50 stories - Yavor Konstantinov25 July 2022 Events and Discussions
Secretary of the church community board at the Bulgarian church St. St. Cyril and Methodius, Melbourne, founded 1950, and Bulgarian elections coordinator for Melbourne polling station 2014-2021
I first arrived in Australia in 2001.
Looking back, for me one of the most unexpected and spontaneous stories intertwining Australia and Bulgaria, took place in the years 2006 and 2009.
While studying at university in Brisbane (2001-03), like my colleagues, I was doing a part-time student job. At the Brisbane Broncos club house, there were many of us, students from the three major universities, working, making friends and thanks to the multicultural character of the Australian society, always curious of each other’s stories and backgrounds.
One of the most discussed topics that brought joy to us in the otherwise routine workdays, were our dreams and plans to travel the world after graduating and visit each other’s countries, that we’d heard so much about.
One of those friends was a future avid traveller and international journalist, the then student in journalism and economics Matt Ogg. He was a young man with family background from northern Europe and Australia and insatiable appetite for travel, as well as interests in history and different cultures.
It was during an evening work shift in 2006, when I received a call from an international number. It was Matt calling from Prague. He had just finished an exchange program at Charles University in Prague, and was planning to take six months off from studying to travel around Europe. He was after recommendations for traveling around Bulgaria, which he had added to his travel plan after all our conversations throughout the years. Matt and a group of his friends and colleagues travelled around Bulgaria, from the mountains to the beach, from Sofia to country villages, meeting on their way the locals, as well as the families and friends of his Bulgarian friends in Australia.
In 2009, Matt told me that he was planning to write a short coffee table book about his student travels and that the publishing of the book would be supported by the University of Queensland and its journalism and economics faculties. It was going to be a part of the university’s effort to encourage more of its students to participate in international exchange programs.
On a balmy tropical autumn evening, a group of Matt’s friends, the president of the Bulgarian association in Queensland and a number of university officials and guests gathered at the university for Matt’s book launch. The book, Czech Mates, was presented, and it had a significant section dedicated to Bulgaria.
In the following years I happened to take part in many volunteer initiatives related to Bulgarian community in Australia, such as co-hosting the Bulgarian radio program on radio 4EB, Brisbane together with Oggy Georgiev, between 2008 and 2011, co-organising seven times Bulgarian national elections and referendums in Melbourne from 2014 to 2021, with a group of enthusiastic volunteers. Throughout the years, I have also participated in the organisation of concerts, theatre plays, movie screenings, cultural celebrations as well as several charitable initiatives. I have also co-organised numerous consular days in Melbourne between 2015 and 2022, which provide an important service to the Bulgarian community.
Being a member of the Bulgarian Church Council in Melbourne (2021-22), I took an active part in the council’s major initiative to plan, raise funds, organise, and carry out major renovation and improvement works at Melbourne’s Bulgarian Parish Hall and Church. The renovations, the largest in over a decade, were carried out by the church council members together with numerous volunteers in so far 55 volunteer workdays over several months, thanks to the generous donations from community members, their friends, as well as funding from Bulgarian government institutions. At the time of writing this article, the renovations are continuing, and new improvements are being planned.