We are thrilled to share this guest post from Greta Asparuhova, a paraplegic who is fully independent and lives in Bulgaria, a country sandwiched between Romania (to the north) and Greece (to the South). Once a Communist country, Bulgaria is full of young people who want to change their beloved home into a place that’s welcoming to all.
Greta is one of the most prominent disability rights advocates from Bulgaria. Read in her own words what life is like there as a wheelchair-user below.
Living in Bulgaria: A Country of Impossibilities
Firstly I am going to introduce you my country with few words. It was a beautiful place we have four seasons, we have wonderful nature, we have sea and mountains, and we have green fields and amazing rivers. Unfortunately we have orks for rulers, and they turned this piece of paradise into doomed land, without any hope. Life in our country is challenge. Many of the young and clever people have left and started a search happiness aboard. In the years we lost our strengths. We have had a great history and poor present.
Now my country is destroyed; our beautiful nature is destroyed; our beautiful seacoast is destroyed. Our paradise has become Mordor. Living here as a normal person is very abstract adventure. Living here as a disabled person is impossible.
I am 42 years old. I have lived as a wheelchair-user the last 29 years of my life. I am one of the few people here living in the most inaccessible environment all by myself and independently. In Bulgaria, everything is inaccessible. The streets, hospitals, homes, shops, governmental institutions, municipalities, social services, etc. We do not have any opportunity to work. We are out of the educational system. Disabled people here are poor by default. We are stuck in our homes and usually live with about 70 to 100 € per month and have the ability to go out a few times a month (if people or family help us to leave our homes). Here we never go to hotels or on vacations, which is why our resorts are inaccessible to disabled people!.
I have the chance to live in one of the four big cities in Bulgaria. The people who live in the small villages or towns are sentenced to death; a slow and horrible death. They have absolutely no access to outside environment, education or employment. They do not have a simple medical care and are completely isolated. I just want to underline that we are part of the European Union.
In this environment I live an active life. I have found a way to be a part of society. Here, even people without disabilities can’t say they live a high quality of life however because most of the population live on the border of poverty or under it. A very small percent can afford a decent quality life, including food, clothes, vacations, etc.
That why living here as a wheelchair-user is very big challenge, and living alone is on the border of madness. It is difficult for me to speak about myself, but I realize that my achievements, even very small, are important. I am one of the few people that can leave home whenever I want. I can drive my own car and that helps me a lot with my independence. At home, I care about food, cleaning, bills, and my cats. I work from home and I earn just enough to survive. I have enough money for bills, food, diesel, cat’s food and care, but I have never can earn enough for vacation or traveling. 99% of people with spinal cord trauma even can’t dream about this.
And this is huge success. I have freedom; freedom to see the sky, to breathe the air, to walk around and to feel life. Other people with spinal cord injuries here are prisoners for life. I have learned how to clean my home, how to fix things at home, how to cook, etc. The only difference is that I live with “impossibilities” and must deal with them every day. But even I do not have many social contacts because of the impossibility to go by myself at places where people communicate and meet new friends.
In recent years, I’ve fought for the rights of disabled people to be part of the society, to have access to life, but here in my home country this fight is very difficult. The government does not want to make reforms for a positive and dignified life for people with disabilities. Nowdays, the attitude of Bulgarians towards disabled persons is not just discriminatory, but they treat us as if we are in a concentration camp.
Sadly, we’ll continue to be doomed like we’re living in the 18th century because of the current state of affairs here in Bulgaria. To read more about the right of disabled people in Bulgaria, click here.