We aim to create a closer dialogue between members and representatives of the Russian Diaspora and to promote Greek-Russian cultural & historical heritage links. We intend to organise educational lectures, tours, voluntary works & publications in media to encourage bonds between Russian immigrants local Greek communities. These will concentrate on language skills, Russian & Greek culture, traditions and history.

EU Project “Steps Towards Active European Citizenship”: meeting in Sofia



On May 23-27th, the “Partnership and knowledge” (Grundtvig) conference took place in Bulgaria, attracting the participants of the program of the European Union “Steps Towards Active European Citizenship” to yet another meeting.
In February we wrote about our first meeting in Finland. As explained then, the main goal of the project is the improvement of the integration of older Russian-speaking groups into the local societies, through cultural dialogue in various countries of the EU. Particularly for us, it is in Greece where the objectives of the program see the most direct applicability, with the :maturest” participants of the program coming from here. Just to name a few: Fenia Eleftheriadou (75y.o.), Lazaros Kontopidis (75 y.o.), Konstantin Populidis (80y.o.). So today we are publishing the results of the meeting in Sofia, as seen through the eyes of the Greek delegation.


Personally, I had never before been to Bulgaria. Hearing the name, I would always imagine the sea, gold sand, fruit, wine, welcoming people...But also, the almost forgotten Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, which the Russian empire started against the Turks and won, freeing their “Bulgarian brothers” from 5 centuries of subjugation. And of course, the famous song about Aliosha, the “Russian soldier in Bulgaria.”

So for the purposes of the next meeting in the context of the European program “Steps Towards an Active European Citizenship,” our Greek delegation of 10 traveled to Sofia. On the way (we travelled by bus), we wondered at the generous splendor of the Bulgarian nature--at the fresh green and flowery fields, at the tall, wide trees, at the hills and mountains, covered in a rich green.

In Sofia we were greeted by Sergey Rozhkov, who took us to our hotel, and from then on started a series of an active, entertaining life, which barely left us with time for sleep. The meetings that aimed to introduce us with the activities of the Russian-speaking immigration in Bulgaria were conducted in a very high level.

Near a Russian church in the centre of Sofia

In the magnificent building of the Russian culture center, we were greeted by its director Viktor Bazhenov, who informed us about the numbers and the situation of the Russian-speaking diaspora in Bulgaria. It was rather pleasant to hear the representative of the Sofia City Hall, Nadya Nikolova speak in Russian. She talked to us about how immigrants’ problems are solved in Bulgaria and what European programs are helping with the difficulties of urban development.

We learned a lot about the Russian diaspora in Bulgaria, its current state and the prospects of development, but also about successful Russian businessmen in the country and the hardships of Bessarabian Bulgarians. Everyone was thoroughly impressed when meeting Vradimir Sorokin, a unique man who in three stages managed to complete a journey around the world by bike. Admittedly, he charmed us with the entertaining account of his adventures.

The presentation of Vladimir Ivanov--the manager of the recently created Foundation for Support and Legal Defence of Russian Compatriots Abroad--became a real event. From his speech, we found out that Russia made an important step in the topic of supporting Russians abroad, by creating foreign coordinating centers, whose purpose is to help Russians abroad with a variety of problems.

Walk in Plodvid

Meeting between the delegations interchanged with very interesting excursions with the help of tour guides. We talked on foot around all downtown Sofia, while learning about the history of the city and stopping at the most significant sights. Particularly impressive was the sculpture in memory of Alexander II -- The Liberator: besides the grandiose figure of the emperor on a horse, the memorial complex also shows famous Russian military leaders, diplomats and simple soldiers, who brought freedom to Bulgaria. The monument to Tzar-The Liberator was build in honor of Russian Emperor Alexander II, who freed Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, and is considered one of the best pieces of work of sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi of Florence.

Monument to Tzar--the Liberator

The organizers also surprised us with a walk in the legendary historic Plodvid, which absolutely captivated us. On one of the three hills of the city, there is a famous monument to the Russian soldier who defeated German fascism: it’s that same Aliosha that is sung about as “Bulgaria’s Russian soldier.” The change of times has directly affected this monument: in the 1990’s, nationalistic groups were demanding that the monument be destroyed. However, it was saved thanks to the 24-hour patrols of local volunteers, for whom the memory of the role of the Russian people in Bulgarian independence is sacred. We will be honest: we were deeply touched by the friendly relation of the locals to Russia and we definitely felt this ourselves, as Russian-speaking guests of this city.

Our return from Plodvid into the Bulgarian capital coincided with the celebration of the day of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the founders of the slavic alphabet. It turns out that for Bulgaria it is a very important celebration: walking around the city center, we witnessed the annual parade that commemorates the day. But we also accidentally found ourselves in a fun high-school graduation parade. The students were parading through the streets of Sofia in cars decorated with balloons and happily repeating some songs. At the end of our trip, a whole new cultural program was awaiting for us: the organizers brought all the delegations of the project to the folk restaurant “Happy settlement” where we experienced delicious dishes of Bulgarian cuisine. During the dinner we tried the real raki, a Bulgarian homemade alcoholic drink, and local wines. It wasn’t surprising that in that great atmosphere, our legs instinctively started dancing to the fiery Balkan music.

Galina Chionidi with members of “Club 50+”

On the next day we were already heading home, sharing our impressions on the way, and we were almost ready to concede to the historical reliability of the Bulgarian legend that says that when God was splitting the land between peoples, the Bulgarian was late. So when he did arrive after all, it turned out that God had already split everything among the others nations. And, after thinking about it for a little bit, God cut a little piece of sea, a piece of mountains, a little bit of hills, a bit of plains and forests, and gave them to the Bulgarian. Now the Bulgarians say that God “cut out” a little piece of heaven for them--and it seems like it’s true!

We want to express our public gratitude to Sergey Rozhkov and his helpers, who organized our stay in Bulgaria and made it such a fulfilling, useful and interesting experience.

Galina Chionidi.





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