Bulgaria: A Village’s Struggle to Reach the 21st Century

The Bulgarian village of Prisad is located close to Lake Mandra, and only a few kilometers from Black Sea resorts like Chernomorets and Sozopol. The port city of Burgas is close as well.

It is a typical, old, quiet and relatively empty village. There are some 70 inhabitants. If the Black Sea wasn’t so close, or if no expatriates had moved here, the place would be even emptier.

Recently, the residents of Prisad have become frustrated. They are actually angry because they do not seem to be represented by someone who really cares about their wellbeing, but rather by a mayor who is either unwilling or unable to resolve grave issues.

More and more meetings are being held in Prisad these days, since there is a serious water problem. Also the streets urgently need to be fixed. In short: The people of Prisad are sick of living in the 18th century. Instead, they insist on being part of the 21st one, at least to some extent.

“For years people have been tired of being deceived and forgotten, but now that young people have settled here, the village has begun to wake up”, a resident told the local publication Burgas Info. It is the broken infrastructure the residents are angry about, and the attitude of the mayor.

Penny Thomas-Smith, with her neighbor’s dog in Prisad. Photo: Penny Thomas-Smith

A while ago, the one pump which made sure there was enough water for everyone, for the animals and gardens, gave up. Has it been replaced? No. For that reason, there is even a drinking water shortage now, because people are forced to use the latter for the gardens.

Especially older inhabitants are complaining about public transport. The village of Prisad is part of Sozopol county, but there is not even a bus to the town center. The only bus connection available connects Prisad to Burgas.

That is one of several reasons why the residents want to leave Sozopol county and become part of Burgas instead. People who do not have cars need to be able to go to markets or run errands. “Sozopol has neglected us for years”, they say.

On top of all of the above, there are no street signs. Recently, an ambulance did not find the home of a sick person, for that reason. During rains, the bad streets are even less passable than they usually are, since nobody repairs them either.

One of the residents of Prisad is Penny Thomas-Smith from the United Kingdom. She bought a house in the village some three years ago, and has been living here since. By now, her contacts to the Bulgarian residents are good. Penny fully agrees with the demands of the other inhabitants.

“The villagers of Prisad are in revolt. We are one of the smallest villages in the area, less than 70 people live here”, she says. “This year we saw the mayoral building in the square receive a new roof, the cost was in excess of 100,000 leva. New pavements have been laid and new slabs in the square and pensioner’s club, none of which needed replacing.”

By now, Penny Thomas-Smith is just as angry as those who have lived in the village for decades. “Meanwhile the village has no asphalt on most of the streets, my street has no drainage or surface and is a river when it rains. Access is impossible in bad weather. We were all overjoyed to see the tarmac machines arrive in May, anticipating repairs. But no, only two streets were renewed, one of those in front of the mayor’s house.”

An even worse problem is connected to the water supply in Prisad. “We discovered that the village water pump, which pumps garden water from Lake Mandra had mysteriously disappeared. The mayor denied any knowledge”, the British expatriate says.

“So, this summer everyone used tap water for their gardens. Now many people have no tap water. We are not on mains supply, so water is scarce. A project to join us to mains water from Yasna Polyana was accepted 10 years ago, but it never happened. The situation has been critical this summer”, Penny Thomas-Smith states.

Now she is part of a large group of residents who insist on a referendum about leaving Sozopol county and joining Burgas. Meetings are being organized. People of all generations attended them. The developments were sort of encouraging, Penny Thomas-Smith told Magazine79.

Penny Thomas-Smith collects trash others should have gotten rid of. Photo: Penny Thomas-Smith

“However, this week we were thwarted by Sozopol again. The municipality told us that none pf us were registered legally because the street names and numbers of our houses had been changed. This happened without our knowledge. So we all need to re-register and change our ID cards. This was obviously done deliberately to delay or prevent the democratic process. We have had no letters or documents from Sozopol informing us of this new change.”

What all of this shows is that the village residents are in this difficult situation because of neglect, and probably corruption. The inhabitants now have a list of demands:

  1. A new mayor or, even better, a new municipality which would be more open and willing to help. At the moment there is no transparency but evidence of obvious corruption.
  2. Collaboration and discussion is required. Now we have intimidation and deceit. The older residents are frightened to speak out for fear of retribution. Veiled threats have been made to some.
  3. A new main water supply.
  4. Drainage and asphalt on our roads where possible.
  5. Someone to investigate the corruption behind these latest actions.
  6. We want democracy without fear for all Prisad residents. We are all E.U. citizens. Communism and its tainted practices are history, so we thought.

Penny Thomas-Smith, who also collects trash since those who were paid for the task are not doing it, and the other residents hope the recent media attention will lead to improvements. Everything could be much easier if Prisad would join the 21st century.

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