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Volunteer Couple Helps with Cultural Adaptation of Fellow Bulgarians in London

Boiko Boev and Dessislava Dyakova, a Bulgarian couple resident in London, are behind the popular website and an initiative called Bulgarian Walkers. A whole community of Bulgarian immigrants in the British capital has coalesced around the two interrelated projects, thankful for the help they get for their cultural adaptation in London.
Interviewed by publisher and journalist Milen Antiohov, Boiko says that he is a law practitioner but like many Britons he devotes much time to volunteering. He believes that leisure walking helps people socialize and keeps them in a good mood. Spurred on by the desire to get to know London, he began to take monthly walks of about 10 km around various districts in the city. He invited other Bulgarians to join in. This is how the group, Bulgarian Walkers, emerged in 2013.
The members of the group have all sorts of occupations and varying degrees of immigrant experience. What unites them is their curiosity about London and their interest in British culture. Moreover, spending a Sunday in a different environment and sharing a positive attitude with other people is relaxing, Boiko says.
The group became more popular after Boiko and his wife set up the website in 2015 as a vehicle to present British culture, London, and interesting Bulgarians in London. What is unique about the website is that it shows London as a “Bulgarian” city.
Most contributors are either Bulgarian immigrants in London or people who know a lot about Bulgarian and British culture. Discovering traces of Bulgaria in London is particularly exciting because neither the immigrants nor the other Londoners know much about them, Boiko says. He and Dessislava research online archives on London and then visit places in the city related to Bulgaria. Boiko remembers the excitement with which he and his wife touched the Bulgarian-harvested limestone with which the city’s largest Hindu temple is lined. The couple have discovered streets named after the Bulgarian cities of Varna and Pleven (historically: Plevna). The Bulgarian Walkers group is especially proud of having discovered old books associated with Bulgaria, which are kept at the British Library and which even the greatest experts in Sofia never probably held in their hands. The Walkers have also visited the office of the Mayor of London, and they know very well where exactly in the British Museum one can find Bulgarian exhibits. These Bulgarian connections give the immigrants the sense that they have roots in the foreign country, Boiko says.
In 2018, five years after its establishment, the Bulgarian Walkers group decided to give something special to the British metropolis. They planted Damask roses in Golden Square in Soho, central London. There had been roses there before; they had been donated by Sofia City Hall but eventually perished. Many Londoners have been impressed to learn that the rose is a symbol of both England and Bulgaria. Boiko compares the planting of the roses in Golden Square with the way Robinson Crusoe cultivated his island. It is all about roots, Boiko concludes.