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50 stories - Elena Kamburoff

25 July 2022 Events and Discussions


Supporting the new Bulgarian immigrants to Australia

I arrived in Australia back in 1978. My first impressions were quite shocking. I felt like I was on another planet. The landscape from where we were accommodated seemed almost lunar, the eucalyptus trees - very different from ours, the birds - too, everything was very strange to me. The biggest shock was when I stood on a road and watched the cars move without a driver. Anyone would be horrified. I was expecting to see a driver in the seat, but there was nobody there. Then I remembered that here the cars move on the opposite side of the road.

A new page opened in my life.I had to integrate into this new country with its laws, rules, traditions and cultural peculiarities.

I started by learning the language. There were free lessons. I noticed that everything was well organized and all the people had a good attitude towards the immigrants. The city I came to, Melbourne, was very different from what it is now. No one lived in the City as they do now. People lived in the suburbs with houses and gardens, and I often heard the phrase "one-storey Australia." This is not the case now - the population has grown from 2.5 million to nearly 5 million and the need for housing is huge. High-rise apartment buildings have been built and many people now live in the City. Melbourne has grown before my eyes over the past few decades and has become a huge, modern city with beautiful buildings, parks, museums, recreation areas, cultural centres.

After a while, I started working and the wheel of life started turning as usual. Later, my husband Boris Kamburoff and I joined the preparation of the Bulgarian radio program for the ethnic radio station 3ZZZ - one hour every week. We were broadcasting news from Bulgaria, analysing historical events, there was a lot of music, poetry and people appreciated the show and enjoyed listening to it. After the changes in Bulgaria, we started publishing and distributing by post a newspaper with news, interesting readings and humour.

At that time, many emigrants had come from Bulgaria - young professionals who needed help in the first months to adapt better to the new environment. After a while, I learned from the words of some of them how important it had been for these young people to listen to the radio program and receive the newspaper. Having no connection with Bulgaria, experiencing nostalgia, they appreciated our work. Together with my husband and our friend Boyan Markov we helped the new immigrants in their first days in this distant country. They needed information about the country, the customs and the way of life, and about the ordinary problems of life here.

It has been a pleasure for me to travel the vast spaces of Australia. We marvelled at the well-maintained roads that crossed the continent. We travelled through the desert, from the southernmost point of Australia to the northernmost, the city of Darwin, and along the Pacific coast back. The feeling of spaciousness and breadth is indescribable. The red Uluru rock, which changes colour every five minutes at sunset, our encounters with the Aboriginal people and their dot painting have remained forever etched in our memory. Australia is a continent and it has everything.

The story is from the book “Bulgarians in Melbourne” (2017) from Radost Racheva, who is also author of the photographs, provided pro bono for the project.


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