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2021 – Unforgettable meetings with foreigners who have chosen to live in Bulgaria

Photo: courtesy of Raymond Wilkinson

During the past difficult and challenging year 2021, the reporters of Radio Bulgaria brought you interviews with people from different parts of the world who have chosen to live and work in Bulgaria for various reasons. From our conversations with them, we can conclude that despite the uncertainty and limitations of the pandemic, they are successfully adapting to the new conditions and are happy with their new lives here.

For example, retired teacher Raymond Wilkinson from Ireland, who has been living in Bulgaria’s small town of Chepelare in the Rhodopes for years and can not but enjoy the beautiful nature, cheap life and mild mountain climate and especially - the cosmopolitan environment created in the resort town:

"There is an Irish word that we use for “fun”, we call it craic. Now, that is not illegal (it is pronounced crack – editorial note), it is when the music starts and people are enjoying themselves, enjoying each other’s company, and having good conversation. So, we have lots of craic here!” says Raymond Wilkinson and concludes that he has found his happiness and destiny in his favourite Rhodope town!

On a gloomy winter day 11 years ago,  German Jonathan Middendorf arrived in Bulgaria for the first time. Jonathan settled in the village of Nikolovo near Ruse with his family and gradually developed a successful organic farm as his products started to be exported to Europe, the United States and Canada.

"People abroad generally associate Bulgaria with corruption and crime. That is why our clients were skeptical at first, because Bulgaria is mentioned in the name of our trademark," says Jonathan, adding that over time he has managed to establish the brand “Made in BG” abroad and he would not replace his life in the small village of Nikolovo for no other place in the world.

In 2021 too, despite Brexit and the pandemic, thousands of Britons did not give up their second homeland - Bulgaria. Keith Halstead is no exception. For 9 years now, the retired employee of the British Army has been enjoying a peaceful life in Bulgaria in the fabulous Rhodopean village of Smilyan.

Keith is in love with Bulgarian nature and hospitality. He is involved in tourism, renting out rooms to guests from all over the world.

Judging by Radio Bulgaria’s meetings and interviews with foreigners who have chosen to live and work here, the Brits seem to be the biggest fans of Bulgaria. One of them is the British vlogger Jamal who has a YouTube channel dedicated to Bulgaria.

His real name is Rhyes Douglas. He is a digital nomad and says he has traveled all over Europe. But when he first arrives here, his life underwent a transformation. According to him, Bulgaria is the ideal destination for young people who want to achieve something in life.

And what can a British chef do during the pandemic in Bulgaria? Well, to cook and share local recipes and experiences on YouTube, of course! Gareth Lee Gradwell lives in Bulgaria’s Varna and loves Bulgarian cuisine.

And when asked what the taste of Bulgaria is, he responds: "For me, the real taste of Bulgaria is the taste of …. freedom." Whatever these words mean, one thing is certain - for Gareth Bulgaria is a peaceful haven, providing him with the opportunity for work and family happiness.

And we brought to you the exciting story of another two chefs but this time Italians and what is more, world-famous in their profession. Moreover, the owners of a small restaurant, not anywhere else but in a small Bulgarian village! These are Gianfranco and Anna Chiarini.

And why did they choose Bulgaria? Learn more about their extraordinary story in their interview for Radio Bulgaria:

In the last month of 2021, we also brought to you the story of Mohadese Mirzaee, the first female pilot in Afghanistan.

In August, she managed to escape the Taliban regime and find refuge in Bulgaria, where she is seeking a chance to restart her aviation career. Radio Bulgaria recorded a video interview with her. You can see it here:

Compiled by Veneta Nikolova

English version Rositsa Petkova

Photos: private library and Veneta Nikolova

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