Saturday February 28, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
11o C
6o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Bulgarian border village asks to move to Greece

By Stavros Tzimas

The car grudgingly makes its way along the narrow, winding road through the Pirin valley, an alpine landscape on the Bulgarian side of the Rhodope mountain range, the southern part of which is in Greek territory.

Here lies the source of the Nestos River (Mesta in Bulgarian) and further south, the Greek cities of Xanthi and Drama. For a stranger, navigating the route heading east from Goce Delcev to Dospat is not just tiring but also dangerous.

Notwithstanding tips from the helpful locals, the hardest part is finding your way to one of the dozens of villages that sit like eagle nests on the slopes of Rhodopa, as the mountain range is known across the border. Frustrated with their allegedly unfair treatment by local authorities, residents here unanimously decided on August 4 to demand from their government that their land and property come under Greek administrative control.

Rebellious Tsrancha is a typical Pomak village. Its 680 inhabitants are poor Muslim tobacco farmers with strong ties to Greece. The first reason is simply that the Greek border lies a mere kilometer away, and the second, as Tsrancha’s mayor, Ilin Dolapchiev, put it, “Greece is the only solution for many young people who seek employment there as seasonal workers.”

Like Bulgaria’s other Pomak villages, Tsrancha is mired in poverty and isolation. Young people, at least those who are not employed in Bulgaria’s flagging tobacco industry, head to Greece as well as Britain or the Netherlands to seek work in agriculture – normally only on day wages. Many older people nostalgically reminisce about the time of Todor Zhivkov, the communist leader that ruled the Balkan country until 1989, when they had “factories, jobs, pensions and doctors.”

Now many people here hope that their lives might change for the better. Already, news of their decision to ask for a new administrative home has spread and made international headlines. “I even received a call from Reuters,” Dolapchiev said.

“When our land, which had been nationalized by the communist regime, was distributed, we presented title deeds handed down by our grandfathers,” he said.

The state registered the land initially but a multitude of mistakes prompted authorities to commission a private company to create a cadastre, sending the bill for the job to locals afterward, according to Dolapchiev.

“However, the price was outrageous and we suggested that state officials do the job instead. Well, years have passed and politicians are making a mockery of us all. For this reason, we decided to take a step beyond protest and do something that would get a reaction,” the Tsrancha mayor said.

So, the locals gathered in the village square, joined by the residents of nearby community of Brashten, who face the same problems. During the gathering one of the attendees suggested moving the village over the border to Greece, where, as their collective decision said, “they will give us greater attention.”

When the memo reached the Bulgarian president, Greek Ambassador Tassos Stamatopoulos and the media, the struggling Pomaks of Tsrancha felt they had made the right choice. “We have no illusions that our demand to shift borders can be met, but this was a way to claim our rights,” Dolapchiev said. Commenting on Greek concerns that the debt-wracked nation “will end up like Bulgaria,” he said: “If your politicians are so useless, then you will become like us. Greeks are much better off than us.”

Meanwhile, our conversation in the village square began to draw a crowd. Some residents were queuing up to receive their miserly unemployment check while others started turning up to “check out those journalists from Greece.”

I asked a woman, Finjtanka Bayrakerova, how she viewed the situation in Greece. “It breaks our heart. Your country enabled us to make a living for 20 years. How can we be apathetic to the suffering of our neighbors?” Another elderly woman, Fika, put a pear “for the road” in my pocket.

ekathimerini.com , Friday November 30, 2012 (22:08)  
Art collector Ion Vorres dies at the age of 91
A museum in northern Athens is preserving the memories of Asia Minor Greeks
US citizens in Greece and US taxes: A word to the wise, and a seminar
University stresses benefits of donkey, goat breeding
TDF17
Greek selections at the 17th Thessaloniki doc fest
Fifteen years since his landmark film “Agelastos Petra” (The Mourning Rock), an emotional 10-year exploration of the impact of industrial activity on the people, environment and antiquities ...
TDF17
Thessaloniki doc fest returns with tribute to Austrian, Romanian filmmakers
Hubert Sauper and Alexandru Solomon are but a couple of the filmmakers heading to this year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (TDF), according to organizers as they unveiled the lineup of ...
Inside Life
Inside Travel
Inside Gastronomy
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Spanoulis leads Olympiakos to win over Malaga
2. Piraeus plans are coming in next few weeks
3. Slowdown in tourism bookings from Germany
4. Economy grew by 1.3 pct in Q4 of last year
5. Gov’t plans tax on foreign-based funds
6. BoG recommends specialized entity for bad loans
more news
Today
This Week
1. Tsipras reversal draws Greek sympathy as party rumblings rise
2. Gov't official: bill reinstating ERT, rehiring staff to go to Parlt on March 5
3. German lawmakers approve extension of bailout program for Greece
4. German MPs begin debate on extending Greek bailout program
5. Restive Bundestag to approve Greek bailout extension
6. Gov't adviser suggests Greek MPs could vote on deal in separate bills
Today
This Week
1. Time for Alexis Tsipras to keep his nerve
2. Greek bailout deal faces review by euro officials next week
3. Greece says eurozone deal won time as cash bled from banks
4. The ignorance of the West about the culture of Islam
5. Spain said to lead push to hold Greece to terms as Podemos grows
6. A fierce battle looms
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.