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We really love Bulgaria, all of it, the way it is, every corner of it

Lidia Gorda was born in Soroca, a small Moldovan town known for its old fortress and delicious apples. She graduated from the Chisinau Pedagogical Institute, then began working as a speech therapist and a defectologist in a kindergarten. She meets her husband Stefan Gorda while a student in third year. And for 32 years they have been together in life and around the world - in Prague, in Paris, in Tashkent... And now in Sofia.

Wherever and whenever you meet the wife of a Moldovan ambassador around the capital - at a reception, at an exhibition or in the park, she is impressive. She has a brilliant blend of finesse and elegance, nobility and kindness. And a strive for the beautiful, faith in the traditional values ​​and hope for the European future of her country.

When we asked her if she would like to talk to us about Moldova, which is so close to our hearts, she said she would also do it out of her "love for Bulgaria"; an emotional recognition, which she has shared with us more than once, but which she has proved with her every action or manifestation, while supporting her husband in his work here.

- Ms. Gorda, your national holiday just passed - August 27th. What does it mean for you?

- First of all, it is a tribute to the people, to all the patriots who actively fought for independence, for the return to our language and the authentic values ​​in the culture of our people. We were much younger then, in the late 80's - early 90's. After a time of censorship and communist propaganda, the archives were opened, democratic changes began, while intellectuals and young people participated in them. At the time, my husband worked at the Academy of Sciences, while I was a young teacher, and in 1989 our first child, our son Alexander, was born. We participated in rallies, read all kinds of articles, and there was a spirit of freedom in the air associated with high hopes. Then the Iron Curtain fell, many more walls fell and many myths were broken. It seems strange to young people, but between us and Romania, the Soviet state had built a tall barbed wire fence. Then the Bridge of Flowers event happened, when hundreds of thousands of Moldovan people crossed the Prut River in just one day and there for the first time in their livesthey could talk with their relatives in Romania. It was a time of hopes, much of which are still expected in Moldova.

- Every young person strives for freedom and independence, believes in ideals ...

- Yes, that's right, we hoped and got involved in the process. My husband went to work in the government team of independent Moldova, he was an adviser to the Prime Minister, then to the first President of the Republic of Moldova. Then another great joy happened in our family - our daughter was born, Diana. Both of our children were raised in a spirit of national pride, democracy and European values. For our family, this is a real achievement of independence, because our daughter and son did not go through the Soviet propaganda intoxication that was part of our childhood and adolescence. Independence has been and is a chance, and to make a hope come true depends on us, our people, and of course, on the help of our true friends from Europe and the world.

- Have you always been next to your husband during the preparations for the Independence Day receptions...

- Yes, I am part of the team and so it has been in all the diplomatic missions we have had - now in Sofia, before that in Prague, Paris, Tashkent... For us, this holiday spirit is, every time, manifested duringthe preparation for the welcoming of the guests from the host country and from the international diplomatic community, as well as the representatives of the cultural community, business and members of our diaspora. Receptions are also an occasion to meet and talk not only about our interests as a country, as a nation, but also about traditions, customs, way of life. This year we will organize a wonderful diplomatic reception in Sofia in the beginning of September and now we are intensively working on that.

- What are your other favorite Moldovan holidays?

- We have many wonderful similarities with the Bulgarians - the Thracian roots, the common Christian values. For example, on Christmas Eve, we celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve mostly within a family setting. Ever since I married Stefan, we have been going to my parents' in the legendary city of Soroca, the old fort of Dniester, as well as in Northern Bukovina, where he was born and where customs and traditions make every heart flutter. A person of every age believes in miracles, and the beginning of the year comes as a miracle and with new hope. So is Easter, when nature is revived and the heart of a person is full of hope for good and justice. I have to tell you that every village and town in Moldova has its own holiday, in Bulgaria it is called the holiday of the local church. Then relatives and friends join in from everywhere, even from villages and twin cities in other countries, including Bulgaria. Selected dishes are prepared, there is a lot of music and good mood.

- We also have a common holiday - Baba Marta. Since the 6th of December 2017, UNESCO has included Martenitsa in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity - a common application of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldova and Romania. Tell us about the specifics of this holiday and the “martenitsi in your country.

- Yes, it is a matter of pride that this was achieved. The concerted efforts of our countries have produced remarkable results and the world has noticed this phenomenon. I had the honor of being invited by the first lady, Ms. Desislava Radeva, to the official residence, where we made martenitsas with other ladies and saw what was the authentic Bulgarian tradition of Baba Marta. And we honor this custom, which goes back thousands of years and connects our peoples. For example, two years ago we organized a joint holiday in the Mladost Municipality with people from the Moldovan diaspora, citizens from Sofia and an artistic team from Karabunar. We showed how to make a martenitsa, how we wear it, we also showed how we make folk costumes, it was a great joy. In fact, every year we organize a Martenitsa Festival with the Diaspora here in Bulgaria. We want to enter Europe with everything beautiful, traditional, original. According to the Roman calendar, the year begins exactly in March. We are peoples of farmers, and when nature awakens, our spirit is revived. The white of the martenitsa symbolizes purity, the red - love, the power to live and work. With us, in Moldova, during the first 10 days of March, a large international martenitsa holiday is organized, featuring artists from all over the world, including Bulgaria. All kinds of music genres are represented, this is a music and dance extravaganza and I invite you to visit this holiday in the coming years.

- In Moldova you have many other beautiful traditions.

- We are proud of the Carpet Festival or the National Costume Festival, which are held annually in our country. I want to tell you that the cultural values ​​of the Bessarabian Bulgarians are also promoted at these events, which comes to emphasize how culturally and spiritually close we are. We also have many music festivals, holidays of traditional products, as well as bread, grapes, cherries, plums, the Trifon Zarezan holiday of the Bulgarian friends from Southern Moldova. In my hometown - Soroca, the Apple Festival is organized in the autumn and I assure you that it is very beautiful, comparable to the Rose Festival in Kazanlak. It is also nice to go to Moldova in early October, when the famous Wine Festival will be organized for the 18th time. The Republic of Moldova, as far as I know, is ranked 19th in the world in the production of grapes and wine. Milestii Miciand Krikova are the largest underground cellars in the world, located just a few kilometers from the capital Chisinau and are listed in the Guinness Book of Records. I highly recommend you to visit these tens of kilometers of cellars full of fruits of the Moldovan land of exceptional quality. We are winemakers of ancient times, and a popular saying says that "Wine is good and tasty when you drink it with a nice person", that is, with a friend.

- Speaking of culture and spirituality, and we are close countries, what are the similarities and the differences in our mentality?

- I like the people in Bulgaria - they are cultural, elegant, educated. We found a lot of good friends here. It's a gift to meet such people. What we have in common is patriotism, hospitality, reverence for the memory of our ancestors, a deep respect for the culture of other nations, especially our neighbors and friends. We have been one whole from ancient times and it is good to be so in the future.

- We know that during the weekends you like to visit beautiful places around our country...

- Yes, the mountain in particular is our passion. Whenever possible, we visit places that are less touched by humans. The great Bulgarian poet Ivan Vazov said that you haven’t seen Bulgaria if you haven’t seen the Rhodopes. I am sure that all the mountains in Bulgaria have their incomparable beauty. Mountain trails and crystal clear waters give us the strength to live and hope.

But what a miracle are the monasteries, beautiful villages and towns of this country! What could be more impressive than seeing how Bulgarians have preserved and restored their sacred sites - Rila, Dragalevski, Rozhen, Bachkovski, Klisura and many other monasteries, the old cities - Plovdiv, Asenovgrad, Hisarya, Veliko Tarnovo or Razgrad, impressive villages - unique ones like Arbanassi, Koprivshtitsa. The land of the Kazanlak rose and the dignity of Shipka and Pleven, where our compatriots fell for the freedom of the Bulgarians, is a wonder. How beautiful the restored streets of Plovdiv, Burgas and Ruse look, what wonderful parks Sofia and Varna have! Plovdiv is a city that we visit every time for the first time. And in Veliko Turnovo your breath stops from so much history and ancient Bulgarian civilization.

- We see how much you love Bulgaria...

- Yes. Part of your heart remains where you work, if you are interested and go to see how people live and what their values ​​are. I have always been impressed by the appreciation of tradition and folklore in Bulgaria, this is the case with us. The restoration of old archeological monuments, the way Bulgarian ethnographic museums look, cannot leave you indifferent. I am excited about the scale of the music and folk dance festivals, the worship of the written and cultural traditions - these and other things are special. It is true that Bulgaria is ahead of us in restoring cultural infrastructure, thanks to European funds. But I assure you that we are moving in the same direction. I can say for sure that we really love Bulgaria, the whole of it, as it is, every corner of it. I will be glad if ecological spirit wins everywhere - at your home and at our home. To keep what is created by God and the labor of our ancestors. Let's see the forests and rivers clean, holy places - revered for their pricelessness, cities and villages - organized in accordance with the spirit of the place and the European criteria for culture and civilization.

- Since 2019, you have a female Prime Minister of Moldova, Maia Sandu. What is the role of the woman in your society today? In Bulgaria, we are proud to hold the number one place of female ICT specialists in Europe and the second highest number of female scientists and engineers. What is Moldova proud of?

- Our Prime Minister is a young, ambitious woman who wants to change our society. We now have as many women as men in the government. In Moldova, we want changes in all areas: in the education system, in the health care system, in tourism, in services, even in agriculture. And women are actively involved in this process. They are also involved in the IT sector, and this should not fail to please us. Maria Gabriel is well known in Moldova and I can say that such exceptional women from Bulgaria are positive examples of inspiration and imitation for the younger generation.

- You have two big children - a son and a daughter, and now a granddaughter. As a mother, how did you seek to bring them up, what values did you want to impress upon them, and what, in their turn, did they give to their children?

- Both have good education, speak several foreign languages, work in the IT sector. They married out of love, have families and work a lot. We also have a granddaughter, who is now discovering the world and bringing a lot of positive emotions to the whole family, wherever we are. We want Moldova to join the European Union - only in this way there will be a clear perspective for our children and grandchildren.

- You are undoubtedly one of the most elegant women in the diplomatic corps in our country. What importance do you attach to elegance and fashion and how do you always stay in shape?

- Thank you very much for the assessment, but I think that in Sofia elegance is everywhere, and the diplomatic environment here has a refined, wonderful taste. I prefer shops that offer Bulgarian clothing, there are so many things at relatively reasonable prices.

The best way to be fit over the years is to have a healthy lifestyle. And your sincerity brings a casual smile to your face. I am not a regular client of beauty salons or a follower of complex and restrictive diets and I have never been. I fast like any true Christian. I visit a hair salon and do some small cosmetic procedures. But air, water, nature walks, eating rationally can do wonders. I can share that in recent years I have often followed my daughter's example of eating rationally.

- As an ambassador's wife, you probably have to often welcome guests to the residence. Which traditional Moldovan cuisine do you prefer to promote?

- When we have guests, we serve them kachamak, hot peppers, moldovan steaks, pastries, cold salads and hot bites, salami, veal with plums or cooked differently, duck or lamb in the oven or something grilled, fish cooked with traditional sauce and so many other flavors, including desserts. We often cook both myself and my husband, and we like it. In our kitchen we use a lot of vegetables and fruits. And when you come to Moldova, you must go to Old Orhei to see the famous cave monastery there, but also to taste traditional dishes in the traditional restaurants in the village of Butuceni. One who goes there must come back, because in Moldova the wine is exceptional and the traditional cuisine leaves no one indifferent.

- What do you like about the Bulgarian one?

- We make sure to never run out of yogurt in our house, or out of pink tomatoes and other vegetables and fruits. What to tell you about Bulgarian cherries - we are just waiting for the season. I like a lot the Shopska salad, kyopolou, stuffed peppers, traditional bread or grilled fish. And from the desserts, I love milk with rice. In general, Bulgarian cuisine is very tasty and it is served very nicely. Bulgarian culinary generosity can only be compared to Moldovan.

- You put a lot of finesse into everything you do. How do you like to spend your free time in Bulgaria?

- I read books or listen to music. In the winter, I watch movies and shows that I find interesting. That is how I improve my Bulgarian language. I love walking around Sofia’s parks and gardens. Flowers are another passion of mine - whether in the green spaces of the city or on the balcony of my apartment. I adore them and I take care of them with love. I often go to the flower shops because you have many and they are so beautiful! I like the conversations with friends here and at this point I would grab the opportunity to thank you very much for this conversation and for the friendship. I am convinced that we will retain it even after the end of our term in Bulgaria, the country to which we have become so attached over the last three years.

Photos: personal archive of the Gorda family

Above: Lidia Gorda in Plovdiv

Bellow:

1. At the first reception given by H. E. Mr. Stefan Gorda, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to the Republic of Bulgaria, and his wife Lidia, in Sofia on the occasion of Independence Day with Moldovan musicians, September 2016.

2. At the reception for the national holiday in 2018 with representatives of the Moldovan diaspora in Bulgaria

3. On a visit to the Agricultural University in Plovdiv with representatives of the academic community and the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Moldova in Bulgaria - Mr. Veselin Chipev

4. On the Martisor holiday /the martenitsa holiday/ Moldovans and Bulgarians together

5. The Gorda family in Lidia's hometown

6. The Wine Festival in Chisinau

7. The Gorda family in Borovets

8. H. E. Mr. Stefan Gorda and Ms. Lidia Gorda with Ms. Aneta Peni, Publisher and Ms. Ekaterina Pavlova, Editor-in-Chief of Diplomatic Spectrum