The Greek community of Burgas

Milka Treneva, an ethnic Greek of Burgas, remembers reciting a poem at her Greek school before an audience of Greeks who sought refuge in Bulgaria after losing the civil war at home. Some of them were the first Greek communists who fled to Bulgaria to escape incarceration or execution. She remembers how their eyes filled with tears at finding a child who could speak Greek. Until then, she had been taught to conceal her Greek origins, yet now she was being asked to sing in Greek for these newcomers. In 1906, Greeks were being persecuted (as Varnalis said, «so Bulgaria could exploit its peasants itself instead of letting Greek merchants do it»). Yet Bulgarians welcomed this new influx of Greeks, most of whom made their first stop in Burgas before going on to other towns. Today, Treneva belongs to the Greek association of Burgas, of which several members are refugees who never returned to Greece. The rest have always lived in Burgas, although it is rare to find a family consisting exclusively of Greeks, who in any case do not want to be singled out as such. Bulgaria is not a «second» homeland for them. «Until the regime change,» said Milka’s daughter Victoria, «we couldn’t imagine having an association like this one… Now life in Bulgaria has become so hard that we are having difficulty keeping it going.» Yet the association does indeed appear to be going strong. Every Sunday it holds Greek language lessons and every year organizes events with groups from Greece. Victoria is one of the few Black Sea Greeks who has studied in Greece. She has mixed feelings about her country, as do many other young people. No one wants to return to the past, but they seem disappointed with the present. «People of my age feel betrayed by the state,» she said, explaining that they had been accustomed to a different education system and culture. Now they are getting used to unemployment.

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