Bulgarians in Thessaloniki

Bulgarians in Thessaloniki

Labour mobility

Greece in one of the countries in which since 1989 Bulgarians have (e)migrated on a mass scale. The Bulgarian community in Thessaloniki is also considerable despite of the fact that it is really difficult to be identified how many Bulgarians nowadays live and work there. They began to settle down in the city immediately after the political changes and the liberalization of the process in terms of issuing of international passports for Bulgarian citizens. Initially Bulgarians made their living in the agriculture sector, in the tourism industry or work as maid-servants in Greek families predominantly in the so-called ‘grey economy’.

It is typical of the Bulgarian migration in Thessaloniki, and as a whole in Greece, that in the preliminary stage of building of the community, it was heavily feminized. The male migration intensified in the period in which the visa regime for Bulgarian citizens was removed in 2001 and Bulgaria became a member of the European Union in 2007. As a result of these migrant waves, in Thessaloniki today there is a second generation of Bulgarian migrants who settled down in the city in their childhood or formative years and later had their own families there.

Greece is one of the first countries within the frames of the European Union that lifted restrictions on access to its labour market. Thanks to this decision, thousands of Bulgarians who illegally had sojourned and worked in the state by that time achieved their formal status. The acute economic and financial crises that hit Greece hard since 2008 reflected unfavorably on the Bulgarian migrant community in Thessaloniki too. The increasing of the unemployment and the reduction of the incomes pushed many Bulgarians settled earlier in the city on seeking a better life for them in other European countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and etc.

Sunday school

The Bulgarian school Saint George Zograph, visited by students on Sundays, functions almost ten years as an important centre that brings together Bulgarians in Thessaloniki. It opened its doors on 15th September 2008 thanks to the financial and moral support by the Bulgarian monastery Saint George Zograph (in Mount Athos) that gave a building in which classes to be held. A group of Bulgarians and their close Greek friends, provoked by their own necessities, worked enthusiastically on the idea for creating of a Bulgarian school. The majority of the activists who participated in this project are married to Greek partners and they wish their children to know and have excellent command not only of Greek as native language but of Bulgarian one too. The school is managed by a five-member council and its chair is His Eminence Archimandrite Ambrosi, abbot of the Mount Athos’ monastery Saint George Zograph. In 2008 when were laid the beginnings of the initiative, only 11 children were enrolled at school. In duration of a year their number was tripled and in the academic year 2010/2011 there were more then 50 students trained and this trend of increasing continues constant.

Since 2009 the Bulgarian school in Thessaloniki regularly has applied under the programme Native language and culture beyond the borders launched by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria and thanks to these grants the school raises funds for textbooks and teachers’ salaries. Within the institution was established library that possesses more then 500 items and even a collection of Bulgarian feature films. The curriculum includes classes in Bulgarian language and literature, history and Orthodox religion. Lectures in religion and these ones connected with the rituals in the time of the greatest Christian holidays, Bulgarian history and traditions periodically are delivered for parents. In the frames of the school are created amateur folklore formations that participate in different festivals in Thessaloniki devoted to folk legacy.