NEWS

Brides from over the border in Bulgaria for lonely bachelors

THESSALONIKI – Twinning Greek towns with others around the world, particularly in neighboring countries, has become an increasingly popular custom in recent years among municipal councils keen to promote cultural exchanges and commercial opportunities. The towns of Svilegrad in southeastern Bulgaria and Ormenio in Greece’s neighboring Evros prefecture have had no need of such formalities, however. They have been developing family ties for some time, facilitated by ease of movement since the fall of the communist regime in Bulgaria and the opening of borders. The Bulgarian town has been providing brides for bachelors in the Greek village of Ormenio – only 15 kilometers distant – as well as in the surrounding villages of the Evros’s Trigono district, where the borders of Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey converge, ever since the young men of the area realized they were at risk of staying on the shelf due to a dearth of young local women. «At first the young men went over the border just to have fun and meet girls, but when a few took the big leap, others followed their example through the services of matchmakers,» said one local resident, whose nephew has married a Bulgarian girl. «What else can they do, since there aren’t any women here?» he asked. Trigono Mayor Yiannis Grammenidis even thought of setting up a municipal marriage bureau but met with opposition from some residents. The area includes 15 villages, where the main occupations are farming and livestock breeding – jobs that do not attract local girls, who are abandoning the area in droves for easier jobs in the larger towns and cities. As a result, the young men left behind have been forced to look elsewhere if they want to start a family; as have a considerable number of older men looking for a mate. There are a large number of bachelors in the area; in the municipality of Nea Vitsa alone, according to its mayor, Apostolos Karabaglidis, there are 500 unmarried men. One estimate puts the number of young Bulgarian women who have taken Greek husbands in the last five years at over 150. The first offspring of these marriages have already begun to appear. According to sources, the imported brides have set up their own association. One municipal official, asked why these women would want to leave their home country to marry someone in Greece, not knowing the language, and when there was no shortage of men in their own country, said there was no doubt these women were running away from poverty. However, some of the men have complained that their matches have not turned out as well as they expected. «Many of these women won’t work in the fields, they won’t look after their parents-in-law but prefer to watch television all day and go to cafés,» he added. Bishop Anthimos of Alexandroupolis, known for his sensitivity to social issues, admitted that the lack of women in this isolated border area was a serious problem that had other repercussions. He told Kathimerini that he has made an official proposal to set up a long-term program with the participation of social workers, financial advisers, psychologists and priests, to find a way to create conditions that might stem the outflow of young women from the region. Abduction