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Bulgarian children from around the world paint the natural wonders of their homeland

Photo: Private archive

“Bulgaria, I gave you everything..”

From “Contemplation” – Ivan Vazov, 1919

A century after the lyrical explanation of belonging to Bulgaria by the Patriarch of Bulgarian literature Ivan Vazov, more than 200 young Bulgarian children scattered all over the world did the same, yet using the language of drawings. Two years ago, we told you about the international contest "The Natural Wonders of Bulgaria", organized jointly by the Bulgarian Sunday School "BulgarinA" in Pescara and the AIBIA Cultural Association (Associazione Italo Bulgara in Abruzzo), under the patronage of the Bulgarian Embassy in Rome, and today we proudly continue this story of finding a path to oneself.

"At that moment, when the world shut down because of the pandemic, and everything quieted down, the contest was and continues to be a spiritual message to Bulgarian children, faith in their creative talent and hope for Bulgaria," says Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia from AIBIA association in an interview for Radio Bulgaria. Her words carry the emotion of the opening on the International Children's Day June 1 this year of the exhibition entitled "Natural Wonders of Bulgaria" in the "Bulgaria" art gallery in the center of Rome. 

‎‎"The attendees were amazed and captivated by the interpretation and unique ideas of our great little artists," Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia tells us.‎
Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia
"The gallery filled with guests and friends and I was personally very surprised that so many young people came - both Bulgarians and Italians. Among them was the young photographer and film director Boris Slavchev known for his film "The Testament of Boris Hristov". Everyone was very impressed with the colours and the plots of our children's drawings. We impressed many Italians who expressed their desire to visit Bulgaria not only for our seaside resorts, but also to see our majestic mountains, our caves, the picturesque gorge of the Arda River, the Skopski pyramids, the Krushun waterfalls and many other magical places on our lands. Thanks to the children, the greatness of the Bulgarian nature shone and we gained many new friends, and this is the greatest reward for all of us - organizers and participants," Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia told Radio Bulgaria.‎

She also expressed great gratitude and appreciation to the chairperson of the jury, Dr. Veronika Yakimova, who also assisted in the preparation of diplomas for all the young participants in the event. And it all started two years ago with an online lesson about the Rhodope Mountains at the Bulgarian Sunday School "BulgarinA" in Pescara. Then Rositsa decided to arouse children's curiosity about the Bulgarian nature through her favourite childhood activity - drawing. The interest was so great that it grew into an idea for an international competition. ‎

‎"I have to tell you that when we announced it, we didn't know exactly what was going to happen and we were anxiously awaiting every email. And suddenly, we started to receive drawings, lots of them, from abroad and Bulgaria."

The exhibition itself in Rome was made precisely with the drawings sent by e-mails, photographed with the phones of mother, fathers, grandmothers.
Boris Slavchev and Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia
"These are not professional paintings, but they carry the children's desire, inspiration and a sense of belonging," Rossitsa believes. To this day, she remembers the first works of the students from the "Hristo Botev" Bulgarian Sunday School in the Spanish city of Torrent and the extremely active participation of the children from the "Ivan Vazov" Bulgarian school in Paris. The Bulgarian language teacher at the school in the French capital Yaneta Dimitrova also goes back in her memories:‎

"The children drew with great pleasure and two of our students ranked first in the competition. Later in the school we received beautiful calendars with the drawings of the children from all over the world. Such excitement was caused by this calendar, and Ufuk Samet, the student who was included in it with a painting of the Rose Valley, was extremely proud. A wonderful initiative and I am very happy that today it can be seen by more people."‎

The topics related to Bulgaria always arouse great curiosity among our graduates, because they want to learn more about their homeland, says Yaneta Dimitrova. According to her, this is also the reason for the large participation of the Bulgarian children from Paris in international competitions during the year and their successes are comparable to their peers who are stuying in a Bulgarian environment. For the current school year alone, nearly 60 students from the "Ivan Vazov" Bulgarian school have received 114 awards from 29 competitions. "On average, we win about 180 awards each year," adds Dimitrova proudly. ‎

"With us, who are abroad, everything related to Bulgaria, our feelings towards and for Bulgaria are much more acute. Maybe because we are not burdened by the everyday problems of the country. For children abroad Bulgaria means first and foremost their grandparents and relatives there. They connect Bulgaria with their close people, with their most precious experiences during their vacations, connect it with its beautiful nature and certainly appreciate much more than our compatriots in the country what they see once or twice in the year - Yaneta Dimitrova tells us.  “‎Their parents strive to show them more of these magical ‎places to know their roots. This is also the meaning of the Bulgarian Sunday schools. You don't just have to teach children to read and write, but to find out who they are. Most of our children are from mixed marriages and we are always looking for the Bulgarian trail from which they can continue their journey. We are looking for the sense of belonging that is most important.” 

The search for roots and a sense of pride in the homeland is not bound by geographical boundaries. Eleonora Asenova's students in the Centre for Art, Culture and Education in Sofia, which she directs, prove it. During the pandemic, one of her parents told her about the "Natural Wonders of Bulgaria" competition, and Eleonora decided to give the task to the little artists to draw the most interesting places in Bulgaria that they had visited.‎

"The competition was a provocation to walk virtually and in our imagination around Bulgaria and see what wonderful corners we have”, explains Eleonora Asenova to Radio Bulgaria. “In addition to what they shared, I also found illustrative material for the given places. The child from our center who was ranked first - Dimitar Petkov, is a seventh grader this year and continues to draw, and this year he received an award from Japan in an international contest with the participation of over 9,000 drawings. External evaluation, from people who are not close to them, is very important for children.”

And for us adults, let's not forget to look at the world through the eyes of children, even if only for a little while. The "Natural Wonders of Bulgaria" will be available for viewing until the end of July at the "Bulgaria" Gallery in Rome. There are already invitations to the exhibition from the Italian cities of Riccione and Milan, and Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia's greatest ambition is to have the drawings shown in Bulgaria as well. Until then: ‎

"I want to wish all our listeners to be healthy, childishly happy, not to forget our ability to inspire and dream every day and to always be charitable," Rossitsa Lazarova-Sbaraglia says, addressing the listeners of Radio Bulgaria.

Photos: private archive

Translated and published by Rositsa Petkova
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