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First bell rang in the Bulgarian school in Athens

28 September 2009 / 17:09:28  GRReporter
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It is Sunday afternoon, the weather in Athens is warm and a bit lazy. Probably this is why most people have left for the weekend – next Sunday are the elections and people won’t be able to leave Athens. As opposed to the other parts of the city, in a small yard, among the grey buildings on 3rd September Boulevard in the center of the city, there is life, it is loud and you can hear Bulgarian. It is not something out of the ordinary to hear different languages in this neighborhood but as we have already written – there it is the Bulgarian-Athenian Astoria.

I had just found the building of the foreign languages school, where the Bulgarian Sunday school takes place. I got mad, because it was locked, when at 03:00PM starts the school opening celebration and there were only ten minutes until that time… And as I was looking around and wondering what to do, I heard the lively discussions, coming from a small street nearby. I headed in that direction right away and I found the yard, surrounded by small palm trees and a linden tree in the middle. It was full of parents, teachers, visitors and the children were waiting for the start of the program and were impatiently waving at their parents, who were taking pictures. A boy and a girl, about 12 years old, dressed in the Bulgarian folklore costumes were walking by the crown giving bread and salt. The sound system was spreading popular tunes from Emil Dimitrov and Tonica SV (not really betting that it was exactly them). Those tunes did not sound nostalgic…quite the opposite – everybody was having fun.

The celebration had already started now it was about time for the program. Daniela Partovska officially opened the school year and announced the main actors. Of course, first place is for Daniela Todorova, who at this moment is the chairwoman of the school management. Mrs. Todorova was the first teacher in the Bulgarian Sunday school, for who everybody says that she is the woman rich in patience and persistence. “Her persistence and enthusiasm keep the school alive,” says Veneta Iskrenova, history teacher.

Actually, the school has been existing for at least six years but its history is a real odyssey. It starts from a dark room, which was in the office of “Bulgarian Community” – an association for Bulgarians, which does not even know if its still existing. Back then the school was visited by not more than 10 children, who were of different ages and were studying all together – like in the schools you have probably read about in history books.

Later on the school is sheltered by the owners of “Mocca” hotel in the center of Athens. The teachers, who are now more than one and the children carry out their classes in Bulgarian language, literature, history and geography in the restaurant of the hotel every Sunday. Later on the owners of the hotel, who were amazed by Mrs. Todorova’s enthusiasm and saw that both children and parents were happy, decided to help and found a room for the school on Marni street, which was more suitable than the restaurant.

“Only two years ago, at the same time, we had gathered on Marni street. There were no more than 15 children and now this brings a lot of happiness and proud. Thanks to the hard work of all of us, we have a school,” says Mrs. Mariana Petrova – cultural attaché at the Bulgarian embassy. “I am always very excited on this day. It seems it does this ti me, because we are abroad,” shares Mrs. Petrova.

In 2008 the children were more. The people working at the school manage to negotiate with the management of a foreign languages school, which gives them some rooms during the weekend. This year, the teachers are 11 and will teach more than 60 children. “Only now 6 more children signed up,” shared after the celebration Mrs. Iskrenova, who added that probably more children will sign up during October.

After taking her place in front of the gathered public and greeting the students and their parents, the cultural attaché Mrs. Petrova announced that “the school will receive significant financial help from the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, based on the program “Bulgarian abroad”. The Bulgarian school in Athens applied for this program last year. The financial help is sending books for all grades and an amount, which will be distributed by the school here. Mrs. Petrova wished health and success to all students and added “I know it is hard for you when other kids are playing for you to be studying on Saturday and Sunday but some day you will be rewarded. Let us enjoy this holiday!”

Since last year the school is recognized by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, which means that children, whose parents decide to return to Bulgaria, can sign up in a Bulgarian school and continue their education without losing a school year and without having to take exams in Bulgarian language, literature and history, said Mr. Zvezdelin Penkov from the Bulgarian embassy.

Two years ago the school set off its first graduate. After graduating 12th grade the boy applied to university in Bulgaria and right now it studying Business Administration in the Veliko Tarnovo University part-time. “He was accepted everywhere he applied to – in New Bulgarian University, in Varna and in Tarnovo but because he is from Gabrovo, he decided to choose the Veliko Tarnovo University,” say a history teacher, who has been teaching in the school for three years. She wants to make the classes more interesting for the students and she had already planned to tell them the story of the 100 Bulgarian landmarks and to make them create a landmark of their choice with paper.

Tags: Bulgarians abroad Bulgarian school Education
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