29 Oct 2014

The ‘dark secret’ awaiting two Bulgarian immigrants

For the politicians, the migration debate inflaming tempers in the UK and elsewhere in Europe is first and foremost a numbers game. It’s about quotas, reduced or ignored. It’s about the spectre of a human flood swamping limited resources and it’s about the promise and the peril of human mobility in Europe.

But behind every number and every statistic there lurks a personal story. And so it was with Ozcan, 16, and Bilgin, 17, two teenage boys from the tiny village of Slevo Polje in Bulgaria.

Produced/directed by Teresa Smith, filmed by Marcel Mettelsiefen, edited by Agnieszka Liggett

Like every other boy and man in their village they too dreamed of escaping the limitations of their upbringing and making it in prosperous northern Europe. They made their wishes and tied a coloured rag to the village’s wishing tree, a cluster of oaks surrounded by a mouldy picket fence. A place where the old women of the village spent more time than in church.

The boys consulted the village witch about the journey to Germany and they thumbed the car magazines that contained the object of their ardent desire: a second-hand BMW.

They said goodbye to their mothers, who straightened their hair one last time and they squeezed into the back of the minivan that would drive them all the way to northern Germany, where Ali, a contact Ozcan’s mother knew and whom the driver of the minivan had lots of business with, would wait for them, give them room and board and a first job handing out leaflets.

Ozcan and Bilgin were both nervous and excited. The journey took three days. The highlight was Ozcan’s first meal at McDonalds and it was between mouthfuls of Big Mac and chips that the dark secret that awaited them first revealed itself.

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Editorial note:

The boys in this film are ethnic Turks, who make up the largest ethnic minority in Bulgaria  – approximately 8 per cent of the population according to the 2011 census. There has been a Turkish population in Bulgaria since the 14th Century, and they are one of the poorest groups in the country. Most of the Bulgarians moving to Germany to find work are from this group.


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13 reader comments

  1. slava says:

    Those people who you call Bulgarian don’t seem to speak a word in Bulgarian. Those a Roma gypsies and now you present the face of Bulgaria. It is simply a misleading the British people who watch your program. Shame on you !

  2. jim creamer says:

    although a good report on poor Bulgarians looking for work and their plight. however the report is somewhat misleading as although living in Bulgaria the report has upset my Bulgarian partner as the people where actually speaking Turkish and Romany and in general do not class themselves as Bulgarian,
    the program has cast a very negative image on the majority of Bulgarians.
    please explain that the program was Bulgarian Romanys

  3. Ozcan says:

    I’m amazed that this was a film about Bulgarians although nobody in it actually spoke Bulgarian or was at least Bulgarian. Paradoxical isn’t it ?

  4. Vanya Dimova says:

    This material is so wrong! First of all, this village’s population is not of Bulgarians but of people who belong to the ethnic minority of Turks in Bulgaria. They don’t even speak in Bulgarian in the video, they all speak in Turkish. This so-called “tradition” with the rags on the tree is NOT a Bulgarian tradition, there is no such thing! This material represents Bulgaria and the Bulgarians in a completely WRONG way as they are nothing like what this video shows! This creates the wrong image of the country and its people. Check things first and present them properly!

  5. Miro Dimitrov says:

    Matt Frei’s piece on the two “Bulgarian immigrants” was interesting, but only up to a point. If the purpose of such reports is to look into the whole immigration matter and dig deeper than the UK press seems generably prepared to do, it was a missed opportunity !
    Infact this was a different story from the rather simplified scenario told by Matt Frei , these boys are from the turkish minority, they live in a village where the turkish population is around 85%, only turkish was spoken throughout the whole piece. Infact this was a story about exploitation of poor minorities in eastern europe, not about “Bulgarians”. Matt they are Bulgarians but their story is more complex – maybe this does’nt fit into your theme, but it is the truth, or ‘pravdata’ as we say in Bulgaria !

  6. Dessy says:

    After watching the documentary last night I contacted Matt Frei on Twitter. I told him that the story is dark and sad but yet incorrect as this people did not speak Bulgarian. Surprisingly, Matt Frei answered immediately:

    Matt Frei ‏@mattfrei 18h18 hours ago
    @dessyTod we never said they speak Bulgarian. They live in Bulgaria but clearly being to a Turkish minority. It’s not central to story

    You are wrong, Matt, it is central to your story. You must have clearly stated their minority group – Roma. This would have explained a lot and not misled the viewers to believe that you are presenting a story for the Bulgarian nation but for an actual problem this nation also deals with. A totally different connotation with which I would have agreed.
    In my view, your story lacks credibility and depicts Bulgarians as poor, ignorant creatures.
    I’m still awaiting an answer from you: If filming a story for a minority group in Great Britain, would you simply refer to them as British for clarity and accuracy?
    Channel 4 News seemed to be one of the only factual and objective programmes. I’m all in doubt now.

  7. Dessy says:

    Just saw that you added an editorial note. Would you be so kind to state the same on tonight’s news programme?

  8. Christina Christova says:

    So Channel 4 decided to make a report about Bulgaria.
    How bizarre – the people featured were not Bulgarians but representatives of a Turkish minority and didn’t even speak Bulgarian. And yet, the report kept referring to them as Bulgarians throughout. The customs of the village were presented as the customs of Bulgarians. They are not. Was this filmed in Bulgaria at all? Apparently so. This was not a report about Bulgarians. This was a report about a minority yet this simplistic report didn’t tell their story either. Or any story.
    Nothing wrong with featuring stories about minorities, if this is what Channel 4 want to feature, as long as they are informative and well researched. These impoverished and neglected Bulgarian minorities suffer injustice, both home and abroad. This report wasn’t about them either.
    It was a total joke, a sloppy and irresponsible piece of journalism. It almost felt like a deliberate misrepresentation of Bulgaria.
    What appears to be an editorial note on this blog should’ve been made clear in the report.
    What a shame, Channel 4!

  9. Antoaneta says:

    It is very annoying how British media keeps on implying to the public a specific image of the Bulgarian immigrants.

  10. Vanya Dimova says:

    This editorial note apparently added a little too late is insufficient. Instead the authors of this material owe a formal apology to the Bulgarian nation for this misrepresentation and false image of the Bulgarian people on the Channel 4 news asap.

  11. Zornitsa says:

    Thanks for the important clarification . But I hope that will be broadcast on Channel 4 news .

  12. Eli says:

    Great production. And this is exactly the reality happening to so many people coming to West Europe . The people in this video are indeed from Turkish minority living in Bulgaria – but I have met many Bulgarians in the UK (not of any minority group) living in small flats or houses in large numbers and sometimes 3 people per room.

  13. Pen says:

    The worst fairy tale I’ve ever Heard. I am Bulgarian and never seen this tradition in my country. What a nonsense ! There’s nothing to do with your information. Just wandering what is the point to mislead people.
    If Irish travellers represent English people and culture then we can suggest its true.

Comments are closed.