains further. “My 12-year-old daughter and I toured the country, I wanted to show her nice old-style places. We visited the open-air ethnographic museum Etara near Gabrovo, we visited the towns of Veliko Tarnovo, Sozopol and Nessebar. I saw some wonderful, well-maintained places for tourism. In general, Bulgaria is a very beautiful country. The Rhodope Mountains and Rila Mountain are unique, we always go hiking there when we are here. My husband loves Bulgaria very much, he especially loves the seaside and that is why we come every year. Although half of my conscious life has actually been spent in the Czech Republic, I do not feel divided between the two countries. I think this is a great treasure - to be able to draw energy from two cultures. Both of my children speak Bulgarian and love Bulgaria very much, but after the summer they hurry to return to the Czech Republic, because their friends are there, that is the environment in which they grew up."

English Rossitsa Petcova

Photos: Gergana Mancheva and Czech Cultural Centre
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