Hristo Grigorov, President of the Bulgarian Red Cross, in an interview for the This is Bulgaria broadcast of Radio Focus.
Host: The first 10 houses in the village of Biser, Harmanli Municipality, are ready and the keys for the houses will be given to their owners – the people that were affected by the February 6 flood. Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Bulgarian Minister of Interior, and Hristo Grigorov, President of the Bulgarian Red Cross (BRC), will take part in the ceremony. Three months ago, the two officials symbolically turned the first sod of the new construction. The houses were constructed with funds, raised via the national charity campaign organised by the BRC. How do the like the houses, Mr Grigorov?
Hristo Grigorov: I saw the houses once, but they were still being built. I will see them finished for the first time, when we give the keys to their owners. The good thing is that this national campaign, initiated by the BRC, managed to help the people from the village of Biser, who suffered from the flood. The fact that the first houses are ready, and the first keys are to be given to their owners, shows that the campaign is successfully being realised. Maybe it is good that people know that the other 20 houses are currently being constructed, so I expect in the next two or three months the people from the village of Biser will enter in their new, modern, homes.
Host: Will you have enough money to finish the project?
Hristo Grigorov: When I say modern, I do not, in any way, mean luxurious – the houses are not mansions, as some of the newspapers suggested. These are normal, standard, houses, which allow a family to feel comfortable and to live peacefully. The money we raised will be enough for the construction of these 30 houses, and if necessary, we will do everything necessary to bring this benevolent cause to a successful end, as apart from the BRC, the Bulgarian government and the entire Bulgarian people support this cause, which aims at providing new homes to these people.
Host: Are you satisfied with the work of the contractor – Balkanstroy?
Hristo Grigorov: There are two contractors actually, as after the start of the construction another company joined the project, so that the deadlines could be met, because the winter is coming in the next few months. The company is working according to schedule and as far as we know, from the information we have from the regional governance and from our colleagues, who visit the construction sites sporadically, the quality of the construction is very good, and you cannot say that the speed of the construction affects in a negative way its quality. The company provided a serious number of workers, and I would like to say that the company covered some of the expenses, which had not included in the initial contract, in order to fulfil its commitment to the Bulgarian government, namely to have 10 new homes ready after the third month of the start of the project.
Host: What was the initial reaction of the people from the village of Biser? They have obviously not even dreamed of such attention. They probably cannot believe that his is happening and cannot believe their eyes and their luck.
Hristo Grigorov: The thing that happened during this national campaign, which we initiated, shows once more that Bulgarians are very united, in moments of crises and natural disasters, and that we bring out the best of our moral values – compassion and mercy. The scale of this reaction and the fact that it was in due time, was probably what surprised the people from the village of Biser the most, as they had not expected it.
Host: When we talk about compassion and mercy, I cannot skip mentioning one more fact and ask you about it. The BRC decided to give a one-time assistance of BGN 1,000 to the family of Mustafa Kyosev – the Bulgarian bus driver, who was killed in the bomb attack on Burgas Airport in Sarafovo. Why did you decide to help this man’s family? You seemed to be the only organisation that made such a gesture.
Hristo Grigorov: Our units, units from the Burgas branch of the BRC, and the emergency aid unit were at the place of the terrorist attack minutes after it was committed. The people from the unit immediately went to help, once they heard the news. After that we had reinforcements from our Yambol branch, and from our Varna branch, so that we could be as efficient as possible. What the BRC did there, at the place of the bombing, was very considerable, and we assisted our colleagues from Israel, who arrived at the place to help. The pain that our colleagues saw in the eyes of the victims, the tears of pregnant women and young children, the horror that the victims had to endure – these were all things that motivated us to do this donation. The other part of it was for my own reasons. I was also raised as an orphan and I know very well what this family, which had absolutely no fault whatsoever, would face now. That was why we, unanimously, decided to help this family with BGN 1,000, and we also decided to help this child in its future development, when necessary. This family can rely on us, from now on. Our decision was made, solely based on human motives. These people should know that they are not alone, in a moment like this, and that they can rely on support from someone. The BRC is an organisation, which is compassionate and dependable.
Host: This is an unbelievable gesture. I would like to tell you that in the past the church used to be the first to help in such cases, but now it was nowhere to be seen now. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church was nowhere to be seen after the terrorist attack. Your organisation, on the other hand, had a timely and compassionate reaction.
Hristo Grigorov: I do not want to enter a dispute with the church. However, I would like to say one more thing – the child of a BRC employee died the other day in the Black Sea, while saving another child. So you can see what the challenges before us are – we will also help his family, because the BRC has concentrated in itself the will of people to help. Our organisation was established 134 years ago by the Bulgarian people, as its purpose was to help the people. We are continuing the mission of our predecessors with the dignity that this is the Red Cross. We have no other motives. We are motivated by the will to return faith and peace of mind of the people, and we do it by helping them. Naturally, we are not the only ones – there are many other NGOs, who do the same thing. We must also not forget how the Bulgarian government helped the people in Pernik after the earthquake and in Biser after the floods. Nonetheless, the BRC is probably the only organisation, which people trust unconditionally. When the terrorist attack was committed in Burgas, we set up several tents of the BRC and almost everyone came to our tents and asked for water or other necessaries. This is because the Red Cross is a symbol of the good and a symbol of protection all over the world.
Host: Yes, it is a symbol of compassion, faith, and hope; a symbol of things that are so simple, yet so important – things vital for us, so that we do not feel alone.
Hristo Grigorov: We must make a with that this was an exception – the terrorist attack in Burgas, because Bulgarian people do not deserve to be a target of terrorist attacks. We are hospitable, friendly, ethnically tolerant, and when such a thing transfers from the rest of the world to Bulgaria – it is not fair, because we have not provoked this with anything.