Keeping a Culture Alive -Spring 2019

by: Brian Bushard

The island’s Bulgarian community has created a school in the basement of the First Congregational Church, where once a week around 36 young students meet to learn the language of their parents and their culture.

Gergana Neykova and Virginia Kostadinova wear traditional Bulgarian red string bracelets called Martenitsa on their wrists. The bracelets mark the beginning of spring. They also remind them of the homeland they left more than 10 years ago and the culture they left behind.

For 45 minutes each Saturday morning, Gergana Neykova and Zhaneta Avramova teach 3- and 4-year-olds a handful of Bulgarian songs and stories, often through arts and crafts projects.

When their children were born at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, they worried that they would grow up without a connection to the old ways of life in Bulgaria and assimilate totally into American culture.

In 2015, they formed the Bulgarian Education Center to preserve Bulgarian culture for their children.

One way to do that is by keeping the language alive.

“If they keep up with the language, they will remember it,” Kostadinova said. “But if they only speak Bulgarian at home, then after age 9 or 10, they’ll stop learning Bulgarian. They would understand it when it’s spoken to them, but they wouldn’t really speak it.”

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