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Blagovo: Joy and hardship in a Bulgarian village

Mayor Lachezar Asenov: The best thing happening in the village is that there so many young people and new houses

| updated on 2/2/23 1:38 PM
Photo: BNR-Vidin

In Blagovo village, 6 kms from the regional town of Montana in Northwestern Bulgaria, you will hear people talking about all sorts of things – that there is no pedestrian crossing and street lighting, that they have to go to town to see a doctor, or to work or to school. The problems do not seem to differ much from place to place:

“We live a poor life, that about sums it up. Even if you have a job the pay is low. If you don’t grow things in your own garden, you’ll have nothing. Nothing will change, until the people at the top change. The fish stinks from the head down.”

Though they may be poor, often have grocery tabs, and have to go to town for everything they need, people in Blagovo know their village is not going to “go extinct”. Because the fresh air, the comfort of having a house with a garden, and the fact that the village is close to the town have brought many young people to the village. Actually, the first settlers came here in 1688, after the Chiprovtsi uprising against Ottoman domination was stamped out. Today, Blagovo has a population of around 500.

Mayor Lachezar Asenov
“We are close to Montana, and maybe 30% of the houses have been bought by people coming from other towns or villages,” says Lachezar Asenov who is serving as mayor of the village for a fourth term. “We have problems with our bus transport – actually there isn’t any from Blagovo to Montana, and the railway station no longer exists. There is no industry here, people work mostly in the regional town and they travel y car. We don’t have a doctor in the village either – people here are divided among 25-30 GPs in the town.”

Like all small towns and villages, Blagovo has an infrastructure problem.

“Now that there are more and more people living here we ought to be thinking about sewerage, a new water main with a wastewater treatment plant,” the mayor says, but adds he can do nothing without assistance from “the municipality and the ministry”, especially these past couple of years of instability in the country.  

But there are things in Blagovo people are happy about – like the two first-graders who, together with another 40 children or so, take the bus to Montana and back, provided by the municipal council every day, Monday to Friday. Sadly, there has been no school or kindergarten here for a long time. There is a playground left, but it is in need of renovation. The chitalishte (community culture club), on the other hand is furnished and equipped but it is closed.

“We are now at the stage of a general meeting for electing a new administration, there is one new appointment,” Lachezar Asenov says. “While it was still open, the chitalishte hall was used to celebrate St. Lazarus Day, Trifon Zarezan. The library has a certain amount of books, we also have a multimedia computer lab under a project with the support of the Global Libraries foundation.”

One of the first things parents in the village want to see done once the chitalishte reopens, is the two folk dance groups – one for children and the other for adults.

Mayor Asenov says that the village lost many people to the coronavirus:  

“In the space of no more than 3 months we lost 18 people – seniors who all went to the post office to pay their bills, take out their pensions, who went shopping,” he says. “Because houses are being bought up and people are coming to live here, we are more or less in the top 5 in Montana municipality in terms of population. But people seem a bit scared – staying at home more, not like it used to be. People go out to buy bread, for a cup of coffee.”

Yet, Lachezar Asenov is optimistic, never forgetting that the best thing happening of late is that there are lots of young people and new houses. And to make sure people in Blagovo are safe – even though there are no burglaries here – what the mayor wants for the vilage is video surveillance.

Interviews by Kiril Kirilov, BNR-Vidin

Text by Diana Tsankova

Photos: BNR-Vidin

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