Hope for a Cherry Blossom

Collection with 30 media items created by Transterra Editor

28 Feb 2013 16:00

Hope for a Cherry Blossom is a documentary photo-project, focused on a Roma woman, Vishna (Cherry in Bulgarian), a resident of Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The project was continued throughout spring 2013. The project illustrated her daily life, work, house chores, family dynamics and everyday life in Roma community. The goal of the project was to explore life of the Roma through the story of Vishna, a mother of twelve children, who recently lost her husband to alcoholism. The question I raised was the difficulties of being a minority member and a single mother. The project aimed to bring understanding of problems an unprivileged minority group faces in Bulgaria.

I met Vishna, 42, in the church. It was a life changing encounter. What I remember from that day are her smile and hospitality (she invited me to her house), and I think these are one of her strongest character features.

Her home is a one-room shack on top of the mountain, home to the Roma community in Blagoevgrad. Just like most of the houses at the Roma district, Tsyganski makhala, as local people call it, there are no running water, no refrigerator and no place to cook at Vishna’s home, except the wood burning stove that keeps the family warm in winter. This doubles as Vishna’s cooking stove. To make it work, she collects or buys wood. The roof is damaged, it leaks when it rains.
It was raining on the day we met, so Vishna put some plates on the bed to prevent it from getting soaked. But she is used to this way of living. Vishna is not a Blagoevgrad native; she comes from Sandanski, where the Roma lifestyle differs from the one in Blagoevgrad. If in Blagoevgrad it is a rare case when Roma goes to school, in Sandanski the majority studies, only a few beg on the streets.

The same applies to Vishna’s nieces and nephews.

Vishna herself though never went to school, but her brothers did, for a while. Together with her siblings, she worked on a tobacco farm when she was a child.

Her three brothers served in the Bulgarian army and married at age 21, except her younger brother who married at 18. Vishna, however, married when she was only 13. She was kidnapped and brought to Blagoevgrad by her husband, Emil. Her parents were against, but she was already pregnant.

Today Vishna has twelve children and ten grandchildren. The oldest kid is Yuli, 27, he is married. Many years ago he moved to Gotse Delchev, where he works as a DJ. The youngest is Vasko, 3. In the beginning of 2013, Vishna learned that Vasko had leukemia. Vasko lived at the orphanage under medical control, but in May 2013 he got back home. Doctors explained to Vishna that Vasko got better and there is no need for him to keep the treatment. Her other son, Mitko, 5, is deaf. Two years ago, he had a surgery, but still he cannot hear well and therefore does not speak at all. Four other kids go to the boarding school where they stay on the weekdays. Some of the older children completed the elementary school. Now they are married and live in Blagoevgrad.

Since marrying, Vishna works as a street sweeper. Her monthly salary is around 300 BGN (200 USD). Unlike Vishna, her husband worked only one year in his life as security at a restaurant. Vishna never understood Blagoevgrad Roma, their segregated life and poor living conditions. She wanted to go back to Sandanski, but her husband kept pulling her back to Blagoevgrad.

Last several months were difficult for Vishna. She lost her husband to alcohol addiction. Soon she will get the probation from the court for her husband’s business (he used to send their kids to beg). Now Vishna’s children go to the boarding school. Her daughter Asya, 14, gave a birth to a child with mental problems. Even though Asya is married, Vishna is responsible for both of them.

Today, Vishna does not think of going back to Sandanski. She looks for opportunities in Blagoevgrad. She hopes of a better life for herself and her children. Even though Vishna struggles, she does not show her emotions and tries her best to support her family. Vishna dreams of a new house with all the necessities, getting her kids educated and having enough money to support them.

Written and photographed by Mayya Kelova

Collection Photo Collec... Roma Female Asia Central Asia Turkmenistan Youth Media Blagoevgrad Bulgaria

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 1
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
01 Mar 2013

Mitko, 5, and Kircho, 8, on the roof of their house, March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 2
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Lack of running water at the district forces people to share the only source of water on top of the mountain. March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 4
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Sneja, 5, Vishna's grandchild, and Sonya, 9, daughter, look at the pictures early in the morning, March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 5
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Vishna and her children (from left to right) Iliya, 14, Kircho, 8, and Sonya, 9, have their breakfast on Sunday morning. February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 6
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Vishna and her two sons, Kircho and Mitko, wait for Sasho, son-in-law to go to the cemetery on BUlgarian All Souls Day, March 9, 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 7
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Vishna changes Kircho's clothing, prepares to go the public bath house that she visits twice a week. February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 8
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Dinner at the end of the day. Vishna calls Mitko, who is deaf, to eat. January 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 9
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Bathing Mitko before going to sleep, April 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 10
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
31 Dec 2012

It is important for Vishna to have a tidy home. She starts the day with cleaning the house, she ends the day cleaning the house. April 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 11
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Vishna's usual day starts at 6 a.m. At seven she comes to work, at 8:30 she is on her morning break at cafeteria. She visits that place since she has been transferred to another part of Blagoevgrad "Desyatka" for work, March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 12
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Vishna works as a street sweeper for 28 years, ever since she got married

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 13
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Laundry day. Due to the smell and smoke from the wood stove, Vishna has to hang her clothes on top of the mountain. April 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 14
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Farewell with Elka, a social worker from the boarding school, before leaving for the weekend, March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 15
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Vishna and her little children in front of the public bath house, February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 16
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Sasho, Vishna's son-in-law, and Asya's husband, Marchl 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 17
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Vishna and her daughter, Asya, 14, expecting a child on the picture. Her child was born with mental problems. Despite the fact that Asya is married, it was not documented officially, she is underaged and Vishna is the one who is reposnsible for Asya and her newborn. Vishna plans to take them to Sofia for medical examination, March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 18
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

After a neighbouring child burnt Vishna's family album, the pictures on the mirror are the only that has been left, January 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 19
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Asen, Vishna's older brother in front of the house in Sandanski that Dimitar, Vishna's younger brother built. Dimitar lives there together with his family and his mother. March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 20
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Visit to relatives in Sandanski. Sashka, Dimitar's wife, and Vishna. Dimitar worked for several years on construction field and later built his own house. March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 21
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Vishna, her children and neighbours look at the pictres from Sandanski trip, April 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 22
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

On the way to the public bath house, Sonya and Vishna, February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 23
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Vishna and Mitko, on the visit to her husband's grave who passed away on December 2012. Vishna lost her husband to alchohol addction. March 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 24
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Sonya, 9, on one of her weekends at home. Beacuse Vishna takes care of her chidlren alone now and she works everyday, her younger children stay at the boarding school, St. Nicolas of Myra, during the week, February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 25
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Sonya, daughter, and Hristo, grandson, count left money that Sonya got at the boarding school for the weekend. February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 26
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Vishna and Mitko play together, weekday night, April 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 27
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
28 Feb 2013

Vishna with her younger children, an older son Martin, his family and their heighbour, a teenaged girl on the right (she refused to name her), April 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 28
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Mitko and his nephew Emil, who is forced to beg on the streets. Janury 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 29
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Mitko, on the far left, son, David and Vishna, her grandchildren from sons Kamen and Martin, playing in the yard with neighbouring kids at the Roma district, February 2013

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Hope For a Cherry Blossom 30
Bulgaria
By Maia DK
27 Feb 2013

Kircho at the yard next to his house. Four month ago he begged on the streets, now he adapts to the new life at the boarding school. April 2013