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Claire Theodora Apovo – a Bulgarian girl from Benin

Photo: private library

This year Claire Theodora Apovo from Benin arrived in the land of her mother as a first-year student at the South-West University in Bulgaria’s Blagoevgrad, where she will study "Administration and Information Systems". Her mother is a Bulgarian and her father is from Benin. They met while her father was a student in Sofia. Claire Apovo was born and raised in Benin, but she has paid often visits to Bulgaria to meet her relatives. That is why it is not surprising she speaks Bulgarian quite fluently.

“I started learning Bulgarian at the age of 3 with my mother and father. I learned it spontaneously with my family, as well as here in Bulgaria, where we come in the summer. I make mistakes and it's a little difficult to me because I miss some words. But now I'm starting to learn the language purposefully, because I'm going to need it for writing as well. I know the letters more or less. I can read slowly in Cyrillic, but it's harder for me to write," she says.

In a distant country, where there are few Bulgarians, no Bulgarian embassy and no Bulgarian cultural center, the girl's parents managed to instill in her love for the Bulgarian language and culture.

Do people in Benin know anything about Bulgaria?

"They know that there is a roundabout in the economic capital of Benin - Cotonou, where there is a statue of Georgi Dimitrov," Claire Apovo says. “This crossroads is called ‘Place of Bulgaria’. When I am in Benin and people ask me where I come from, I tell them that I come from Bulgaria and they think I come from this roundabout district. Then I explain to them that Bulgaria is a country in Europe and I tell them about it," Claire Theodora Apovo, who has taken the role of an unofficial ambassador of our country to West Africa, says.

After initial hesitation whether to study in France or in Bulgaria, she chose Bulgaria. "In the beginning, I didn't know where to go. But when I thought about it I decided that Bulgaria is the place where I have a family, but also that it is a country that I do not know completely. So, I go home in some way, but not quite," she says.

In the time before the beginning of the academic year, she does not miss the opportunity to tour and get to know Bulgaria better. She has visited the Troyan Monastery, Prohodna Cave with the "Eyes of God", Varna and the sea, the cozy village of Yasen, which captivates her with its atmosphere, as well as Pleven, which is the hometown of her mother. When asked about her favourite place in Bulgaria, she says:

“My favorite place is the water cascade downtown Pleven. I like the soothing noise of the falling water and the view. Especially at night, when there are lights of different colors.”

Now Claire Theodora Apovo will get to know the city of Blagoevgrad and hopes to find many new friends there. Whether she will stay in Bulgaria after her studies is yet to be seen. "I decided to come here at the last moment." So, when I graduate, the decision will come where to go next on my way," Claire Theodora Apovo says. And we tell her: "Welcome to Bulgaria and good luck!"

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: private library and frwiki.org

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