The Left-Behind in Bulgaria

Field Work and Presentation of Scientific Results

Assist. Prof. Yelis Erolova, PhD, conducted field research in the cities of Varna and Balchik in the period from 5 to 11 October 2021. She met with elderly members of Roma families whose children live and work in Germany and the United Kingdom. In Balchik, Yelis Erolova was able to deepen her observations on the Roma immigrants in Poland and the effects of their remittances, which were recorded 10 years ago and discussed in various scientific publications.

Balchik, Roma area in the Neighborhood

The researcher presented the results of her fieldwork in Varna, Balchik and the village of Vardun, Targovishte region at the international online conference “Social Inequalities and Quality of Life”, organized by the Research Institute for Quality of Life at the Romanian Academy and the Romanian Sociological Association from 15 to 19 November 2021. In her paper titled, „Effects of Emigration on Roma Families Left-Behind in North-Eastern Bulgaria“,  she compares different examples of lifestyle changes and tourism opportunities of retired and employed members of separated Roma families under the influence of their emigrant relatives abroad.


Left-behind in Bulgaria and crisis management

On 4.11.2021 at International Conference ‘Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Managerial Innovation: Creativity and innovation in times of crisis’ Dakhla, Morocco, Accos. Prof. Mila Maeva presented the  paper: Left-behind in Bulgaria and crisis management

Paper abstract:

The biggest part of migration researches are focused primarily on the departure, travel, integration and adaptation in the host country. The present paper has another goal, which is aimed at the left-behind families and relatives of the emigrants. It seeks to describe and analyze their coping mechanism with the crisis provoked by migration of family members (especially children) and family separation. Special attention is paid to the situation of the elderly (emigrants` parents) as a vulnerable group and their daily lives. The emergence of new innovation practices such as mutual aid and digital communication as approaches of crisis overcoming will be traced. The focus is put on the changes occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which deepened the family separation due to the lockdowns and border closure. The study is based on ethnographic field materials collected in the period 2020-2021 in different parts of Bulgaria. They present and another new point of view towards elderly parents – as main (especially financial) supporters of their children living abroad in crisis times.

Fieldwork in Southwestern Bulgaria

During the period 27.09 – 02.10. 2021 Assist. Prof. Behrin Shopova conducted a field research in the region of Southwestern Bulgaria. She did interviews and had informal conversations with inhabitants of Breznitsa and Kornitza villages at Gotse Delchev municipality and Ribnovo and Debren villages at Garmen municipality. The topics were related to the specifics of labor mobility among Bulgarian Muslims, focusing on migration behavior in demographic and socio-economic context. The migration impact on the culture, lifestyle and social status of the left-behind relatives, as well as the changes in family roles and attitude towards education among adolescents were also discussed.


Field Research Observations in Burgas

In the course of a field study conducted by Assist. Prof. Plamena Stoyanova in Burgas between 12-15 September 2021, many respondents turned out to be relatives of immigrants. Therefore, the range of questions to them is expanded in order to cover information about the fate of the Remainers in the city of Burgas. In the case of most of the interviewed respondents in the city of Burgas, it is a question of departed female relatives who return to the country relatively rarely. However, their relatives left-behind travel frequently. A strong tendency was observed among relatively young grandmothers who, although of active age and still working, help raise their grandchildren abroad.

Paper “Badante in Italy – Wives and Mothers in Bulgaria”

At the XIV-th Congress of anthropologists and ethnologists in Russia that took place virtually, hosted from the city of Tomsk, Russia on 6-9 July 2021, Julia Popcheva presented her research  „Баданте в Италии – жены и матери в Болгарии: влияние женской миграции на остальных членов их семей оставшихся на родине“ (Badante in Italy – Wives and Mothers in Bulgaria: female migration impact upon left-behind relatives). Women who work as badante send money to their relatives in Bulgaria, but their absence from home counts in years and even decades, coming back for few weeks during summer holidays. The paper discusses changes in communication between emigrants and their husbands, children and grandchildren left-behind. Financial, cultural and social relations between separate families’ member are also studied. Ethnographic fieldwork has taken place during the period 2020 – 2021, including interviews with badante women and their relatives from Northern and Northwestern Bulgaria – some of the poorest and depopulated regions in the country.

Scientific Results Presentation of a Fieldwork in Vardun Village

Between the 6 and 9 July 2021 Assist. Prof. Yelis Erolova, PhD, participated in the International academic online forum “XIV CONGRESS OF ANTHROPOLOGISTS AND ETHNOLOGISTS OF RUSSIA”, organized by the Association of Anthropologists and Ethnologists of Russia, National Research Tomsk State University, N.N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Sciences. In her presentation in English on “A Modern Tale about Vardun’s Gypsies”, the researcher draws attention to the active interactions and mutual assistance between the emigrants and their relatives left-behind in the village, who, even separated, manage to maintain emotional closeness and family cohesion, to improve their material well-being and social security, to strengthen their self-awareness of belonging to the local community, and to empathize with its development.


Field Research in Sofia

In the focus of the field research carried out by Assist. Prof. Plamena Stoyanova in the city of Sofia in the period 12-20 May 2021 were interviewed respondents whose siblings live abroad. Among the interviewees, an interesting trend emerged – most of those remaining in Bulgaria, in fact, had their own period in their lives in which they resided outside the country – as students or as workers. By that time they had seriously considered the possibility of emigration. Eventually they made the decision to return with the firm intention of living in Bulgaria.

Water Shortage as a Problem for Immigrants and Families Left-behind

During the period 14 – 17 April 2021, Assist. Prof. Behrin Shopova conducted a field work in the town of Omurtag and its region. The study was focused upon the impact of water shortages on the quality of life, migration processes and culture of the local population, diverse in ethnic and religious origin. A research in archives and regulations study followed the long-term history of this disaster overcoming attempts. Meetings with municipality representatives and with several families left in the region, but with their children living abroad,  were also held.

Preliminary results of the study were presented at the International Hybrid Conference “ETHNOGRAPHY OF DISASTERS”, which took place on 11-12 May 2021, with a paper on “Water Shortage as a Disaster (following the examples of Omurtag and region)”. The impact of water shortages on human mobility and severe depopulation was discussed. Social and cultural models for dealing with the disaster were presented, both among the permanent inhabitants and the temporarily returned migrants.

Photo credit: cover – Dariknews.bg
in-text photo – 24 chasa newspaper

‘Consequences of emigration on Roma families in Asparukhovo neighborhood, Varna’ Paper

Assist. Prof. Dr. Magdalena Slavkova participated in a national round table ‘On the power of knowledge and love for science’, which was held online on February 10 th, 2021. She presented a paper entitled ‘Consequences of emigration on Roma families in Asparukhovo neighborhood, Varna’. The participants in the round table were 19. The forum was organized by the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore with Ethnographic Museum – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and was dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elya Tsaneva. The presentation focuses on the effects of emigration on the Roma families in Varna, their employment status and living standards, family roles and relations, and the consequences of emigration on children’s education, whose parents work and live abroad. Special attention was paid to the effects of the June 2014 water disaster on people’s quality of life. The victims of the flood are trying to compensate the losses and to improve their financial situation through emigration, which, in the end, changes the whole vision of the Roma neighborhood.

Project Presentation at the ‘European Scientists’ Night’

The project ‘Cultural and social consequences of emigration on Bulgarian society (1990-2019) (LEFT BEHIND)’ was presented at the ‘European Scientists’ Night” – FRESHER event at IEFSEM – BAS.


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