The Bratsigovo home birthplace and stepmother by Hristo HRISTOV
There are 87 children between the ages of 7 and 19 living in this home. Thirty-eight of them are Roma, two are Turkish, and forty-seven are Bulgarian. Six of the children have no living relatives, 38 have one surviving parent, and 49 come from low-income families and families with more than 1 children. The service staff amount to 32 people. Nadya Kazakova, the principal, is paid 440 leva per month. She has a higher education in Chemistry and Physics. She is currently doing a second MA course in Management of Social Activities for Youth and Children. Of the additional staff, 11 have higher education qualifications and are paid between 347 and 450 leva per month. Supporting personnel receive 218 leva, the treasurer - 250 leva, the accountant - 315 leva. Younger children’s rooms reveal the overall neglect - missing bed linen, no pillows or blankets on the beds. With older children it seems much cleaner and tidier: they have everything and that is because, as they said, they clean their own rooms and get the linen they need from the store-room. Two control visits have been paid to the home for the last 6 months: one by the national Ombudsman and one by the Hygiene and Epidemiologic Inspection. Boys’ have unrestricted access to girls’ dorms. There are already couples. It is as clear as daylight that older boys are “dating” younger girls. During my talks with the boys it transpired that sex in the home is not a taboo. There was even a 14-year old girl with a love bite on her neck. It turned out she had a boyfriend who is 19. The principal knows about this ”interaction” between the children but is unsure of what to do. There has not been a psychologist at the home for a year now. Kotse, 14, who is from Peshtera and has one parent, gave the younger Mincho a black eye. As it happens, this is quite normal. I asked the principal why Mincho had the black eye but she said she nothing of the case. The boy itself
wouldn’t say who did this to him, in fact, he wouldn’t speak at all. HAS THERE BEEN SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE HOME? A week before my visit to the home, the night supervisor Mrs Valkova was looking for one of the younger children. She checked the boys’ bathroom and it turned out that one of the three cubicles was locked. Krasimir told the supervisor he was in there. She went back out and waited for him. Sometime later Krasimir, 16, emerged from behind the bathroom doors together with a younger boy. The supervisor spoke to both children and from young Georgi’s story it was clear that Krasimir has made the latter satisfy him orally. The supervisor called the police. The older boy was taken to the police station in Bratsigovo where he got beaten up. Krasi denied doing anything to the younger boy. A bit later Georgi also started denying anything had happened. Upon his return to the home, Krasimir attempted suicide. In order to demonstrate his innocence, he stabbed himself twice in the stomach with a pair of scissors. The police and supervisors left him to in peace. THE HOME’S BRUTE IVAN THE DRIVER The driver of Petleshkov Home regularly beats up the younger and older children for just about any reason. One of those children is Mitko. Kotseto tells us how the driver beats the younger children as well. Ilian was the only one who dared speak about this. He is 15 and from the village of Bratanitsa. He only has his father, as his mother died when he was 8. “Six months ago Ivan the driver beat me up. He was banging his fists into my head because at 11.30 one night I tried to jump out of OBEKTIV1
the window along with some friends to search for food. Mr Yankov caught us and told the principal. The next day, while I was still sleeping, Ivan dragged me out of bed and took me to the balcony. He beat the life out of me, and then had the nerve to take me to the principal’s office. I was crying. When she saw me, the principal said, “Now why are you crying? Stop pretending” and then turned to Ivan: ”Looks like he’s begging for more!” The children also told us how Ivan has been receiving a salary for nothing as the home’s minibus had been broken for months and was not running. During our visits to Bratsigovo, Ivan was nowhere to be seen. POLICE VIOLENCE? ”The principal will call the police for anything”, say the children from the V. Petleshkov Home for Youth and Children Deprived of Parental Care in Bratsigovo. I held a common meeting with the older children to find out if there was any truth behind accusations against the principal Nadya Kazakova. The boys confirmed their claims and stated explicitly how many times each had been bothered by the police. Nicky - 1, Assen - 3 times one of which he was beaten up, Sergey - 1, Branimir - 1. Ilian, on the other hand, told us how he was beaten up in the home itself, in front of the principal’s office and in her presence. Other boys confirmed having witnessed this. ”She treats us as a step-mother”, one of the older boys said. ”This is our home, and they are our family. The previous principal would never allow anything like this”, they all complained. On suspicion of sexual abuse of Georgi, Krasimir was taken to the police for interrogation twice, and twice he was beaten in order to confess. This is common knowledge, pupils of the home claim. The boys also complained that although they should be accompanied by an adult from the home when taken to the police station this never actually happened, the reason being to ”scare them a little” and ”instil some respect” as Mrs Kazakova apparently put it. YOU ARE A GIPSY AND YOU WILL LICK THE TOILETS CLEAN Assen is 16 and his parents are divorced. He and his elder brother have lived in the Petleshkov home for 11 years. Before that they were transferred between homes. 2 OBEKTIV
”We steal from villas to make some money. Here we get 6 leva per month. We smoke and we drink coffee, so how do you expect us to survive on so little money? More often than not we go to bed hungry... Because you are visiting now, we’ve been given better food. Kebapche yesterday, beans with sausages today, tomorrow probably something nice as well. When we are called to do some private work, we earn our own money and we buy food. But often we get nothing more than mockery - they give us 6 leva/day, so we no longer do any work. Dinner is at 6 pm and one can’t really be OK with 5 peas until bedtime at 10 pm? The usual menu includes French beans, peas, potato, kidney beans. We only get meat once a week. Since our previous principal left, everything in this place has been horrible. They keep calling us gipsies and say that we can’t do anything right. The new principal wanted us all in a reformatory. She let the police beat the life out of me. She lied to them saying I was a ringleader, a bandit, that I have attacked the home staff. One day she said to me, ”Hey, you gipsy, you will be licking the toilets clean”. The cleaner, Filka swears at us. She calls us ”dirty gipsies”. Once a month we get the bed linen changed. The youngsters sleep on the same sheets all month. They don’t even get any linen because they wet their beds, so they get to sleep on nylon.” Boris is 16 and from Krichim. He is in this home with his brother. ”Two year ago, I broke into a villa with another boy to steal stuff. The police caught us. We did not actually steal anything. I have not been to the police station since then. We often fight with the supervisors; staff here do not understand us. Nothing has been the same since Mrs Naydenova left. There used to be order and discipline. The supervisors minded their duties, so did the other personnel. The food was better. Did you notice the tablecloths at dinner? Did you know that they only put them on when there will be visitors? They were on for you! We still dream of Mrs Naydenova. She used to procure clothes and food from sponsors. Our rooms were clean and bright. Now it is a nightmare. I so hope she comes back! Thanks to her we are still receiving donations. She really loved us!” The complete report on the home in Bratsigovo is available in Obektiv’s editorial office.