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The CEO of the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad in an interview with Radio Bulgaria:

Rayna Mandzhukova: The institutions in Bulgaria ought to take the problems of Bulgarians abroad seriously

Photo: private library

One more time, the Executive Agency for Bulgarians Abroad is to present awards to the children of Bulgarians living in other countries who have taken part in song, drawing and literature contests dedicated to Bulgaria. The official award ceremony is today, 3 August, at the National Children’s Palace in Sofia under the patronage of Vice President Iliana Iotova.

The initiatives the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad organizes and supports are an important element of its mission of assisting the bond between the Bulgarians living around the world and their country of birth. It was recently made into an executive agency under the umbrella of the Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since mid-June Rayna Mandzhukova has been its CEO:

My priority is to make the agency visible to our institutions, to restore its good reputation, though I know that will be a difficult thing. What I mean is that institutions and ministries in this country ought to take seriously the problems of Bulgarians abroad that we present to them. They should regard us as an institution with a thorough knowledge of the problems Bulgarians living in other countries have, as an institution capable of offering solutions to their problems,” Rayna Mandzhukova says in an interview with Radio Bulgaria.

For 14 years of her professional career she has worked at the Agency, and is now its CEO for the second time (the first time from August 2009 until May 2010), and she says there is an improvement in communication:

“The Agency has been under the umbrella of the Foreign Ministry since the end of April, but had no appointed executive director until 15 July. There are people at the ministry we discuss current procedures and processes with, and they are now running more smoothly than they were when we were still under the umbrella of the Council of Ministers.”

In the two weeks since Rayna Mandzhukova has been CEO of the agency, she has had a number of meetings with teachers from the Bulgarian so-called Sunday schools abroad, with public and cultural figures who take the problems of Bulgarians abroad to heart.

“Unfortunately, these past years, not without the involvement of previous governments and different individuals, the Agency was turned into some kind of department for issuing administrative documents. Its function of intermediary between the institutions and the organizations in this country, and the Bulgarians abroad was lost completely. The two years of restrictions, connected with the pandemic made things even worse. We resumed out meetings with them and they bring us up to speed with their current problems, so that we can make an analysis and see how the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad can help, and which issues are not within its competency.” 

The amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act, by force of which the Ministry of Justice no longer needs the certificates of Bulgarian origin which the Agency issues will, to a great extent reduce red tape, and will allow the Agency’s staff to work more actively on its contacts with the Bulgarian communities around the world.

“The Agency continues to issue the certificates of origin required by the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of Interior but the stream of applications has been dwindling. Still, work on them takes quite some time.”

Meanwhile, work is going ahead on other priority issues, one of which is helping our compatriots who are seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine. Herself descending from Bessarabian Bulgarians, Rayna is dedicating all of her time, effort, energy and the contacts she has to help refugees seeking protection.

“The Centre for Bessarabian Bulgarians which I ran before accepting the position at the agency helped everyone. I opposed any attempt at dividing people. I asked the chief secretary for information regarding what the agency has done since the beginning of the war. Now that I am here I want to see the agency’s work in this regard, because I have some idea what it could do and how.”

A big charity concert has already been planned to raise money to help the Bulgarians in Ukraine. It will be a way to celebrate 29 October, Bessarabian Bulgarians Day, which has come to be a tradition in the past two decades.

Photos: Facebook/ExecutiveAgencyForBulgariansAbroad
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