The Balkan Highway: Mid-term Reflection – Radostyna’s Experience


The Balkan Highway project, Radostyna’s article

TBH Midterm Reflection- Radostyna’s Experience

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

This is how my journey began in Plovdiv at Smokinya Foundation.

For each volunteer, the ESC experience is “once-in-a-lifetime”, unforgettable and unique. My experience has become even more unique since it fell in 2020.

Lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic began in Bulgaria exactly 2 weeks after I arrived here. It was a shock for everyone, no one was ready for this.

During the first months of lockdown, I felt overwhelmed with doubts, grief, and fear but found support, attention, and help. It was difficult to keep myself in the flow, as it seemed that there would be no end, but it was also important to devote time to myself and my favourite pastime. I organised several groups of online language courses and it kept me busy and distracted from sad thoughts. Also, I have always felt the support of friends and other volunteers who found themselves in the same situation. It was interesting to see how other people deal with this situation and to remind myself that this is not the end of the world. It was difficult, but we managed and continue to remain strong.

Summer has come, the sun has come, the warmth awakened the desire and mood to go out again and enjoy life.

In June, we put in order our new home – Peyka café the Smokinya office.
I already had an experience of volunteering in renovation work together with the biggest voluntary movement in Ukraine: Building Ukraine Together

Now Smokinya officially runs under Betoven Street 12 in Plovdiv  and at any time you can stop by for a cup of coffee 🙂 

And of course, summer was a time of adventure and travel, a time to explore Bulgaria and discover it from a new perspective.

This is not my first meeting with Bulgaria. And obviously, I have a special connection with this country. Here, I received my life lessons, experienced pivotal moments, and met a community of people that changed my life. Bulgarians always seem to me to be cordial, hospitable and ready to help. Even in the most remote village I was given a helping hand. Many of my Bulgarian friends do not understand my admiration for their country. Many foreigners also have a different, more negative experience, but for me this is exactly what Bulgaria is – free, wild, a little bit crazy and with its own special slack charm that cannot be described in words – you can only feel and love it forever, or forever not understand.

Beyond the threshold of Smokinya Foundation, a storm swept through my life, which I could not share with anyone, and which greatly influenced me. There were many meetings with many nice and different people during all this time. But the most long-awaited meeting with the most important person in my life fell through and will no longer take place. All this whirlpool of events plunged me into a daze and despair. And when I am on the verge of despair, I make a pivotal decision for myself I decided to trust the Wise Universe and realised the importance of all life lessons which I receive so far since my ESC project started. Only after that will good changes start in my life and bring forth acceptance and love.

So now I have strengths to move on, create and inspire.

But I will tell you about this next time.

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This program is co-funded by the European Solidarity Corps programme of the European Union.


The Balkan Highway: Mid-term Reflection – Radostyna’s Experience