To The Most Amazing Woman – My Mom

DanielaYanchevaMy mother`s name is Minka and I would like to tell you a story about her.

Over the last 35 years she has been teaching kindergarten kids and helped in raising hundreds of children in my hometown Nova Zagora. Every time we went to the Saturday market to buy groceries, we would come across at least one of her ex-students. A young boy who was in her class just a year ago, runs towards her, yelling “Gospojo, Gospojo” (“Mrs, Mrs”) and jumps in her lap, giving her a big smile and a hug. A grown up girl in her twenties stops by and gives my mom a kiss and compliments how beautiful and young she still looks, unchanged from the times when she was one of her students. Hearing these kind words, I felt fascinated and humbled. I was so proud of my mom and thought that if so many of her students love her so much, she must be the coolest teacher on earth.

My mother has been my role model ever since I was little and I admire and treasure her for being the incredible teacher and mother she is. She raised me and my brother with such unconditional love that only a mother is capable of and during her whole life has been teaching us through the example she set for being kind, loving God, valuing family and traditions, respecting our culture and heritage.

I remember feeling both excited and a little scared when I first came to the United States at the end of 2008. I was thrilled to start this new adventure with the love of my life – my husband – with whom I knew I would go anywhere in the world and be happy. But what made me sad was the thought that my mother, father, brother, grandparents, cousins, who I was so attached to, were going to be so far away. Traditionally, our whole family gathered for Holidays, went to church and later sang songs while having dinner around the table and I knew I would miss this tremendously.

Not only on holidays but throughout the whole year round our home used to smell of delicious traditional Bulgarian dishes – such as stuffed baked red peppers with beans, stuffed grape leaves with rice for Christmas, “kozunak” (typical sweet bread prepared especially for Easter),“kiflichki” (croissants filled with jam), “Tikvenik” (handmade banitza made with pumpkin and walnuts – the type where you actually roll the dough instead of using ready filo sheets), “Prazenik” (banitza made with leeks and rice), “Spanachnik” (banitza made with spinach and cheese). My mother learned how to knead the most delicious dough and then roll it into different types of pastries from her grandmother Dzhena – a hard-working woman who spent the majority of her work life in the field, planting fruits, vegetables, digging grapevines, harvesting. When at home she took care of animals, milked the cows, collected eggs, prepared cheese and yogurt, canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and on top of that was also a skilled knitter, a talented cook, and a very joyful woman with great sense of humor, full of incredible amount of positive energy and was constantly singing. She lived a long life, until age 97, probably because every morning upon waking up she would sip a tiny bit of “rakia” (the most traditional home-made Bulgarian brandy made from grapes and different varieties of fruits) which she believed was an elixir that clears your throat and kills any bacteria you may have in your stomach. Baba Dzhena was my only and most dear great-grandmother whom I have learnt so much from about being a strong, confident, hard-working, kind-hearted person who finds simple joys in life. I feel so rich to have had such an incredible great-grandmother who raised my mother and helped raise me as well, influencing our lives immensely.

Sadly, today my great grandmother`s house doesn`t exist as it was destroyed by greedy relatives who sold it and spread around her belongings. What remains untouched is the memories, the spirit, the lessons she taught me and my mom through her beautiful deeds. What is also real is having my mother living with me and my husband in our home in Bellevue, WA today, baking “kurabiiki” (Lightly sweet, traditional Bulgarian biscuits prepared particularly for Easter but also throughout the whole year round), putting on our costumes and getting ready for “Tzvetnitza” and “Lazarovden” at the Bulgarian School. She is here to help us take care of our son. Her dedication, her endless love, her sacrifice, leaving her job as a teacher that she adores, leaving her students who cried for her the day she told them she was coming to the US, her friends from the yoga club whom she drinks tea with every week – leaving it all behind in the name of the love to her daughter and grandson.

I feel eternally grateful and incredibly lucky to have my mother here today. She is not just my role model, she is also my friend, my angel, my “zlatna senchica” (A Bulgarian proverb which translates “A mother is a golden shadow”).

Each family has a “song” and every song carries a beautiful story, a dream, and a precious memory that needs to be told and remembered.

My “song” is about my amazing mother who through love and sacrifice teaches me every day how to be a good person, how to follow Bulgarian traditions in my home, half a world away from Bulgaria, my mom who sings and reads to my son in Bulgarian every day so that he can grow up with the wonderful traditions and songs of his ancestors.

“The Songs of Our Families” project is more than just a way of preserving the memories we have of our families; it is about sharing these memories, awakening our fellow Bulgarians and reaching to their hearts by connecting them to their roots and keeping them aware of something very important – their culture.

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