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Presenting the teachers and schoolchildren at the Hristo Botev Bulgarian school in New York

Photo: private library

Eight of the 245 Bulgarian schools abroad (listed by the Ministry of Education for the 2021/2022 academic year) are named after revolutionary poet Hristo Botev, whom we commemorate on 2 June. Today, schoolchildren from the Bulgarian schools in the UK, Germany, Spain, France and USA celebrate their school’s patron. One of these schools – Hristo Botev school in New York - provides children from several US states with knowledge about the culture, history and geography of Bulgaria.

“It is the biggest Bulgarian school on the territory of 5 neighbouring states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania,” says Dima Markova, head of the school who teaches Bulgarian language and literature.

“We teach children from the 1st to the 12th grade and that is a remarkable achievement for any school outside Bulgaria. Most tutor children from the 1st to the 6th grade, after which, as their workload increases the children stop coming. That is something that is not happening at our school. We have had seven classes graduating 12th grade. We have around 140 children enrolled at our school this school year, children with a 6-day week – 5 days at the American school and one day at the Bulgarian school. To my mind they are little heroes. They are coping very well, even with distance learning.”

Elena Konstantinova is in 1st grade at the Hristo Botev school in New York. She says she likes everything about the school and also that she was doing well with the computer all by herself during distance learning.

“We learn how to write the letters, we sing and we dance. It is very easy,” Elena says. “My favourite letter from the Bulgarian alphabet is “E” because my name begins with an E.  Hristo Botev is the name of my school, and Hristo Botev is someone very special for Bulgaria.”

Violeta and Kalina Egan are sisters. They both go to an American school as well as the Bulgarian school – Hristo Botev. Violeta says that she also goes to ballet and Bulgarian folk dancing. 

“I was born in the US, I am 16, in the 10th grade at the American and at the Bulgarian school. I like it very much at both schools. What I like best at the Bulgarian school is literature. Sometimes it is a bit difficult because I have homework from the American school, and I also have homework from the Bulgarian school but I am coping. I know it is important for me to know Bulgarian.”

Violeta’s younger sister Kalina says what she likes most is geography. Even though she finds the Bulgarian language classes a bit difficult she often talks to her American friends about Bulgaria.

“I find it a bit difficult to read old literary texts. They are more difficult to understand but my sister and my mother help me. My friends also know about Bulgaria, they ask questions. I show them photographs – of Plovdiv, of the sea.”

Alex Todorov is 12 and attends the Hristo Botev school in New York:

“We have a drama studio at the school, we do Bulgarian folk dances, organize different celebrations connected with Christmas, Easter, New Year, 3 March etc. Many times during summer we come to Bulgaria. My grandparents are there, my cousins, my aunts and uncles are all there. I like going to the beach in Burgas, I like the metro in Sofia, all monuments and the mountains where we go.”

Photographs courtesy of Dima Markova and the Hristo Botev school Facebook page

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