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On Christmas and Bulgarian traditions in the London-based home of Sabina Nedelcheva-Williams

We, Bulgarians, need time to start believing in our good qualities, says Sabina

Photo: private library

This year, the fear of the coronavirus pandemic has held in its grip people around the world. Even in the multi-million British capital, life is no longer the same, says Bulgarian Sabina Nedelcheva-Williams. She has lived abroad for more than 20 years and has spent half of them in London. She remembers well the happy beginning of 2020, with pleasant and fruitful meetings of Bulgarians living in London. Then all of a sudden everything stopped because of the pandemic. Since then, the small bookstore as well as the restaurants where Bulgarians usually gather have remained closed. Life in the busy city continued, but at a distance between people. This is how Sabina, who is an illustrator and teaches fine arts at a British college, is currently working. She says that it is not the desire for a lucrative job that took her to England, but it was the hand of destiny that introduced her to her future husband from the island. She is a descendant of artists, so she kept her passion for painting also there.

"I have worked as a university lecturer, and also in other places, which were not involved in dealing with pure art because one cannot afford to be engaged in art alone. But I'm glad that I have kept the ability to paint”, says Sabina, who often teaches drawing and illustration to Bulgarians in England. “London can be quite heavy as a city in terms of its energy, because there are many people here. Now everything is different, the pace of life has slowed down. I recently went through a coronavirus infection. I had only mild symptoms and fortunately I was not admitted to hospital. And the people from the Department of Emotional and Psychological Support at the college where I work were amazing. They contact students every week, send emails, offer help around the clock, even outside of working hours. The care for people and their mental health is huge. In England, I have never felt discriminated because I am a foreigner. I have always met a warm, friendly, supportive attitude. The British are reserved towards foreigners, but when you give your full attention and heart to your work, then you get their full support”.

On Christmas Eve, the Williams family will have an odd number of meatless meals for dinner. As the Bulgarian custom also dictates, home-made bread will be made, the house will be decorated and the table will be thurified with incense.

"It is the woman who brings these traditions to the home. Of course, the English part of the family is also respected,” Sabina tells us.

"For me, the roots, the culture, the language are very important in a person's life. I have a strong feeling for reading, speaking and I cannot deprive myself of this good energy that the Bulgarian language and the Bulgarian songs carry. My child may not continue his life in Bulgaria, but even abroad we strive to preserve the native words, speech and the Bulgarian way of thinking. This is what makes us different from other nations, this is our wealth. I even dreamed of having every Bulgarian who has not been abroad live abroad at least for a while. Because when they return, they are bound to appreciate the Bulgarian traditions much more and will keep them even more. Bulgaria is going through a long crisis, it is not easy for anyone there. My parents are in Bulgaria and I hold very dear my Bulgarian essence. But all of us, Bulgarians, need time to develop and start believing in our good qualities."

English Rossitsa Petcova

Photos: Facebook/Sabina N Williams
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