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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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.