This year, the Amalipe Center did not miss the traditional celebration of Vasilitsa. 14 national institutions were survakaned, albeit online. Although we ourselves were not sure what to expect and how it would turn out, the virtual celebrations managed to bring smiles to the children, as well as to ministers and ambassadors. Zoom Vasilitsa reminded us that when we are together in our hearts and our mission is common, distance cannot stop us. Virtual luck was drawn from real pies; survakars survakhas for health and prosperity, but without hitting with dogwood sticks; songs were sung and legends told. Traditions were shared and once again it was found that the more we differ, the more we are alike – big and small, ministers and children, ambassadors from all over Europe and the United States and students from villages all over Bulgaria – we all share common values.
What did we say to each other? On the holiday as a holiday, but not only… We used the opportunity to talk to the main European ambassadors in Bulgaria and key ministers about our work to convey to them messages that we consider important for the Roma community and Roma integration policies. We explained to everyone why we consider the Vasilitsa holiday as a suitable occasion for the campaign To restore the bridges between us. The Roma legend behind the holiday tells how St. Vasil restored the bridge over which the Roma passed and thus saved them. It is deeply symbolic that the beginning of the new year in the Roma tradition is associated with the restoration of a bridge and the passage over the purifying flowing water. In a time of anti-Roma discrimination and distrust of others, we need to look for ways to rebuild the bridges between us. In addition, we have been organizing public celebrations of the Vasilitsa holiday for many years to show that the Roma are an ethnic group with a specific culture that has contributed to the Bulgarian and European cultural treasury. We thanked all the ambassadors for their participation in the International Ambassadorial Group for Roma Integration. The existence of this group, initiated in 2015 by the Norwegian Embassy and the Amalipe Center, as well as its active work is an important advantage. National institutions need international support and pressure to take more decisive
action on Roma integration. We especially thanked Her Excellency Cohen, Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation, for organizing the group’s activities. The chairman of the organization Deyan Kolev emphasized that on October 7, 2020 the European Commission published a new framework for national strategies for equality, inclusion and participation of Roma. The existence of such a document is a key condition for financing the programs of the European Social Fund in Bulgaria and other Member States. On December 10, the Bulgarian government published for public discussion a draft of a new national Roma strategy, but unfortunately it was developed without the active participation of Roma organizations and deviates from both the previous period and the opportunities recommended by the European Commission through the new European framework. It is necessary for this important national document to be drafted through the real participation of the civil sector and the Roma community. It has to contain key new things to make sense of it. Deyan Kolev also spoke about the results of a nationally representative survey in Roma neighborhoods on educational and social status, commissioned by the Trust for Social Alternative and conducted by Global Metrics. The survey shows that between 2011 and 2019, the percentage of young Roma studying in the secondary stage doubled, and the number of Roma boys and girls studying in higher education increased sixfold. We see this in the field every day in our activities, as with each passing year we manage to reduce dropouts in 297 partner schools, as well as to form clubs of active parents and student mentors, said Kolev. In the Roma community there is an active process of modernization and raising the educational level. Our activity is aimed at accelerating this process and supporting the preservation of the cultural identity of Roma children. It is important for us that educated young Roma are proud of their ethnic identity and do not hide it, stressed the President of Amalipe. An honest conversation took place between the children and the ambassadors. It turned out that most of the ambassadors grew up in a family without diplomats or politicians. It was education that was the factor that unlocked many opportunities, including reaching the top in diplomacy and representing their countries in other countries. You will also have such an opportunity if you choose education, many of the children’s ambassadors said spontaneously. All embassies also expressed their respect for the activities of Amalipe and the schools in the network. Every student will be an Excellent.
Find out below which institutions were virtual hosts and how the celebration of Vasilitsa went.
More than 130 students from 106 schools joined a discussion with Education Minister Krassimir Valchev on the future of education, distance learning, segregated schools and how education can change young people and their communities. The discussion was organized online by the Amalipe Center as part of the events on the occasion of the Vasilitsa cultural holiday, marked as the beginning of the new year and day of Roma culture. Find out what the young people asked and what answers they received from the Minister of Education here:
Krassimir Valchev was the virtual host of the student mentors on the occasion of Vasilitsa
“Only a healthy person is a person who is really rich!” This luck was withdrawn by the Minister of Health Prof. Kostadin Angelov from the pie for Vasilitsa to the children from the “Vasil Levski” primary school in the village of Karadjovo. The minister told them about his childhood and shared how he grew up with a mother-teacher. From an early age he had friends from other ethnic groups. Prof. Angelov assured the children from Karadjovo that he does not divide people and advised them to treat everyone like that. The children, in turn, told the minister how they celebrate their New Year – Vasilitsa. Then they challenged the minister to choose a number from 1 to 12, as many as the months of the year. So were the fortunes of the pie. Number 4 brought Prof. Angelov the luck that he and all Bulgarians most desperately wish for – health.
Marina Kirova – Economic Adviser at the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, was greeted by the children from the National University “Ivan Vazov”, Dulgopol. The students recreated the traditions on the festive evening, each with his own role. This was followed by a traditional survakane from the students at the school. Ms. Kirova was impressed by the children’s enthusiasm, diligence and preparation.
HE Mr. Christoph Eichhorn – Ambassador of Germany and his team celebrated Vasilitsa together with the students from the United School “Neofit Rilski” in Samokov. Through a video link, the children presented to them with a lot of love and talent the traditions related to the three-day holiday. They talked about the meaning of breaking bread. The pieces of bread are placed under the pillow, and dreams must predict what the new year will bring. It was very interesting for the ambassador and he asked additional questions to the children about the holiday, as well as their education. The embassy has been working closely with the Amalipe Center for years.
HE Ambassador Søren Jakobsen – Ambassador of Denmark participates in an online event on the occasion of Vasilitsa. At the event, the ambassador wished a happy New Year to
the students from the Professional School of Textiles and Clothing “Dobri Zhelyazkov” in Sliven, who introduced him to traditional names. The ambassador had an active
discussion with the students, who asked him fascinating questions about his education and life as an ambassador. At the end of the Vasilitsa zoom, Mr. Jakobsen showed the
Roma flag that his students had given him during visits on the same occasion in previous years. This gesture of respect and gratitude touched everyone involved.
Survakari virtually congratulated Minister Sacheva on the occasion of the Roma New Year. Students from the United School “Petko Rachev Slaveykov”, Dzhulyunitsa village, Veliko Tarnovo region virtually recreated the ritual on the occasion of Vasilitsa – Roma New Year, congratulating Denitsa Sacheva – Minister of Labor and Social Policy for Health and Luck. Minister Sacheva wished them health and happiness, emphasizing that the future belongs to educated people. She also thanked the teachers from the school in Dzhulyunitsa, encouraging them to continue to develop the talents and skills of children, giving them a better future. During the event, tenth-grader Yuliana Stefanova spoke about the campaigns in which she participates, and according to her the return of children to classrooms is of particular importance for the Roma community.
HE Mrs. Herro Mustafa – US Ambassador celebrated the new year, celebrating the holiday Vasilitsa together with students from the United School “Hristo Botev” in the village of Kaspichan. The meeting was very warm and positive for both the ambassador and the children and charged everyone involved.
The children from the Primary School “N.Y. Vaptsarov” in the village of Selanovtsi, Vratsa District, surprised the Ambassador of Switzerland HE Muriel Bercet Cohen with a wonderful performance, wishing her and the embassy a year of happiness and prosperity. As every year on this day, Ambassador Berce Cohen discussed with the children various topics – the richness of the ethnic diversity of Bulgaria, the delightful Roma traditions and the importance of education for success for both the country and individuals. “You can be proud of the cultural traditions and diversity of Bulgaria, ethnic diversity makes a country strong,” said the Swiss ambassador. She wished the children their dreams come true.
The initiative of the Amalipe Center also included the Ambassador of France HE Florence Robine, who took part in the celebration of Vasilitsa – the Roma New Year – together with students from secondary school “Tsanko Bakalov Tserkovski” in the village of Nikola Kozlevo, district Shumen. The Amalipe Center thanked the Embassy and the French Institute in Bulgaria for the recent donation of tablets to schools and presented the main challenges to education in a pandemic. Ambassador Robin then spoke with students about their careers in diplomacy and encouraged them to continue their education.
HE Andrea Vike – Ambassador of Austria to Bulgaria, received extremely warmly the students from “Hristo Botev” Primary School in the village of Samuilovo, Sliven region. Students divided into several rooms of the school took part, with the youngest presenting traditional names, and the older ones telling what the traditions of the holiday are, why it is celebrated and what it means to them. An extremely interesting discussion followed. The ambassador talks to the children like a close friend. She told them where she came from and how she became a diplomat, what she studied and how important education was. The students kept asking her questions and were impressed by her sincerity and cordiality. She was invited to visit them live at the school and she promised to do so when conditions allowed.
HE Mrs. Bea Ten Tusscher – Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the virtual host of the students from the 1st school “Paisii Hilendarski” in Galabovo. Ambassador Tussher included his entire team in the meeting, who also took an active part in the conversation with the children. The little survakars greeted those present and wished them health and success in the new year.
On the occasion of the celebration of the Roma New Year Vasilitsa, the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic in Sofia HE Manuel Korcek attended an online meeting with students from “Otets Paisiy” Primary School in the village of Borovan. As part of the meeting, the students presented the traditions and customs that accompany the celebration of the Roma New Year in the Bulgarian environment, including songs, dances and culinary delicacies. In the subsequent conversation about the ambassador, he was asked to tell more about Slovakia, but also about what the children have to do to become ambassadors one day.
To celebrate Vasilitsa – the Roma New Year, children from the Primary School “Hristo Botev” in the village of Samuilovo and from the Primary School “St. St. Cyril and Methodius ”in the village of Cherna gora visited virtually the British Embassy and HE Mr. Rob John Dixon. The children were wonderful and wished the ambassador and his team good health in the New Year. Their exceptional performance and lively conversation then made the day of all participants much more enjoyable. And the ease of the ambassador and his wonderful Bulgarian language, which he learned in just a few months, surprised the students.
The President of the State Agency for Child Protection Dr. Eleonora Lilova for the third consecutive year supported the celebration of Vasilitsa (Roma New Year). This day is associated with an old legend that the devil destroyed the bridge on which the Roma walked, but St. Basil rebuilt it so that they could cross the water and begin their new life. That is why Vasilitsa is the day when, through the power of tradition and ritual, the Roma community builds bridges to the coming days with the belief that they will be better! The meeting was attended by students from “Vasil Levski” High School, Yablanitsa and “Hristo Smirnenski” High School, Gulyantsi, who presented traditional for Vasilitsa musical performances and names.
The implemented initiatives are part of the campaign “Let’s rebuild the bridges between us”, which aims to show the richness of Roma culture.
How did Vasilitsa pass in the town of Veliko Tarnovo:
And if you want to find out how educational mediators across the country celebrated the holiday, see here: