Several German-language media are paying attention to Bulgaria’s depopulation. We offer you passages from publications of the Swiss “Noe Zurcher Zeitung” and the German radio “Deutschlandfunk”:”In almost no other country is the population melting as fast as in Bulgaria. Whole areas are depopulated in the northwestern part of the country,” said Noye Zurcher Zeitung journalist Volker Pabst in a report from the Belogradchik region.
Pabst explains how one can determine in the fall whether a house in the village of Prolaznitsa is still inhabited or not – by whether rows of red peppers are hung on it. In Prolaznitsa, however, peppers are hardly seen anymore, and more and more obituaries are being written, the author writes, pointing out that only five permanent residents remained in the village. Link and Boris Toshev are two of them. “So far we have the strength, we are doing it,” Boris told a journalist from Noye Zurcher Zeitung. “There are vegetables and grapes growing in the garden, there is game in the forest,” the elderly man added. Although 80 years old, Boris is still hunting.
It gets harder when they both need something out of town. There is no transport connection with Belogradchik, located about 10 km away. Fortunately, one of Link’s and Boris’s daughters lives in town and brings the medicines they need. And in the winter, three times a week, a social worker comes and brings bread. The two retirees admit they feel lonely.
Bulgaria – the leader in several sad charts
A number of other places in the region, as well as in other Eastern European countries, have a similar view. Along with Lithuania, Bulgaria is the fastest-melting country in the world. According to UN estimates, from the current 7.1 million people by 2050 there will be around 5.2 million. This means a decline of over 25%. For Lithuania, the projected decline for the same period is around 22%. Latvia is third in the fast-paced population, and Ukraine in fourth.
In Bulgaria, even today, entire areas are depopulated, and the northwestern part of the country is most affected – at the border with Serbia. It is the poorest region in the poorest EU Member State, says Noye Zurcher Zeitung. The publication also notes that Bulgaria is the only country in which the largest age group (among women) are people of retirement age. And the middle age is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. Moreover, paradoxically, the lowest life expectancy within the EU is 75 years.
Volker Pabst cites a study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Sofia, according to which up to 30 deaths per 1,000 people in rural areas of northwestern Bulgaria per year are indicators that are otherwise found only in developing countries and war zones. The birth rate is about the average for Europe – women have 1.4 children each. And because demographic development is so unfavorable, there is one main reason – emigration, the author points out.
In the village of Prolaznitsa, emigration began even during socialism – then still as internal migration. At the opening of the Belogradchik Telephone Plant in the 1960s, many headed there. “Back then, Belogradchik was the factory and the factory was Belogradchik,” recalls Budyoni Todorov, the last director of the 1999 closed company. He tells how the factory used to have a vocational school, a movie theater, a choir. Cheap sea trips were also offered during the summer. In addition, new units were being built thanks to the plant. After its closure, none were built.
According to Deutsche Welle, quoted by Deutsche Welle, Belogradchik Mayor Boris Nikolov: “For 30 years we have been living in a paradoxical situation – no investors come, because there is no workforce, even for activities that do not require qualification. And because of the lack of investment, people are leaving the region en masse. It’s a devilish cycle. ”
From Prolaznitsa to Sofia Airport
Formerly 10,000 people lived in Belogradchik, today the population of the town is less than 7,000. The number of school-age children has halved. But unemployment has increased – up to 30 percent. The one who has a job rarely earns more than the minimum wage, which amounts to 560 BGN. And that money is for nothing. Unemployment benefits amounting to BGN 40 are still symbolic, poverty in this region is common. The only prospect is this: leaving the area through Sofia Airport abroad.
The grandchildren of Bogdana Todorova, a pensioner from Prolaznitsa, have long lived in the UK. “And to come back one day, they will go to Sofia – nobody wants to come back here,” the elderly woman says. Before retiring, she worked at the Belogradchik Telephone Plant for many years.
Volker Pabst also spoke with Genoveva Petrova from the Alpha Research Sociological Agency. She says: “The Bulgarian government knows the problem. But there is no strategy to deal with it.” According to her, the aim should be to offer perspectives to the people in the country and even to encourage the return of parts of the diaspora, which could be achieved by improving the quality of life. “However, this requires long-term investment. They will only bring political dividends in a few years or a few decades. And it is not our government’s strength,” the pollster said.
“When I was young …”
Link and Boris Toshev would like to stay in Prolaznitsa for the rest of their lives. But they do not believe that their village has a future. “We are the last,” they say. “When I was young, there were six to seven people living in each house. When there was a holiday in the village, people from all over the region came. Imagine – we even had a football club. It was called the Giant Passage! It used to boil life here. “, recalls Lina Tosheva from the village of Prolaznitsa in the poorest region of the EU.