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Bulgarian children in UK’s Reading in expectation of Christmas and New Year

Photo: личен архив

When Victoria Vlahovska moved to Reading, UK, it turned out that the Bulgarian school that her daughter was supposed to attend to study her native language was more than an hour’s drive away. However, the Bulgarian diaspora in Reading is large, so Victoria decided to establish another school there. In September 2017, the Bulgarian school "Dr. Peter Beron" was already a fact.

"We cover the area in Reading, Wokingham and Bracknell”, says the teacher in Bulgarian language and literature Tsvetanka Stoyanova. “There are 35 students in our school. Bulgarian is their second language and I want to give them an incentive to continue learning it. In the literature classes I introduce them to Bulgarian authors and the works they have created. Of particular importance is the study of history, which is taught by Diana Petrova, because they need to know where they come from and what the name Bulgaria means to world history. Geography is also an important subject because it will help them learn where their homeland is and get to know it better.”

During the first lockdown in the UK, the school in Reading switched to online learning.

"Now, however, we are gradually returning to the classrooms. We have the option to give an online concert, but we want the children to have a day full of Christmas mood. We will make cards in class, decorations, decoration of sweets and many other surprises," says Victoria Vlahovska, and Tsvetanka Stoyanova adds:

From the left: Victoria Vlahovska, Diana Petrova, Tsvetanka Stoyanova, Ekaterina Dimitrova

"This year the students have a project entitled “My Bulgarian Christmas” in which they are given the assignment to write an essay with photos and show how they celebrate in their family, but only focusing on the Bulgarian tradition, without mixing it with English customs and traditions."

The Bulgarian children in Reading enjoy learning Christmas songs and poems, and from their teachers they also  learn how Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated in Bulgaria and what is traditionally laid at the table in Bulgaria.

"They know how the New Year is celebrated, what the customs are and how the Bulgarian people celebrate. And for January 1, they have made "survachki" and are looking forward to the celebration when they will perform the "survakane" ritual. Last year they also made mummer's masks," says the teacher Ekaterina Dimitrova.

In 2019, the school laid the foundations of an interesting tradition: calendars with drawings. Then the topic was "Bulgarian saints – name days".

"Many of our pupils bear the names of saints, but none of them knew what a name day meant and why it was celebrated, so it was very interesting for them to learn more about this," said Victoria Vlahovska. “And our new project is related to studying a Bulgarian holiday or custom, to answer questions related to it and to draw an object related to this holiday. All the drawings have become wonderful and adorn the new calendar for 2021. ”

The school in Reading is also proud of its mobile library. It is housed in a car, and students read fables, Bulgarian folk tales, children's books with interest.

"We are trying to build knowledge, skills and a positive attitude towards Bulgarian culture, folk holidays and customs, to help our pupils learn more about Bulgarian history and traditions and get to know Bulgaria by means of the Bulgarian language" says Victoria Vlahovska. "But most of all, we are trying to build a sense of community because it's extremely important to us."

English Rossitsa Petcova

Photos: private library


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