Starting a New Life in Bulgaria
A story about female migrants, looking to unleash their potential
Kimiya was 27 when she and her mother left Iran and arrived in Bulgaria. Both mother and daughter are of Christian faith and had left their homeland in search of protection.
Refugees and migrants, especially women, present an untapped, unused ocean of human talent and potential. By increasing their access to flexible and inclusive learning opportunities, we can utilize this potential and transform communities,
says Sanja Saranovich, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Bulgaria.
Upon arriving in Bulgaria almost three years ago, on the recommendation of a former beneficiary, Kimiya and her mother were referred to Caritas Sofia. They participated enthusiastically in the many activities and events designed to help them build their new life in Bulgaria.
“She worked really hard, spent 12–13 hours a day working. The whole time she was highly motivated, very purposeful, never lost focus during the uneasy procedure of obtaining protection in Bulgaria,” says her Bulgarian language tutor Vladislav Damyanov.
And she made it – Kimiya scored a perfect attendance record. She prepared thoroughly for her classes and was persistent with her homework. In less than a year, she took all three levels of language training that Caritas Sofia offered free of charge, and in early 2020 passed an exam for independent user of the Bulgarian language.
Kimiya began an intensive course to learn Bulgarian at Caritas Sofia, while at the same time working 12-hour shifts as a nail technician. She worked hard to support herself and her mother. She often had to change her work schedule so that she could attend her courses regularly.
Kimiya joined the organization’s mentorship program, which pairs local volunteers with refugees and migrants, and continued to discover her new country and its culture. She took part in various events organized by Caritas Sofia such as a visit to the Iranian Film Week, the circus, art exhibitions, meetings.
“People are different and some do not like foreigners. Bulgarian people are kind and decent. They talk to me and treat me, as if I were a local. I don’t see any difference in their attitude because I am a foreigner,” says Kimiya.
Kimiya’s next big goal is to prepare well and apply for Bulgarian citizenship, which will enable her to visit her homeland again, but already as Bulgarian national
From September of 2020 till March of 2021, Kimiya took an internship with Caritas Sofia. Her bachelor’s degree in graphic design from her home country enabled her to design presentations and information materials. Like clockwork, she came to the St. Anna Center for the Integration of Refugees twice a week, while also performing various assignments remotely. She worked as a copywriter, generating and translating texts in both Persian and Bulgarian. Jointly with her colleagues, she was working on a Bulgarian-Persian dictionary for intermediate level/independent user, a tool, extremely useful for the organization and its trainees.
Kimiya was eager to undertake a position with the St. Anna Centre where she feels comfortable and knows and trusts her co-workers while improving her Bulgarian.
In June 2021, Kimiya happily accepted a job with Caritas Sofia as a Persian-speaking social services associate for a UNICEF supported project, “Improving the health status of child refugees and migrants in Southern and South-Eastern Europe”, funded by the European Commission. As part of the Caritas Sofia team, Kimiya uses her command of Persian to work with women like herself and with mothers and children to help them improve their health by becoming more knowledgeable about essential life-saving health services and information.
This article is part of the Project Strengthening Refugee and Migrant Children’s Health Status in Southern and South Eastern Europe, co-funded by the Health Programme of the European Union (the ‘RM Child-Health’ initiative). Its contents represent the views of the authors only and are their sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the European Health and Digital Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.