Photo by Adele Bates (!)
Last year, during one lockdown or another, I ended up doing much of the writing for my forthcoming book, “Miss, I don’t give a sh*t” Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools up a Bulgarian mountain…
…in between spurting 60, 000 words or so on supporting behaviour in schools, I took breaks and walked in the incredible, wild countryside Bulgaria has to offer…
…and fell upon several abandoned schools.
The schools are a hangover from the Communist time, which ended in Bulgaria only 30ish years ago. Since then, many schools in small villages and towns across the country have been left, due to a reducing population – currently 7 million. Bulgaria is the poorest country in Europe and that, along with the corruption, means that unfortunately it’s not just schools that have been left.
With my western eyes I see so much opportunity in these buildings – for re-building and shaping history, for renovated arts centres or at least a better photographer than me to go over and do a project!
Despite the unavoidable social problems Bulgaria has, it is an astoundingly beautiful country full of generous people, delicious homegrown food and undiscovered gems on every corner.
They also celebrate many extra festivals that we don’t, my favourite being Alphabet Day, which celebrates the Cyrillic alphabet that two Bulgarians invented, one called Cyril. (If you ever meet a Bulgarian, be sure to mention this: often westerners mistakenly think this is the ‘Russian Alphabet’, whereas it was the Bulgarians that created it and the Russians adopted it later – Bulgarians will be love you if you share this knowledge!).
In this school, in a village near широки дол (Shiroki Dol), about 45mins outside of Bulgaria’s capital софия (Sofia), population 1 million, I came across a group of teenagers (they follow me wherever I go!) who told me that it was safe to go in. In what felt like the backdrop for a horror film, I got arty…
Thanks to my translator, Architectural Technologist and partner, Елица Зайкова, Elitsa Zaykova.
The front of the school. Text Translation – “ Паисий Свещеник” Priest Paicii – Primary School (Up to 13 years)
The entrance downstairs. Text translation “There is no warmer shelter than from the one at home and no calmer sky than the one in your own land” – P. K Yavorov ( Bulgarian Poet 1878-1914)
One of the classrooms
The stairwell. Graffiti translation “F*ck off…”
Classroom floor. Book Translation “French Language, Grade 6/7”
The Art classroom?
From the corridor looking into the classroom. Graffiti translation “CSKA Sofia” – Bulgarian Football Team.
Nature prevailing through the school hall.
A sign left outside of the door. Text translation “There is no other man who is as alive as the one who is creating” Romain Rolland (French Dramatist, 1866-1944)
View looking out of the attic
The view of the village