Margarita Jeliazkova

Age 54
Ethnicity Bulgarian
Religion Unspecified
Education PhD
Married, one son
Born in Plovdiv
Currently living in Enschede, the Netherlands

1. European. Citizen of the world

2. I think that these aspects of identity play different roles in different contexts. For the emigrant, national identity is important, it needs to be ‘processed’ so that the person can find a place in the new (ethnic) community. As a person who has changed several professions, I have never cared too much about labels, let alone particular professional identity. But I do self-define as a teacher, because this is what I do, in various circumstances and in different places. Gender identity has many dimensions, too. For my work in politics, women equality as a theme is extremely important, increasingly important. Apart from this, people we live with ascribe certain identities to us, which almost never coincide with our own ideas. This is particularly easy to spot for migrants and makes us flexible and adaptable, without losing the core of who we are, without betraying ourselves.

3. Everything that we experience shapes our identity. A few key events: my grandmother is a refugee from Tracia and I define myself as a third generation refugee. It took me quite some time to add this element and to grasp the magnitude of this collective trauma. Second: family, school, education – of course, this holds true for everyone and does not need explanation. Third: leaving Bulgaria in 1990, for good, as it turned out late. Add to this a considerable amount of travel around the world. It is quite a platitude, but when one looks at the world through many windows, one changes the idea about themselves, too. The downside of this undoubtedly enriching experience is that people like me do not feel completely at home anywhere.

4. Difficult questions. I must start with music, which has always played an important, vital role in my life. As a person who not only listens to music, but also sings, I can say that music influences the way I see the world in a direct and profound way. I have also come to notice that you can only understand the music of different cultures, when you go to the place where this music is born. A Rodopa song does not sound at all at the Dutch seaside. Blues can be deeply felt on a warm humid night on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. At the same time, there is something universal in good music that speaks directly to the soul and builds bridges between people from the most diverse worlds and walks of life.
As far as fictional characters are concerned, I am not sure I am identifying with anything specific. When I was 13 years old, I read Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”. This book impressed me enormously. Back then people did not talk too much about the environment, certainly not in Bulgaria. Ever since, the environment is an important topic for me, one of the most important ones. I also adore Chudomir. It is wonderful when someone can write with such wisdom and so much humor at the same time. Too bad he is impossible to be translated.

5… I think I already addressed this above….

6. I don’t know the answer to this one. Identity is not something that’s attached to me, like a shirt or something. My identity changes and develops with me, it is who I am. In this sense, how would it impede me or help me? The more we reflect upon the ideas, the emotions and the circumstances that have influenced us, the more we grow, I hope!

7. Oh yes. My husband is Dutch. Thus, our life is interesting. We have established long ago that we have a similar socio-economic status and have been realized in approximately the same type of family. So we probably have more in common with each other than with the majority of the Bulgarians and the Dutch, respectively. And our son is a Bulgarian in Bulgaria, Dutch in the Netherlands. On the other hand, we both have parts of our lives that are so different that remain unknown to each other. At least we have not fallen victim to the illusion that you can get to know a person fully.

8. I cannot imagine what it would be like to remain at the same place all your life! Ever since I was a small child, I wanted to travel and to see the world. It is nice to come back to Bulgaria, but I realize that I find there a world that feels small, cozy, and somehow timeless. This is deceptive, of course, because it feels quite different for the people who have lived there all this time.

9. Interesting topic. Nothing to add at the moment. Thanks for letting me participate.

2018