Recently, GCWAC board member Timothy Swallow visited with Dimitrina (“Didi”) Ispiridonova Partridge, President of the Bulgarian Association of Cincinnati. The BAC group is presenting A Day of Slavic Culture and Celebration of the Cyrillic Alphabet at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center on May 24, 4:00-7:00 pm.
Here are highlights from their conversation:
TIM: The Cincinnati-Bulgaria connection is long-standing. According to Cincinnati Magazine, in 1923 the patriarch of “Cincinnati Chili” – Bulgarian-born Athanas Kiradjieff – opened a chili stand on Vine Street, called “The Empress”. He added spaghetti to their pure beef chili, developed three-, four- and five-ways and thus Cincinnati Chili was born.
So Didi, how did you, and other Bulgarians, come to settle in Cincinnati?
DIDI: One generation came here after WWII, upon the takeover by Stalinist Russia. Later, following the end of forty-four years of communist rule in 1989, Cincinnatian George Vredeveld came to Bulgaria as part of the US-led Bulgarian Economic Growth and Transition Project, to foster a free market economy. Founder of the UC Economics Center for Education and Research, Professor Vredeveld also stressed the importance of education for Bulgarians.
As a result of this interaction, some of Bulgaria’s “best and brightest” came to Cincinnati, establishing families and careers, with positions of prominence in higher education, healthcare, technology, economics and entrepreneurial startups. There are now roughly 1,000 Bulgarians living in the Cincinnati MSA.
Inspired by Professor Vredeveld, I came to Cincinnati in the early 1990s to study at U.C. Loved Cincinnati, decided to live here, got married and started a family.
TIM: How were you educated and how did you become a teacher?
DIDI: Helping people learn has always appealed to me. After completing high school in my hometown of Burgas, I attended Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and studied English and teaching. Later, after my time at the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated with an MA in Labor and Employment Relations, I received an MA in Teaching Economics from the University of Delaware.
But my passion lies with linguistics. I spent some time as an instructor with the Berlitz and CinciLingua language schools, and found my true calling to be working with young people. For the last fifteen years I’ve been a teacher in the Mt. Healthy school district, and currently teach ESL, k-12. In addition, I’ve conducted the a Cultural Club, exposing students K-6 to international cultures. Previously, I have also taught a Foreign Language Exploratory class – introducing French, German and Spanish to 7th and 8th graders. I am extremely grateful to the Mt.Healthy community for providing me with their support and opportunity to educate their youngsters.
TIM: How can Cincinnatians become better acquainted with Bulgarians, and Bulgarian culture?
DIDI: The Bulgarian Association of Cincinnati has a new website, www.bgcincy.org, and we’ve been on Facebook for a few years. Bulgarians have strong Interest in classical music, opera, European cinema, and dance, so you’ll find us at local cultural events. We sponsor a Bulgarian folk dance group and collaborate with other Slavic ancestry groups (Ukraine, Russia, Poland, etc.) for special occasions such as our annual “Velikden” Easter picnic and celebration.
We support the Tree of Life Adoption Center and will start culinary lessons in the near future, at Phyllo World, the Bulgarian bakery at 212 Pike Street in Covington that offers Bulgarian pastry, newspapers ,and books.
While we currently offer a Bulgarian school in local public libraries, our goal is to establish a permanent location. As with many ethnic groups in the US, Bulgarian parents want their children to learn their native tongue. We are working on receiving funding from the Bulgarian Ministry of Education for pupils to learn about the history, geography and language of Bulgaria which helps us to operate a school offering four hours on weekends, including music and dancing plus academic and language lessons.
We are also interested in coordinating exchanges and group travel to Bulgaria, to explore the architecture, culture and extensive archaeological sites.
TIM: Thanks, Didi, this has been fun and very informative! We look forward to learning more on May 24 at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.
Slavic Culture Event May 24 – Day of Slavic Culture and Celebration of the Cyrillic Alphabet