I Had a Thousand Reasons Not to be at School

“My dream is to one day be completely integrated.” These are the words of 22-year old Ivan Borisov, a young Roma man born and raised in the Bulgarian capital. It is rare that you’ll hear such words from a young person from a vulnerable group. His awareness, however, only amplifies his ambition to develop and improve himself.

Ivan graduated from the Professional High School of Textile and Leather Products where he put in a lot of effort into becoming a straight-A student and where he achieved good results. His good skills and dexterity led him to participate in quite a few dressmaking contests, he was sewing and traveling around the country and at some point he even started imagining how this would one day be his profession.


However, in school Ivan found not only his professional calling, but his big love too. She was sixteen, he – seventeen. And unlike most young people their age, who would continue studying, they got married.

“This is what’s accepted in our community, there is no going back once you’ve been with the girl, this is an exceptionally important moment in Roma tradition and our parents were very adamant that we get married”, says Ivan. “I had to quit school and start taking care of our home and my wife. I was only in the 9th grade when we got married.” Soon after, their daughter was born.

This is how Ivan started working hard. He enrolled in evening school so that he could complete his 12-hour shifts at work. For the next three years, every day from Monday to Friday, Ivan would get home at 11 pm. Only then could he pick up his textbooks and start studying. He would study until five in the morning, and six hours later he would be at work again. This is what his everyday life looked like until the 12th grade.

“I had a thousand reasons to quit and give up, but I haven’t. Because I knew exactly what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve, what I owe to myself and my family. A lot of my classmates dropped out and stopped going to school at an even earlier point because they weren’t literate enough and didn’t know Bulgarian well. This was the main reason they couldn’t continue, they couldn’t understand the lessons. But I wanted to continue, I had made it this far. In the end, when I saw the diploma in my hands, I started crying from happiness, it was simply amazing and at the same time motivated me all the more to continue with my education”, shares Ivan.

Soon after he graduated, the young man saw the advertisement for free English lessons which the Trust for Social Achievement was offering through their

“First Steps for Professional Development” project. At first, Ivan didn’t believe the offer was real and thought it was some kind of hoax. Still, he decided to send in the required documents and soon after he was contacted back. “I was very happy as I could see my dreams come true one after another, I completed A1 successfully, and I decided that if the course continued with the higher levels, I would definitely sign up”, says Ivan. While continuing to study English, the boy passes on the acquired knowledge to small children whom he knows through the church near where he lives.

“I’ve felt my parents’ support throughout my entire journey. But I’m very grateful to the foundation too, and especially to Olya Georgieva. When you’re not doing so well or you’re losing motivation, it’s very important to have someone listen to you and give you the necessary strength to continue, to believe that you can achieve more”, says the young man. At present, Ivan works as a cook. Very soon he’ll have a Master’s degree in Psychology. What he wishes for himself – to continue not giving up.