Exemplary Home

“Образцов Дом” (translated, “Exemplary Home”) refers to the text found on enamelled signs, that were provided by the Communist party to homes which met certain living and tidiness standards under the regime. These signs are still commonly found, gracing the walls of most houses in the countryside and are one of the most recognisable and memorable symbols of the Party to this day.

My relationship with my home country is a complicated one. I was born in Bulgaria, and spent the first eighteen years of my life living and studying there. Throughout that time, I learned a lot about the rich and complex history of the third oldest country in Europe, and gained a profound appreciation for the significance of good leadership, and the detriments that could be brought upon by the lack thereof…

My grandfather was born in the 1940s in a small village by the name of Lehchevo. These places were quite different back then. Everyone had a job to do, and people were content with their existence. Newly established agricultural co-ops and strict educational standards in the public school system assured that the nation was fed, and the local residents were employed. Bulgaria’s heavy industrial sector was steadily chugging along and the area seemed to be developing - individual villages had hospitals, stadiums with semi professional football teams. Students that excelled had opportunities to move to the local towns and pursue vocational and technical careers...

My mother tells me the nineties were a difficult time for the nation's people, as the fall of communism led to a massive recession, one that wasn't helped by the plunder of most of the nation's assets by the mafia and corrupt leadership. They bought up the ex-state factories and various other industrial properties, only to sell off all of the equipment, sack all the workers and gain massive personal profits, crippling the country's economy for the foreseeable future. The people living in provincial towns and small villages were effectively left for dead, living off of obscenely tiny pensions and whatever their children and grandchildren could spare...

There are two “factions” that currently inhabit the area. On one side exist the locals, which represent tradition, serenity, hospitality and modesty. They don’t have much, but through resilience and self-sufficiency manage to survive, despite the government’s lack of care.

The other group would be the new money entering the area in the form of industrial and agricultural developments. At first glance it may appear as though these investments benefit the locals, however the reality is there’s minimal interaction between the two sides. The industry is there for the cheap land value and labour. The shiny new municipal roads, funded with EU money, only built to make lorries’ passage easier by helping them avoid tolls on the nation’s highways.

As one of these speeding eighteen-wheelers went past around a meter away from where I was standing to take a photo, it quickly became apparent to me that the villages are but a backdrop to the globalised shipping industry, whilst seeing barely any benefit from it.

As we were walking down the quiet path, my eye was drawn to her headscarf. She was tending to her garden. We called her over and after she met us at the gate we briefly talked. She was surprised when we told her why we had come - young visitors, especially ones with enourmous cameras aren’t a common sight in those parts. After I took her portrait she asked whether it would be in colour.

She had never had a colour photograph taken before.
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