The winner of the eleventh edition of the contest “Bulgarian of the Year – Sveta Zlata Maglenska 2022” is Zhanna Suslina from Bolgrad, Ukraine. At a solemn ceremony in Sofia, Vice President Iliana Yotova presented the award – an author’s statuette of sculpture Atanas Karadichev and icon of the world Zlata Maglenska, to Natalia Lulcheva from the Center of Bessarabian Bulgarians in Bulgaria, who accepted the award on behalf of Zhanna Suslina.
“Today we present the award to an amazing woman, I will allow myself to speak about her by name, because I had the pleasure of working with her in direct contact, she, as well as Mrs. Mandjukova, as well as Prof. Kocheva, were part of my public council in our first mandate with President Radev. This is an amazing person, sometimes when I look at what she does, I say to myself – this is this wonderful infectious example of a woman with a lot of courage, with a lot of ambition, I don’t know how she got 24 hours a day, she was everywhere.” the vice president pointed out in his welcome.
Iliyana Yotova added that she will never forget their visit to the Bessarabian part of Ukraine, to the villages where mainly Bulgarians live, even more than 90% are people of Bulgarian origin. “In Odessa, in Bolgrad, we were making big plans, we wanted to open a big Bulgarian school in Odessa from first to 12th grade, we had almost reached the final stage, unfortunately a terrible, brutal, ugly war prevented these projects from being realized. And today, as you can see, Jeanne is at her combat post. I want to thank her in front of all of you, that no matter how hard it is, because war is above all a human tragedy, everyone is afraid for their family, everyone has a chance to even close in on themselves, but no, she preferred another – to help people”, pointed out Yotova.
The vice president added that Zhanna Suslina has chosen to unite the Bulgarian community there today as she did before the war. “To help young people, to guide them to come and study in Bulgaria… He deserves our applause for something else too – this is a man who probably knows more folk songs than many Bulgarians do. He knows legends, he knows fairy tales, he knows history. And when she took care of the young people who came from Bessarabia, she was more than a mother to them… That’s why she also created the Center for Bessarabian Bulgarians here…” added the vice president.
In her speech, Iliana Yotova also thanked the executive director of the Executive Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Raina Mandjukova, whose idea was to establish the “Bulgarian of the Year – Sveta Zlata Muglenska” award.
“She knows very well that for years we have been saying the same things every time, unfortunately we don’t succeed, maybe we don’t have enough strength, we don’t get enough understanding from the other institutions of how important policies are for our communities abroad,” the vice president added. Yotova also pointed out that “we cannot divide Bulgarians into those who live in the territory of the country and those who have chosen to live in the world”.
For her part, Raina Mandjukova pointed out the following: “I cannot hide my disappointment at the empty hall, because this award is one of the most beautiful things that the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad does. And not because it was founded in my time, but because it is truly the Bulgarian woman who over the centuries has protected the Bulgarian race, Bulgarian traditions, and Bulgarian values. The Bulgarian woman is the one thanks to whom the name “Bulgarian” has not been erased for many centuries. And it is a great honor for us to honor one, and sometimes two, every year, when the jury cannot decide which Bulgarian woman will be honored, because for them it is a recognition that Bulgaria appreciates what they do abroad … Sometimes they do so at the cost of much personal sacrifice and deprivation. I thank Mrs. Vice President for once again being our patron, because we share this meaning, the belief in this meaning of this award. I thank all my colleagues for all these years, regardless of the things that have happened in the agency, they have been able to maintain and present this award every year, except for sick years. And I hope that many more worthy compatriots of ours will receive this award in the future. Because they are many and because there is a reason. And because the Bulgarian woman is the one who strengthens the Bulgarianness both in Bulgaria and abroad.
This year’s nominees for the award were: Anna-Maria Guzeleva, Rome, Italy; Veneta Nenkova, Rome, Italy; Daniela Savova, Calgary, Canada; Ekaterina Gerzhik, Odessa, Ukraine; Zhanna Suslina, Bolgrad, Ukraine; Larisa Savchenko, city of Berdyansk, Ukraine; Maria Cakarak, Edirne, Turkey; Svetlana Kams, Munich, Germany; Sirma Kutsaki, USA; Sonia Arabadzhieva, Melbourne, Australia; Stella Ivanova, London, Great Britain; Cenka Genova, Comodoro Rivadavia Argentina.
During the event, a video about the winner was presented. It stated that Zhanna Suslina was born in the Bulgarian Bessarabian village of Vaisal in Ukraine in the family of two Bulgarians – Maria and Nikolay Ivanovi. He graduated from the Odessa State Pedagogical Institute and returned to his native school as an art teacher. He became the deputy director of educational work. For the first time, a Bulgarian corner with household items is being created in the school. In 2004, he became the director of the Bolgrad High School. “You are for us as sisters and brothers, I hope we will be for you too,” Suslina says in an interview featured in the video. In 2013, she created a private kindergarten in Sofia, initiated the creation of the center of the Bessarabian Bulgarians in Bulgaria, and is currently the director of the department for culture, sports, tourism and work with youth in the Bolgrad City Council.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Bulgaria Olesya Ilashchuk also gave a greeting from the stage, as well as Prof. Anna Kocheva, chairman of the jury that chose the winner.
The award ceremony ended with a performance of a folk song by Bilyana Miteva and Dimitar Trufkin.