My friend Rosen (you may remember him from the book, one of the first people we met, a friendly guide and mentor) recently shared an article that got my interest. It was a story widely covered in the Bulgarian press, touching on how the Bulgarian people are regarded in the UK (and, by extension, in the rest of the EU).
The article was an open letter written by a young Bulgarian woman who had attended the University of Edinburgh, graduating with honors in Mathematics and Business Studies from the School of Mathematics. A politician had unleashed a stinging diatribe against Bulgaria, as part of an anti-immigrant speech. Her response is here.
Her passion and spirit rang true with me. I had the privilege of knowing high school students who had the same energy and motivation to make a better Bulgaria. Iliya was one. He was one of my wife’s students, and although I knew many in the classes I taught, he comes to mind at this moment.
Iliya was driven to pursue an education in the US, and graduated from a Bible college through connections and sponsorship of families and churches on both sides of the Atlantic. He held from the outset that his goal was to come back to Bulgaria and help “his people.” That has been his guiding principle all along. After gaining experience on his first assignment as an evangelical missionary in Britain, he decided to continue his education and get a business degree. Then, with that done, he went back to Bulgaria. He’s doing it. He’s working, contributing. He’s using his education to help his people.
In many places around the world, “brain drain” is a concern. Bulgaria has that concern, with many bright young people leaving for University and never coming back. But those who come back, as well as those who study in-country and stay for a thriving career contributing to the betterment of the country, are pure gold.
Being a part of that, and other stories like it – even just a little bit – is why we loved working in the Peace Corps.
And oh yeah, it’s in the book.