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Breznitsa village – the little economic miracle of Bulgaria’s Southwest

Photo: @breznitsa

Breznitsa has come to be known as the millionaires’ village because of its rich houses, with expensive cars parked in front, thriving enterprises and surprisingly high standard of living.

“Millionaires is a bit strong, it is just that people here are hardworking and enterprising, and their businesses are doing well,” says Isa Sakali, who has been mayor of the village of 2,600 inhabitants since 2013. 60 people here are Christian, the rest – Muslim. The two communities live in peace and understanding, and help each other out, the mayor says. The first thing visitors to the village notice are the two prayer houses facing each other – a mosque and a church.

“Thanks to our local businesses and to benefactors, both have been renovated,” Isa Sakali says. Until a few years ago, most people in Breznitsa grew tobacco. But things have changed dramatically:

“Until a few years ago we had about 200 tobacco growers, and we produced around 110 tons of tobacco. By 2020 there were just a few tobacco growers left, in 2021 – just one, and this year – none. The reason is that farming in Bulgaria is not subsidized, it gets no support from the state, and people here turned to industrial production which provides much higher and steadier incomes,” Isa Sakali explains.

Now, there are 22 small, medium-sized and big enterprises in the pretty village in Mount Pirin, as well as a magnificent school attended by 400 students, a kindergarten with 215 children and… a workforce shortage. Because there is so much rivalry among the enterprises here to hire workers, and salaries are high, the mayor explains and adds:

“Our big enterprises work mostly under tolling agreements. The materials are delivered here and then the produce is exported mostly to EU markets. Some make clothes for world famous brands. One of our factories works mostly for specialized structures in the EU like the police, firefighters, or making military garments… Some work in the timber industry. We have a food enterprise catering to the needs of our region and also exporting its produce to almost all European countries. Not to mention the fact that Breznitsa is located between two state borders – an hour’s ride from the border with Greece and two hours from North Macedonia. This is giving our development an enormous boost because our communications are simply perfect,” Isa Sakali says.

But how is the pandemic and the war affecting local businesses? As a matter of fact, it is construction in the village that has been affected worst, having shrunk considerably due to the soaring prices. But enterprises have not stopped work at even the worst times of the pandemic, nor have they stopped now with war raging in Ukraine.

People here are enterprising, they work a lot, but they also love to spend time close to nature. Breznitsa is probably the only village in Bulgaria with its very own holiday home area where people from the village have built more than 40 charming villas. A hotel has been built here, and Mayor Isa Sakali is already planning two eco-trails leading to the two waterfalls nearby. So that besides light industry enterprises, the locals are also keen on developing another profitable kind of business – tourism.

Photos: @breznitsa, su-breznica.com, pirintreyding.com

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