BTA News

BTA Director General Opens 19th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media

Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) Director General Kiril Valchev opened the 19th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media at the BTA National Press Club in Odesa on Wednesday.

He listed three messages that the event is getting across. The first message is that this is a sign that Bulgarians worldwide continue to be a resilient community with empathy for each other at hard times like these that Bulgarians in Ukraine experience during a war. The second message that the place of journalists is where the stories occur, even under the deadly threat of a raging war. The third message is continuity. This implies making sustained efforts and building on what the previous organizers did, including the initiator of the meetings, BTA’s long-serving Director General Maxim Minchev.

“Holding the meeting against the backdrop of air raids in Odesa, Bolhrad, Izmail and the village of Kamchik (now called Zoria) is an expression of support by Bulgarian media worldwide, including in Bulgaria, for the 150,000 Bulgarians who, according to the official census, live in the Odesa Region (about 50,000-60,000 Bulgarians in Odesa itself) and thousands more Bulgarians in other regions of Ukraine,” Valchev said.

The BTA head recalled that the Ukrainian Bulgarians’ ancestors first settled here exactly 250 years ago in search of peace, driven away by the wars in the Bulgarian lands, and the present war in Ukraine gives Bulgarians in peaceful Bulgaria an opportunity to help their descendants.

He noted that the media presence of Bulgarian universities and their cooperation with local schools is an important part of the conversation during the Meeting. Valchev recalled that the first rector of Sofia University was a Bessarabian Bulgarian, Academician Alexander Teodorov-Balan, and acknowledged the participation in the present meeting of the current rector, Prof. Georgi Valchev.

“Universities in Bulgaria in partnership with the universities of Odesa and Izmail can help educate more of Ukrainian Bulgarians for the time when peace in Ukraine will be restored. This requires thinking about tomorrow, because no peace formula has a chance of success without educated people to implement it,” the speaker pointed out.

He cited the Bulgarians in Kamchik as a role model for “the preservation and multiplication of the Bulgarian race”: their number increased from some 300 when they settled almost two centuries ago to over 5,500 now.

“This meeting is also a sign of compassion not only for the Bulgarians in Ukraine but also for every person who is experiencing the war here because we belong not only to the community of our Bulgarian people but also to the human race. And the air raid sirens that sounded shortly after we arrived in Odesa last night should not be a cause for fear for journalists but for professional reporting of the terrible news of the war,” the BTA Director General noted, introducing the second message of the event.

Noting that 23 journalists representing 18 Bulgarian-language media in 14 countries worldwide and 13 media from Bulgaria are taking part in the 19th World Meeting, Valchev acknowledged the presence in person at the BTA National Press Club in Odesa of seven journalists from five Bulgarian media in the US, Cyprus and Ukraine and another 16 journalists from six media in Bulgaria: the three TV stations broadcasting in a national range: Bulgarian National Television, bTV and Nova Television, the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Radio Focus and BTA, alongside Council for Electronic Media Chair Gabriela Naplatanova, BNR Director General Milen Mitev, and Executive Agency for Bulgarians Abroad Executive Directror Raina Manjukova. Together with the logistics team, about 40 people have arrived from Bulgaria for the event, the BTA Director General said.

He sees this as “an example of the understanding that artificial intelligence will never be able to replace the natural intelligence of the correspondent working on an assignment where the story unfolds,” he argued.

Valchev thanked for 40 other journalists and guests who joined the forum online for their understanding of the role of Bulgarian-language media worldwide for the preservation of the Bulgarian community. “We hope that the MPs of the 50th National Assembly, which is opening in Sofia at this moment, will also share this understanding and should find ways and means for the systematic support by the Bulgarian state for Bulgarian media worldwide,” he said.

“One of these ways is the BTA, as it tries to make Bulgarians in the rest of the world more visible, to disseminate information about them in Bulgaria, and to bring them news about Bulgaria,” he added.

“Specifically here in Odesa, in an effort to provide more information about the Bulgarians and opportunities for Bulgaria to communicate with them, especially during the days of war, BTA opened a national press club in the city centre in the spring of 2023 and appointed Svetlana Dragneva as its resident correspondent. The stories she files can be freely used by all Bulgarian media crediting BTA as a source.”

“This is BTA’s second national press club with a correspondent’s bureau in Bessarabia after the one in Taraclia, Moldova, which opened in 2022 in the presence of the Bulgarian President,” Valchev said further. “This meeting in Odesa is a follow-up to a previous meeting held in 2017 in Moldova, the other country with a large community of Bessarabian Bulgarians,” he added.

“Braving the air raids, Bulgaria’s national news agency organized a number of events for Bessarabian Bulgarians: celebrations of the national day on March 3 and Bessarabian Bulgarians Day on October 29, presentations of books about the war in Ukraine by Bulgarian writers Teodora Dimova and Yordan Eftimov, an exhibition in the Union House of Jewish Culture, arranged by the Sts Cyril and Methodius National Library to mark the 80th anniversary of the rescue of Bulgarian Jews, and meetings with Bulgarian communities in settlements in the Odesa Region,” Valchev reported.

“In February 2023 – a year after the war, BTA published in Bulgarian and English an issue of its LIK magazine dedicated to the Bulgarians in Ukraine, which it presented in Odesa and Bolhrad,” he added.

On BTA’s initiative, a memorial plaque to writer and journalist Aleko Konstantinov was unveiled in March 2024 at the Odesa University Faculty of Law, where he studied in 1881-1885, Valchev recalled.

He sees the World Meetings of Bulgarian Media as setting “a good example for Bulgaria’s political leaders – that starting all over again with every new leader is not a good idea. This is a valuable reminded for the new National Assembly in Sofia on its first day. A good example, because it is with perseverance that Bulgarian media worldwide continue to collect, preserve and disseminate the knowledge of Bulgarians’ language and identity,” he added.

“Precisely as a sign of commemorating past achievements, on which our future is built, during the days of our meeting we will pay tribute to the memorials of Sts Cyril and Methodius, the first settlers, Hristo Botev, Vasil Aprilov, Georgi Rakovski, Ivan Vazov, Aleko Konstantinov, the Bulgarian volunteers who fought on the Battle of Shipka during the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War. They unite all Bulgarians wherever they are in the world. And en route to Odesa yesterday in Braila, we set the beginning of a celebration of the 155th anniversary of the establishment in that city in 1869 of modern Bulgaria’s oldest institution, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, which was founded there as a Bulgarian Literary Society, years before the Liberation from Ottoman rule,” Valchev pointed out.

“The participation of local Bulgarians’ representatives, including holders of respected positions in Ukraine’s public life, is proof of the Bulgarian contribution to the development of the places where they live,” he argued.

He appreciated the support for organizing the 19th World Meeting of the Bulgarian Consulate General in Odesa and personally of Consul General Svetoslav Ivanov and the Bulgarian Embassy in Kyiv and Charge d’Affaires German Vanchev, of the central- and local-government authorities in Odesa Region, of the Bulgarian communities in the regions, and of the sponsors from the business community in Bulgaria. The BTA Director General singled out for special praise the support of Bulgarian media worldwide who are involved on site of online.

Concluding his remarks, Valchev noted that the 19th Meeting is opening on June 19, the day of commemoration of St Paisii of Hilandar, whose Slavonic-Bulgarian History, written in 1762, awakened Bulgarians to their identity as a nation and marked the outset of the National Revival in the 19th century.

BTA is organizing the 19th World Meeting of Bulgarian Media in Odesa, Bolhrad, and Izmail, Ukraine, from June 18 to June 21, 2024. The event is taking place with the support of Aurubis Bulgaria, A1 Bulgaria, Glavbolgarstroy Holding AD, Euroins Insurance Group, Postbank, SOF Connect, and the 13 Centuries of Bulgaria National Endowment Fund.