13.06.2019XVIth Roma children`s “Open heart” festival– days of Roma culture, friendship and tolerance

The sixteenth edition of the Roma children`s festival “Open heart” gathered more than 1600 children, teachers and parents from 100 schools, culture centers and united child complexes in the country, as well as young people and volunteers from the Community development centers, created by Center “Amalipe”. If I say that this festival was the most colourful and filled with emotions and supporting events, I wouldn`t be exaggerating. It`s not a coincidence that we titled it also Escape festival – together, organizers, participants and guests escaped the everyday life, escaped the negativity and just got fun together. Together - children and youth from the whole country; Roma, Bulgarian and Turkish ethnicity, proved for another year that we are more similar than different. They proved that in their colourful world of art and smiles, there is no place for prejudice and hate. 

That was the reason why the motto of the festival this year was “From hate speech to tolerant speech”. This was the title of the exhibition we placed on the main street of Veliko Tarnovo days before the official opening of the festival. The photographers that took part in it were Radostina Petkova and Raycho Chaprazov. Their photos showed the purity of the children`s emotions and  the stories of successful Roma – teachers, doctors, laboratory technicians, directors and others. 

For the first time we had the honor a host to the festival to be Petya Rusinova – principal of United School “N.Y. Vapsarov”, village of Selanovtsi, and in the first day her co-host was Ivan Todorov and in the second – the Roma journalist and director Valeri Lekov.  

The official opening of the festival “Open heart” 2019 was in Marno pole park on 7th of June, where the participants were greeted personally by Gancho Karabadzhakov – deputy mayor of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality, Madushubele Mamabolo – Counsellor Political Affairs to the Embassy of Republic of South Africa, Dora Makarieva – Counsellor Political Affairs to the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany, Kristina Boeva -  Trust for social achievement, Manuela Radeva and Lalo Kamenov – CEICSEM, Boni Bonev – chair of Bulgarian-swiss chamber of commerce, Denitsa Todorova from “Teach for all” foundation, Mariyka Aleksandrova – senior expert “Organization of education”, Regional educational inspectorate – Varna, Krassimira Kotseva – president of Zonta club, Veliko Tarnovo, Irena Vodova – expert in Regional educational inspectorate, Vidin, representatives of local institutions and NGOs. Later that day the Minister of Education Krassimir Valchev got the chance to experience the magic of the festival. 

Greetings were submitted by Yanka Takeva, Head of the Union of Bulgarian Teachers, Krassimir Velchev – Head of the Commission for religion and human rights in the National Assembly; D-r Ana Dzhumalieva – Head of the Commission against discrimination; Donka Petkova , Director of Zonta International clubs in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania; Rumyana Petkova, Executive director of Agency for social support; Plamena Nedelcheva, Director of United kindergarten, town of Novi Pazar; Manuela Radeva, Director of CEICSEM. 

After the greeting it was time for the performances – that moment the children were preparing for the whole year. Every group was different, colourful and beautiful. Every participant added to the unforgettable emotion, which will be remembered by the audience for long time. And when some danced, sang and recreated traditions, others showed how talented they are by presenting different art and crafts ateliers. 

After the festival performances in the first day, the participants marched through Vasil Levski Street in the traditional procession that ended with long horo in front of the building of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality. As ending to this colourful day we enjoyed the wonderful performance “Untold story” , presented by the students from Vocational school for chemistry and food technologies, town of Pazardzhik. The young people impressed the audience with their talent and professionalism. The aim of the play was to present the problems the young Roma girls are facing when forced to enter “early marriage”. It presented the different stand points of  the students, when in school appears a child in risk – from the will to help and protect the victims of violence, to help to be included to purely teenage jealousy for the ones, receiving care, even if they need it. The play provoked a lot of thoughts in the audience.   

During the second day of the Festival the participants showed great musical, dance and artistic talents, and were joined by the Interest groups created as part of the “Together we find solution: educational integration in multicultural environment in Veliko Tarnovo Region” Project (Contract BG05M2OP001-3.002-0050-C01/05.07.2017 “Together we find solution : educational integration in multicultural environment in Veliko Tarnovo Province”, funded by the Operational programme “Science and education for smart growth”, cofounded by the European Union by the structural and investment funds)  

Moreover, when I said that the program was richer than anytime, I was not joking. During the festival days the children participated in the so called “social circus”, organized by Mini Art Foundation. But the surprises for the participants didn’t end there. For the first time the colourful program of “Open heart” set the participants on the adventure Еscape Festival with the mission to neutralize a bomb. The game was in line with the festival but also with the historical and geography specifics of the old capital of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. This was possible with the help of Silvia Bogdanova and Georgi Kunchev – History and Geography teachers in United School “Hristo Botev” , village of Dalgo pole. The students were having fun while solving tasks, logical games, questions by using their knowledge in History, Geography, Bulgarian language and Literature, Mathematics, PE and sports. The smartphones, part of the everyday life of every young person, were helpers in photographing and recording pictures and video that they had to create as a group and to upload on the Facebook page of “Open heart” festival.     

Many schools from the “Every student will be a winner” network were awarded with statuettes for excellent performance in the festival and during the school year. They are:  

  • Vocational school for clothing “Elisaveta Bagryana”, town of Byala slatina
  • Secondary School “ Otets Paisii”, village of Medkovets 
  • United School “ Anton Strashimirov”, village of Svetlen
  • United School “ St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, village of Ivanovo 
  • Secondary School “Kliment Ohridski”, town of Suindol
  • Secondary School “ St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, town of Smyadovo 
  • United School “Hristo Botev”, village of Dalgo Pole – for the Escape festival 
  • Vocational school for chemistry and food technologies, town of Pazardzhik – for the play “Untold story” 
  • Petya Rusinova – host 
  • Radost Petkova – for popularizing Roma culture 

Every participant in the Festival and in the wonderful ateliers, that transformed “Marno pole” park into a beautiful fairytale, was awarded with certificates. Certificates received also the volunteers, without which the event wouldn`t be possible and we deeply thank them. 

After voting amongst the participants, were selected the awards for the best atelier and group. They were for Secondary Scool “L. Karavelov”, town of Varna – atelier and Vocational school for textile and clothing “Dobri Zhelyazkov”, town of Sliven – for best group.

The grand prize of the mayor of Veliko Tarnovo Municipality was for United School “Hristo Botev”, village of Zelena Morava 


Shared from our participants:

„Wonderful initiative for meeting of students and of teachers. Clear message for community belonging and standing for European and human values. Brightness and great mood! “

 Vocational school for chemistry and food technologies, town of Pazardzhik 


„Amazing emotional experience for the students. A celebration they were waiting for the whole year. A place where they feel important and where they can socialize successfully. Here they had a chance to present their natural talent and sense for art.“

Secondary School “ St. St. Cyril and Methodius”, town of Smyadovo 


„An event which gives the students from the whole country a chance to present themselves, to meet children from different parts of Bulgaria, to share their traditions and thoughts. A chance to feel that they are part of one big community, to feel the warmth and togetherness of the ethnicities, despite their differences.“

United school “Hristo Botev”, village of Banitsa. 


Parallel with the festival activities were held supporting events, including: 

Reading of works of the Roma poet Vassil Chaprazov and a discussion about the Roma culture 

Photo exhibition “The successful Roma” 

Roundtable “Problems of the professional education in multicultural environment” 

They showcased the growth of the festival from celebration of the student`s creativity to days of Roma culture, friendship and tolerance. 



Trust for social achievements is a nongovernmental organization, which mission is to stop the vicious cycle of poverty by encouraging possibilities which helps the vulnerable citizens of Bulgaria to achieve educational and economic success. TSA supports programmes that with their honest, potential for growth and transparency help for improving the well-being of the poorest people in Bulgaria with special focus on Roma.


The Festival has been organized with the support of the project RARE - Roma as Human Resource

You can find more information about RARE project at:

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