FACES AND VOICES: Below is a selection of photographs and excerpts from the project essays submitted by Romany women from Varshets (texts and photographs used with the permission of the British Council/Sophia):
SNEZHANA VLADIMIROVA: My street does not look very good. It is not the street I dream about. Our plot is too small. I don't have the garden I dream about. Our neighbors are too close to us, we are only separated by a wire-net. We are on good terms with one of the neighbouring families and on bad terms with the other. Our house has three rooms. Three families live in it. The roof is not in very good condition. The basement is full of water. My neighbors live in similar conditions. This is not the street we dream about.
RALITSA NAYDENOVA: I love my street, I grew up here, but… people in the old days were different. They helped each other and struggled for a better life in the neighbourhood. But everybody has withdrawn to their shell now. My neighbours and I don’t go beyond saying "Hi" to each other. The most impressive buildings in my street are the baking factory and two little God-forsaken houses which are falling apart, waiting for their last hour. Not far from my house is the largest Orthodox church in northwestern Bulgaria -- the St. George Church. Baba Ruska comes to the bell tower at 7:00 in the morning to ring the church bell and announce the exact time to the town. Life in my street is neither black, nor white. If you are sad, there is always someone to make you laugh; if you are happy, there is always someone to make you cry.
IVANKA ATANASSOVA: I live on the main street, Republica. It used to be called Gheorghi Dimitrov during communism. Living here is like living at the wrong time at the wrong place. The drivers hate it because the many holes in it ruin their cars; the sweepers hate it because of the billions and billions of tree leaves they have to sweep every day. Stray dogs cross it this way and the other, tourists curse when they find themselves stepping into the excrement of horses, goats, and other animals grazing nearby. My street is the witness of base passions, of poverty, misery, decorum, of love, hate, children’s laughter, friendship, broken relationships, the tears of rainy days, and gossip – the favorite activity of most of us, of hypocrisy...
HOPE AND FEARS: Participants in the British Council project in Bulgaria were asked about their hopes and fears concerning possible EU membership. Among their HOPES, they mentioned: There will be more jobs and the people from my neighbourhood who now work abroad will be back; There will be greater tolerance towards the Turkish and Roma minorities in town; People will observe laws and rules which are common to all; There will be a better, more effective city administration; The streets will be cleaner, the parks will be greener; The properties in the Roma neighbourhoods will be legalised, there will be sewage for the houses, electricity and asphalt on the streets; and There will be greater tolerance of substance-dependent people.
Among their FEARS, participants listed: It will be a long and difficult adjustment and older people, like my father, won’t be able to cope; We’ll lose our Bulgarian identity, we’ll be like everybody else; Bulgarians will become second-class people who work for foreign investors; The nuclear power plant in Kozlodui will shut down and the town will die out; We will be unprepared to live alongside immigrants from the East who will want to live in Bulgaria; There will be greater alienation between people because of job competition; and There will be greater segregation between Roma and Bulgarian people; Romany people will be pushed out of the cities.
MORE: Read more about the project at http://www.moyataulitsa.net.
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