Written as part of Bodler Giving's Global Givers initiative by a regional partner.
When people ask me about my motivation for giving I always think that to give altruistically is taught in a family and cannot be acquired afterwards. This is a value taught when you are a little child and is passed through generations. My grandmother did it, my mother did it & I am doing it now . . .
I remember my mother organizing dance parties to fundraise for the poor White Army officers and for banished immigrants. My mother was an artist, she always managed to make these dancing parties quite pleasant. Through these examples, I learned that you do not have to suffer as a consequence of giving. It’s just the opposite – just be happy and pleased that you made others happy too.
Honoring my family’s values and traditions, I worked hard to establish the children centre “Karin Dom” because it was closely related to our family experiences. I had a cousin, named Karin, who was born with cerebral paralysis. Despite the quality of medical care, she remained motionless. But her condition did not impede her from thinking about the fate of others living with disabilities. As a child I was mesmerized by her, by her anguish and how she was always thoughtful of others. She would ask my aunt to take her to see an ill child, in order to give something to this child. This moved me deeply.
Our family home had been expropriated by the state in 1944 and when we finally got our (Karin’s grandfather was also my grandfather) house back, it was a unanimous decision to grant it in support of children with disabilities. We established Karin’s Home sixteen years ago. I was just the family envoy, but so happy that. More than 1600 children have been treated and rehabilitated.
Initially people around me said that I had no experience in this field and I started something I did not know anything about. But I contacted specialists in England and read and educated myself on the issue. We’ve had some difficulties along the way, but I never complained because it is important to do such things deep from your heart. With the establishment of Karin’s Home we managed to introduce new principles and methods for working with children with disabilities in Bulgaria to break the thinking that they cannot be worked with or taught. Thank God, here in Bulgaria, I met a lot of people, mainly women who helped to make our children’s home a success.
At present, Karin’s Home is mainly supported by its own projects, and other funds are donated by a circle of friends in England. The happiness to see the results is enormous when you hear them talk, see them walk and smile.
I was 62 when I eventually moved back to Bulgaria. I saw immense changes here, but also noticed a great disconnect with its history by youngsters. I told myself that generations ought to know about what transpired during the first years of the 20th century, about the lifestyle, people’s looks, fashion and culture. Determined to do this, I made a donation to the Museum of History – my collection of family valuables and exhibits characterising the 1930s of the 20th century. The exhibition is still on display and called “The Stanchovs Family”. It gives me great joy that our family history will be well preserved and exposed to generations to come. Compiling this collection together wasn’t an easy task. It even involved “blackmailing” my family to attain specific objects.
Perhaps an icon of Virgin Mary is the most valuable object in the exhibit (the icon “Virgin Mary with the Three Hands”, 16th century). It has journeyed with us around the world - it has been with my grandfather in Saint Petersburg, then with my father in London and it hung above my parents’ bed in Washington. It originates from Berat, Albania, where the roots of my family came from before moving to Svishtov in 1790. The icon was brought in Bulgaria, in Svishtov, by a great-grandfather – distinguished citizen of Berat, where a big Bulgarian community once lived. Even the sultan knew him, he was a vali and had the honour of delivering the mail, which is a sign of big respect by the Turkish authorities. He decided to move to Svishtov when he got into trouble with the government as a result of his extensive help to the Christian community in Berat. My father frequently said with pride that we are Bulgarians from the Kingdom of Samuil. Yes, we are an old family, with strong family affiliation and it doesn’t matter if a quarter of my blood is Bulgarian, I feel one hundred percent Bulgarian!