On November 18th – 21st, 2021 the “Left Behind in Bulgaria” project was presented by the team members at the 53rd Annual ASEEES (Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies) Convention. The research contributions done on the topic so far were presented in the panel “At the Intersection of Cultures: Migrants and the Left-Behind Family Members” on November 19th. Our presentations were delivered both in-person from New Orleans, LA, USA, and online from Sofia, Bulgaria. The multifaceted topics of the paper offered the audience preliminary analysis on the fieldwork done among children of migrant parents, spouses and parents of migrants, media representations and stereotypes among the Bulgarian society on foreign-educated young people.

Panel moderator was Accos. Prof. Mila Maeva, PhD – also the project leader. Discussant was Prof. Elena Marushiakova, PhD from Saint Andrews University, Scotland and IEFSEM – BAS, Bulgaria.

In the context of a globalized world, intensified migration and mobility, and the modern processes of enlightened citizenship, the scientific interest is more concentrated towards the migrant experiences in the destination countries than to their families and communities left-behind in the countries of origin. Our panel which deals with the economic, cultural and social changes which are brought under the influence of the migrants in the home societies / communities.

Assist. Prof. Magdalena Slavkova, PhD, presented her topic ‘Paternal migration and the Gypsy/Roma children in school age’. The paper focused on the impact of parents’ migration on the school experiences of Gypsy/Roma children in Bulgaria and their well-being. For many kids whose father and mother are working in European countries such as Spain, Greece, Germany, or the UK, “home” meant the absence of parents and missing supervision relationships between parents and children. These kids usually stayed behind in the care of close relatives: grandparents or older siblings. This paper was based on ethnographic field research among different Gypsy families. Particularly, the text presented the specific case of Romanian-speaking Rudari, whose model of migration had differed, more or less from that of the other Gypsy groups and that of the Bulgarian population.

In their paper „Spouses Left-behind – Gender Migration Impact upon Separated Families“ Julia Popcheva and Assist. Prof. Behrin Shopova unified fieldwork results in order to reveal the impact of labor migration and mobilities upon separated families and local communities with a focus on social and cultural changes. The comparative study took place in Northwestern Bulgaria where mostly women leave the country and Southwestern Bulgaria – with predominant male migration. The analyses from gender, generational and confessional perspective provided understanding of different economic, social and cultural strategies of Bulgarian families and their sustainability in a dynamic life of constant mobility.

Assist. Prof. Mina Hristova, PhD presented her paper titled “The left-behind: Media Representations, Stereotypes, and Images”. Her research focus was establishing the parallel between the social and media constructed image of the “common people” and the “bearers of political change” Bulgarian migrants. Her paper was based on quantitative data gathered in the context of the Left-behind project and a national representative one carried out by Trend research agency. The main thesis established that while the “common people’s” image is pluralistically constructed in the media, those of the “bearers of political change” was highly positive and even capable to bring accelerated change in the social attitudes and in the political environment in the country.

Assist. Prof. Plamena Stoyanova, PhD presented her paper ‘The impact of migration on the seniors left-behind in Bulgaria’. The study analysed the fate of families whose children left Bulgaria after the political changes in 1989. The report focused on the effect of the absence of the now grown-up children on the parents. It addressed the question of how this affects family life, financial stability and the psychological comfort of the adults. Relationships within the family, between immigrants and their parents, as well as the dynamics between children who have left the country and their siblings remaining in Bulgaria, was also a topic in the study.