Interview by D. Mylonas 04-01-2017 at Kastraki (Dorida, West Greece)
(At her home, on the morning of the birthday of her youngest daughter Georgia)
Emy was born in 1979 and used to live in Petrich, southwest Bulgaria, adjacent to the Bulgarian-Greek borders. When she was 14 years old she got together with her “husband” (they were never married); 16 years old she gave birth to her first daughter, Virginia, and 18 years old she gave birth to her son, Giannis. Her parents had agreed to give their consent for the couple to get married, but he didn’t want to and they decided to continue as they were. Emy had started working in a textile and clothes factory, and in 10 years of work she was advancing quickly in the skill of tailoring, with the help and encouragement of Sophia, a very good friend of hers of Greek origin that was experienced in the job. Emy’s husband started to be very jealous of her, working for long hours in the factory. Emy proposed to him to come and work in the factory with her, and her boss from the factory had agreed to train him as well to a suitable skill. Indeed her husband went to work at the factory, but lasted there for 3 months only – at least he was reassured that there was no reason to be jealous. However, as time passed and he didn’t get a job, he again started to be jealous. He was following her and spying on her outside the factory where she worked, causing a problem with the factory director. Nevertheless, Emy was set on continuing her work there and advancing.
Then, Emy realized that she was pregnant with her second daughter, Georgia. With the encouragement of her close friend, she decided that despite the economic problems she would keep the baby, who was born in 2006. Around 4 months later, Emy needed to get back to work. However, soon she realized that the factory would close and she would be unemployed. That is when she decided to come to Greece to work. Her husband didn’t want her to leave, but she was set to it, in order to be able to provide for her children. The reasons for migrating to Greece were that it was close to her hometown, and that she could speak some Greek – she had learned from her Greek friend, Sophia (Emy said she liked the sound of the language and wanted to learn).
The first job she got, through an agency in Bulgaria, was to look after an old couple in a village close to Nafpaktos. She had to leave her children behind. She was most worried for her youngest daughter who was very small at the time – her older children were 12 and 10 years old and were being looked after by her brother. One day, her youngest daughter had an accident falling on a staircase, and when she got the news from the phone, Emy told the family she worked at that she had to leave to visit her baby in Bulgaria. That is when they told her she should bring the girl with her to Greece to live with her and go to school there. When Emy went to Bulgaria, she saw for herself that the baby had a serious fall but fortunately would be fine. However, her husband insisted on her not going back to Greece – he even threatened to commit suicide if she left without him. So he did! He took poison, however he was saved at the hospital. His jealousy was becoming dangerous. He was poisoning their older children against their mother, telling them that she had abandoned them to go and live a better life in Greece. The children stopped believing him when they got older – they had realized now that their mother worked in Greece in order to support them. Indeed, Emy was sending money every month to her brother (she didn’t trust her husband anymore) in order to provide food and clothes for her children.
Emy returned to Greece, this time together with her youngest daughter, Georgia. After some months, her husband told her to go to Bulgaria to marry him, but she denied thinking that he would only cause her problems and that he only wanted to get married to claim some of the money she was making. After a year, Emy and Georgia visited their home in Bulgaria for Christmas. Then there was some kind of problem and the borders were closed, so she couldn’t return to Greece as she planned. Emy called the old man she was looking after and told him about this problem, also telling him that she would come back to him when the borders would open. He replied “If you’re not here within a week, better not come back at all!” Emy had to stay in Bulgaria for a month while waiting for the job agency there to get her a new job. At that time her husband spent time with his youngest daughter. Then the agency called her and informed her that there was a job for her in Kastraki, a village close to the one she had been working before. The job was to look after an old man who had a surgery. So in February 2010 she came back to Greece, alone. In Easter, she went back to Bulgaria and, despite the obstacles she faced from her husband, brought Georgia back with her to Greece.
Once she got back to Greece, her husband started to call the old man and one of the old man’s sons (he had stolen their phone numbers from Emy’s mobile while she was in Bulgaria), telling them Emy was a whore and not to be trusted and that they should fire her. When he realized that he would not achieve anything, he called her and told her he would commit suicide again with poison. Emy was shaken because she felt that he would do it, and warned her family in Bulgaria to keep an eye on him. However, on that same day, he indeed attempted suicide again with poison. He was taken to the hospital where he was in comma for 2 days until he came round. The old man that Emy was looking after, told her to go back to Bulgaria to see her husband, but she denied – she was afraid that her husband was so taken by jealousy that he could harm her.
After some years, the old man she was looking after died. But one of his sons offered her a job in his farm (he keeps cows, sheep, and other farm animals), helping him with the work there. She now lives with her daughter Georgia at the ground floor of the family house (at the apartment that the old man used to live), and works at the farm.
All this time, did you send money back to Bulgaria to support your other 2 children?
Yes. I sent money to them through my brother. I didn’t trust my husband – he couldn’t stay in any job he got and I knew that he would use the money himself instead of providing for my children. I supported them until 2-3 years ago – then they both got a job, my eldest in Bulgaria as a hairdresser and my son in Germany as a technician. Now I only provide for Georgia and myself.
Do you have any contact with your husband now?
No. He stopped texting me 2-3 years now. I have no contact with him at all, thank God. He was poisoning my parents with lies, telling them that their daughter has now married that old man in Greece and that she had more children with him. They knew, they didn’t believe him.
Do you go back to Bulgaria at all? Has he made any attempt to see you?
Yes, I do, on holidays. I stay with my eldest daughter. No, he hasn’t made any attempt, and I am thankful for that.
Tell me about your impression of Greece and Greeks when you first arrived here. Can you think of a negative and a positive impression?
People here are warm and understanding. They are in Bulgaria too, but more here. Of course there were also people who were suspicious and reserved towards me. They probably thought “Who knows what she was in Bulgaria, and she had to come here, bringing her daughter as well. We don’t go there, why do they come here?” But they don’t know what I’ve been through..
Do you regret coming to Greece? Or do you have regrets about how things worked out with your husband?
No, I don’t regret coming here. And I don’t have regrets about him either. I have made many many efforts to change him, but to no avail. People don’t change. He had even threatened my youngest daughter! He told her that he would set his house on fire with himself in it! When he was still talking to her on the phone, he was telling her that I have a boyfriend here and don’t care about her! Tell me, if you were me, would you allow him again to talk to her on the phone?
Have you tried to bring your older daughter and son here in Greece to work and stay with you?
They have both come to visit me, for vacation. They like it here, but they can’t stay for long. They both feel that this is not my house, and they feel uncomfortable. They see me and Georgia here living with this other family (on the same building) and they feel they don’t belong. They fear they would cause me problems if they stayed – that people would start to comment. Anyway, they have their own lives now.
What do you miss more from Bulgaria?
My children… Only my children. Now it is me with Georgia here, Virginia in Bulgaria and Giannis in Germany. Couldn’t we be together? I wanted that!
What do you remember about the last day before you left for Greece for the first time?
I remember I was thinking I want to leave Bulgaria and never come back! Never come back.. I didn’t leave. I escaped! From this man.
What do your older children think about the situation between you and your husband?
Virginia at the beginning sided with her father, blaming me for leaving him to go to Greece. But later she understood. Now she knows what I have been through, and realizes I had no choice. Giannis, since the beginning, understood why I had to go. He is now living in Stuttgart, Germany. He told me that, if he manages to find a job for me there, I should take Georgia and go stay with him. I will think about it..not for myself, but for Georgia and the change she will have to go through in school and leaving her friends here.
Have you thought about going back to Bulgaria?
You never know where life may lead you..but no, it is difficult.
Are there any objects you could show me, any documentation (photos, letters, etc.) that is of importance to you in relation to your story?
He had sent me photos of himself carrying a knife and holding snakes, threatening me to go back! I have destroyed them, together with any other photo or trace of him. But I have family photos I can show you.