Covid-19, a Report from Bulgaria from an Old Friend

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Her name is Maria Georgieva, and I have known her for over 20 years. I last saw Mimi in 2008 just after I began writing at RedState. Their baby, Georgi, was only two or three then. Now her children are 20,18 and 14. For Many Easters I would send them Peeps, those little packages of 100% sugar candy baby ducklings that are guaranteed to rot kids’ teeth out.

Mimi had a prominent sales location at the very prestigious open air market near the great Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and National Congress in Sofia. I always visited it first when I came to Bulgaria, which included almost every Easter, from 1994 thru 2008. You may recall my stories about Mitko, Zlatko and Slavka and Kuko from that very market. Until he died, every New Year, Kuko would call me with his BulFon card and say “Happy Year!” and then for the life of that card’s life, usually 3 minutes, we would speak of many things…without either of us understanding a word the other said, just like old times.

That open market serviced the embassy personnel and upscale tourists in high end collectibles; icons, art, antiquities, and Mimi (Maria) had a relationship with several known Bulgarian icon artists plus lacquer boxes and eggs from the Palekh, Kholui and Fedoskino schools in Moscow. Through my colleagues at UnifiedPatriots.com she sold several icons and artworks to several of our readers on two or three different occasions. All my family has one of Mimi’s ikons, St George and St Michael their favorites.

(Below I will give contact information to email Mimi for any specific items you may desire, or Russian boxes; e.g. fairy tales, plus her eBay ID, as she once had a good customer base in Western Europe, which has now dried up due to the Virus. She tells me that our USPS has placed a restriction on packages from Bulgaria to the US, and I have been unable to find out anything about it, but doubt it will linger, as Bulgaria is not a hot-spot for Covid.)

I asked Mimi to let us know know are going with Covid-19 in Bulgaria, who has less than a 100 deaths, but her report to me is that the shut-down has destroyed small business, including their business, both in the market and on-line.)

(You’ll note she does not complain.)

My interest, as you can recall from my stories of Kuko, besides a long friendship with Mimi and her family, is my friendship with free market Bulgaria, for they have all taught me a lot about the nature of entrepreneurial dynamism. It is why we are so hopeful for the countries who escaped the Soviet web in the 1990s. Bulgaria’s small business sector is unlike the rest of Europe. Mimi and Pavel’s children are the picture book of the results of what that small business ethic can produce. You won’t find it in Russia or Ukraine, or Western Europe. American small private business, by hard work and wits alone has a greater kinship with these peoples of the Balkans than we do with our own kinsmen in Ireland, England, Germany and Italy today

But with the Virus, it seems the state boot has landed on the heads of the small business class in Bulgaria just as it has here, with that famous French shrug of indifference. Or maybe I should say, a California or New York shrug?

(See her the contact information, below.)

Now, from Mimi:

“I’m sending you some pictures of my grown children. Trifon is 20 years old and he is a student – second year – in the Sofia University –Economics and Finance – all in English. He also works as an accountant in Coca-Cola Company. He is very smart.  Daniela is almost 18 and she is 11 grade in a language High School – she speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese very well.  Next year she will start with Italian language.  She writes poetry and paints beautifully. George is 14 years old and he is 8 grade in the National Gymnasium of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He is learning Software and Hardware Sciences. He is our IT specialist.” 

      That is all about us. We are very proud parents “

(VB Note: This is the story of America in the 1890s, when immigrant parents opened small shops and slaved hours so that their children could become educated, doctors and professionals. “To be American” we called it then, and it is a generational process. This is a model we need to see reborn here, and we should support it wherever found.)  

Report on Covid-19 Impact in Bulgaria

By: Maria Georgieva

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Bulgaria when the country’s first case was confirmed on 8 March 2020, a 27-year-old man from Pleven and a 75-year-old woman from Gabrovo. Neither of the two had traveled to areas with known coronavirus cases. The man tested positive for the virus after being hospitalized for a respiratory infection, and authorities announced plans to test several people who were in contact with the two individuals

After the number of patients in the country had reached 23, the Bulgarian Parliament voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency from 13 March until 13 April. A 14-day preventive house quarantine was introduced for citizens who have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient or have returned from an overseas region with a high number of cases. For patients tested positive for the virus a 21-day house quarantine was introduced. This time span is counted from the day a subsequent test comes out negative after they have been treated in a hospital or at home. After the World Health Organization (WHO) has established that COVID-19 is more resilient than the initial data was showing, the National Crisis-management Staff increased the recovery house quarantine by a week to 28 days. With the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases on a daily basis, on 1 April the Bulgarian government requested that Parliament extends the state of emergency by one month until 13 May. A slight easing of restrictions began on 3rd May 2020 and the State of Emergency will end on 13th May but many of the social distancing measures will remain in place.

As of 8 May 2020, there are 1,872 officially confirmed cases in 27 out of 28 Bulgarian provinces, with 86 recorded deaths and 401 recoveries. A total of 52,931 PCR (3.36% positive) tests had been performed by 6 May.

What measures have been taken by the Bulgarian Government?

The government was swift to respond, having had time to prepare before the first cases were recorded. All large cultural and sporting events in closed spaces such as the Palace of Culture were immediately banned. On 13th March the Government declared a State of Emergency and the Bulgarian Health Ministry ordered a shutdown (until 29th March, now extended until 13th May) of all Kindergartens, schools, as well as shops, restaurants and entertainment establishments; cinemas, theatres, concert venues, sports and spa centres.

As of 6th May a gradual relaxation of regulations is being introduced and restaurants with outdoor terraces and gardens are allowed to receive customers albeit with larger spacing between tables and no more than 4 people or one family per table.

Supermarkets, banks, petrol stations and pharmacies remain open but the number of customers admitted at any one time is limited. Some other businesses such as car service and DIY stores also seem to be open and it is anticipated that mid May more shops will be opening.

Travel restrictions between the major cities within Bulgaria were lifted on 7th May 2020, but if numbers of infected cases should rise above 100 per day they may well be reintroduced along with other lockdown measures.

The wearing of some form of face mask covering nose and mouth is compulsory in all public indoors spaces including public transport and shops.

On April 26th parks in the city centre were partially reopened, for families with children under 12 ( with max. 2 adults), individual adults exercising and those walking dogs. As of 3rd May Bulgarians are once again allowed to enjoy their beautiful nature with hikes in the mountains – and no need to wear protective masks in outdoor spaces.

What is the general level of concern among Bulgarians?

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov underlined the need for Bulgarians to exercise personal discipline and responsible behaviour and not to panic, when the measures were introduced. He continues to appeal to the conscience of the citizens to behave responsibly and with self discipline.

The State of Emergency was introduced when it became clear that Bulgarians were not following the basic rules. As a small and relatively poor country, Bulgaria cannot afford to let the virus get out of control. Most Bulgarians are embracing the changes, although there has been disregard for the rules lately especially connected with travelling out of the city over the holiday weekends. The Roma community, many of whom returned from abroad are having trouble comprehending the restrictions and are currently seeing high infection rate within their community. (Note: Roma are gypsies.) 

According to KBC’s optimistic scenario, Bulgaria’s economy could shrink by 4% this year, while the pessimistic scenario forecasts a 12% decline. Again, both scenarios envisage a recovery of the economy in 2021.

KBC’s forecast takes into account the latest developments in the spread and medical impact of the COVID-19 as well as policy responses to mitigate the impact on public health and the economy.

The drastic decline in economic activity due to business closures, a sharp rise in temporary unemployment and disruptions in international and domestic production chains will continue for at least several more weeks, KBC noted in its ‘basic scenario’ forecast.

“Specifically, our simulations assume that economic activity will not recover until the third quarter. As a result, the corona crisis will lead to a very severe recession in the first half of the year, much stronger than we and other economists had predicted until recently,” the analysis reads.

KBC assumes that a quarter will suffice to sufficiently control the epidemic and thus to restart economic activity.

“Thanks to far-reaching government measures, we expect the recovery to be very strong,” KBC said, adding that countries with stronger fiscal clout, more automatic stabilisers and more active crisis policies will see a more pronounced recovery.

“The statistic shows that we are in the first place with the least number of victims per million population, that we are in the forefront with the least number of patients. Fortunately, we did not experience the horror experienced by Italian society, Spanish, English,” said the sociologist Alexander Vladimirov.

“The government is doing well and getting approval. The president and the opposition do not like the government to be liked for something they are doing, they are trying to get them involved in the conversation. Maybe the prime minister has adopted a better strategy to answer half-heartedly.” he added.

Fin

Contact Info: Mimi can be found at eBay under the name Pifa_blue, and her Etsy name is GatoNegro1, Her Paypal address is marygeorgieva@hotmail.com for direct cash payments, and her email address, marygeorgieva@hotmail.com.

Mimi will tell you when she can begin mailing to the US again, but which should be soon. Or visit our Sales Gallery at VeteransTales.org, for political and military historical items, giant posters also from the Communist days, also mostly acquired in Bulgaria. For any purchase you make there 100% of the proceeds will go to support Mimi’s business for the remainder of 2020, and please notify your VeteransGroups at Twitter.

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