Материалът на български виж ТУК.
An interview with Mihaela Petrova by Ralie Blag
for ‘Bright Sparks in the Aura of Bulgaria’
Translation: Neil Scarth
Photos: Alexsandra Vali
I remember noticing MIhaela by way of her comment under a post from someone that had come up on my Facebook wall. I just liked what she’d remarked even though I no longer recall what it was exactly. Sometimes interesting people catch our attention like this and, if we’re in luck, they end up staying on our list of Facebook friendships long-term I’m even more delighted when they turn out to be people with an established name who have taken a clear public stand in their field of expression, because to emerge ‘into the limelight’ seems to me like a difficult and responsible undertaking (figuratively speaking), especially when it comes to a ‘different’ way of thinking, one which should be gaining ground by this time. ‘They are in need of an outlet to the media, because there they’re definitely on the back foot’ – someone I know had said to me several years ago and this phrase has etched itself on my memory. Who ‘they’ are is not particularly clear, but as someone who has researched Exupery deeply, this person had had something like ‘that which is invisible to the eyes’ in mind, that ‘essence’… In the following lines we give the floor to yet one more Bright Spark in the Aura of Bulgaria in the hope that we will kindle ever more points of light in it, even though they may be invisible to the eyes
Could you share something briefly with us of the spirit of the enthusiast in you: what excites you in life, what are your sources of inspiration and of the feeling that everything has a purpose and is worth it?
Life itself, if you experience it within you, is a source of inspiration. It forces you to act, to believe, to be inspired, to notice tiny beautiful things and to relish them… if you go through beautiful emotions, then for you there is a sense. For me it’s really important for a person to have something which inspires them and interests them when they are alone. This can be all kinds of things: writing, drawing, composing… programming too (we ought not to exclude more contemporary forms of creativity). When a person has something they can immerse themselves in and even forget that the rest of the world exists, then that’s a part of the puzzle. But the feeling of meaningfulness comes from what’s shared and the sense of co-creating something with other people. If there is no sharing and understanding of the creative impulse, then the so-called ‘clash with reality’ occurs. This breaks the will of a lot of people at a very early age. I believe that everyone has the potential to be inspired, but it’s not in everybody that the inner life is so strong that it says ‘I don’t care what they say to me’ and goes on ahead. You have to be fully mature to be able to do this.
You’ve mentioned that as a child you didn’t have any particular idea about your career path; nevertheless, what attracted you to study, read, investigate? And what did you dream of?
On the contrary, I did have. I was going to become a ballerina, a doctor, a school mistress, an artist… I was given an accordion but I could see that the music that came out of it wasn’t the same as the music of the teacher lady in the kindergarten and I cast it aside. And that was that. And so I was done with music Of course, as you grow up, you get locked into some kind of direction. All of this artistic nature was suppressed so I would look towards something which was considered important for the future: for example, studying Bulgarian and Maths intensively so you can get into a specialised Grammar School for languages. But I played truant from maths lessons and went to painting lessons until they caught me and a stop was put to that. I remember that I really liked water colours but I also learnt graphics, oil painting. To this very day, water-colours can bewitch me. I’ve never been of the view that a good education according to the criteria of society at large will secure me some kind of future. Also, the fact that I haven’t developed in even one of the artistic fields mentioned is not something I regard as a loss because these interests somehow marked out my road ahead for me. As a journalist I was essentially involved with art and even at the moment I’m in the sphere of administration connected with culture. So what I was amassing then has inevitably been reflected in what I am now, without me having consciously sought this. Likewise, the profession of journalist, which I love the most, is one in which you are both teacher, and doctor in a certain sense, because you educate and shape a way of thinking, a point of view.
How did your journalistic journey take shape and also your work in the national media?
Very easily. Once I’d had to give up painting and dancing in order to study maths, I had a second notebook underneath which I wrote in: that was the easiest way to hide. I told various stories, starting with an attempt at a novel. I was inspired by books, films… After ‘Hair’, ‘All that jazz’… I remember that we got together with my friends, girls in my class, in one of our flats and we acted out scenes from the films. That’s how I got into writing and scripts for school plays, which never got performed outside my classmate’s living room… but the process was important. Likewise, when we filled in our ‘friendship books’ I didn’t like ready-made verses like ‘You’re the rose, the cream in tea / you are happiness for me…’: I thought up my own stuff which suited the person or I ‘enlightened’ them with quotes from books of aphorisms like the ones by La Rochefoucauld or Oscar Wilde. So my signature in the friendship books was something rather elitist and for that reason they wrote that I was pretty, but very full of myself
In my day there were associations for school pupils and university students and I enrolled in one for journalism. Jimmy Naidenov helped us write in more serious publications, and along with Vera Naidenova he helped us get interviews with famous people: artists, performers, the stars of the day… they gave us both support and self-confidence. It was motivating. That made us a little vain and stuck-up because we were the best, but your teenage years are the time when your ego is formed and it’s really good if it’s formed by means of culture. It has its role to play when later you have to defend your ideas.
First, ‘Establish yourself’ and then work ‘selflessly’ in your public service?
Yes. The ego puts in place the structure through which the so-called ‘spiritual’ aspect of things is channelled. It’s very important for us to be spiritual and ego-less but that’s not exactly how it is in the final analysis. Since we have an ego, it must have its function in this world. As long as it’s in its rightful place in the system and is not the one in the driver’s seat, it’s a good navigator for finding your place in society as a whole. Ultimately, every professional CV is a calling card for the ego. In situations when you have to go to an interview and find work, it’s perfectly appropriate to use it as an asset. Whereas once you’re already working, ‘come out of yourself’ so the spirit can enter. In our reality the most important thing is to strike a balance within the whole human ‘system’.
And how did your taking on the post of Director of the National Book Centre come about?
Ever since I was little I’ve had a great interest in books. I was involved in the setting up of the publishing house ‘Paradox’. I’ve had my own bookshop. When I was a journalist, alongside everything else books were a part of my work. The truth is that I’ve always regarded myself as a journalist and as someone who writes. My administrative position came about by means of an invitation by Miroslav Borsos, first as Head of the Production Centre in the National Palace of Culture (NCP); to be honest, I was rather taken aback at the time because I didn’t see myself as an administrator. Borsos told me, however, that he was insisting on me because of my level of culture, my judgement and my wealth of experience. I put my trust in his programme because I saw in him a modern person who was trying to introduce new forms of management into a cultural institution such as NPC. He is an innovator.
So, after 3 or 4 months’ work in the Production Centre I discovered that, hard as it was for me to believe, I had a talent as an organiser and team manager. I don’t know where I dug up this talent from – it came as a great surprise to me that I could do this and that I enjoyed it. Yes, there are a lot of bothersome things, but in doing the administrative work, I’m using my journalistic knowledge and the ability to structure things. In the same way as I planned the contents of a magazine or designed a broadcast, I drew up the cultural programme for the Production Centre. This experience taught me that creative individuals are more multi-dimensional and that, aside from the primary gift which is closest to their hearts, they also have other abilities which they shouldn’t allow to atrophy. Sometimes fate and circumstances lead a person to a place where they can develop them. When the post of Head of the National Book Centre came up later on, Miroslav Borsos suggested to me that I take it on: not because I’m someone from the literary world in the narrowest sense, which I’m not actually, but because this is administrative work and it requires organisation, communication and a good approach in terms of mediation.
The National Book Centre has really nice programmes in support of Bulgarian literature and the translation of Bulgarian literature abroad. I can say with confidence that in the field of translation we did something which had never been done. There have been programmes and translations of Bulgarian literature but for the more classic things like ‘Under the Yoke’. A young author could not even dream of being noticed by a foreign publishing house, not least because of the restricting barrier of the Bulgarian language. We send bulletins with up-to-date publications to translators around the world. They aren’t many in number either. They select. Usually a particular translator falls in love with a particular book and that’s how things happen – with personal love. Not on somebody’s recommendation or stipulation. And battles are literally fought with publishers for them to take on the risk of publishing a given author, who is totally unknown to the readership of another country. The National Book Centre assists in paying the translator. In this way the commercial risk to the publisher is reduced and at the same time Bulgarian literature makes inroads overseas. The true apostles in this undertaking are the translators. We help to turn their enthusiasm into fact.
Could you share something about the problems of cultural institutions in our country which you’ve come up against?
Actually I don’t know them in any depth for the simple reason that NPC is a commercial enterprise and does not have the right to make use of the various options for state funding which are allocated to cultural institutions. Nonetheless, what has made an impression on me is that in some of the programmes it’s mainly the well-established traditional stuff, with a patriotic subject matter or connected to the big names, that are financially assisted. It’s only very rarely that worthwhile projects by young people are given attention. There’s another problem with regard to this. It’s very nice that there are now programmes for funding, but having to apply project by project every year detracts a lot from the creative process. That’s how we are often faced with projects which are the equivalent of junk food: there may be worthwhile ideas in them, but they are junk food. Of course, there are pearls too. There always are.
If we move on now to politics: the question of whether we will never be able to feel satisfied with the people who we elect to be in charge of public affairs or whether good candidacies often fail because of superfluous inter-party battles and counter-attacks?
Serving society has always been and will remain a kind of apostolic work. Like that of our translators. Apart from that, it is first and foremost a matter of vision and a professionally-conceived strategy as to how a structure can be built up which will allow good social ideas to succeed. Politics is also a creative art. At one time even, kings were primarily strategists. It’s no accident at all that Sun Tzu devoted an entire work to the art of war, which is of great importance to the nation: ‘This art is a matter of life and death, the road to security or to destruction.’ The fact that wars are not now waged as in days of yore does not at all mean that these rules are not now relevant. For some of the most successful businessmen I know, this book is their Bible. Thanks to it, they have created a structure and strategy for their business team and it works.
It’s normal for the nation to express dissatisfaction when it does not feel secure. You know, my son is a games-programmer, he’s studying this degree subject in Holland. Their very first theoretical lecture was connected with Maslow’s Pyramid with the Hierarchy of Needs. Because these young people are going to be creating worlds. For a person, a system, a nation to develop, the first two conditions, i.e. for a stable foundation, physiological needs have to be satisfied and there has to be security. ‘Personal development’ is at the top of the pyramid. The true purpose of politics carries with it exceptional responsibility, because it creates a world, the micro-world in which the citizens of a nation live.
I regret to say that at the moment in Bulgaria politics is Big Brother. A show for the people, generously fed by the media. Our dear viewer sits, watches, comments, swears at or approves of and in the end votes for who is to go and who is to stay, or let’s spell it out: for who should get the big wad of cash. In Bulgarian politics today there are battles not between ideas but between people: this versus that circle, factional splits, accusations: a parochial affair. It’s taken for granted that the public ends up in the state of a spectator, whose participation is reduced to the comments sections on social media. There is some kind of system which is creaking under the strain but which rattles on somehow down the tracks of what had previously been set down. Every visionary of the new generation quite naturally will be crushed by the collective mind of the system. It’s not even a question of morals. If you have to travel in a small car for 5 hours, whether you like it or not you’ll end up bent out of shape, you’ll get cramp in your legs, your neck… no matter what vision you have. In order to feel good, you have to get out of it, stretch your legs a bit and in some cases even continue your journey on foot. Little by little you’ll come across other ‘pilgrims’, because evolution has its own pathways on which one walks with head held high.
There are already plenty of young people who have developed themselves with the ‘television’ long since switched off. They create smaller communities with like-minded people, who know each other, are professionals in the field they’re involved in, do their work with passion and can sit down together at the table and be inspired by an idea and ultimately do something together. We are moving towards a time in which there won’t be any leaders in the old sense of one individual being encharged with everything. More and more people need to become aware of the fact that everyone has to bear individual responsibility for creating something, we need to switch over internally, to turn the model around. And everyone has to find their rightful place in the common organism. Change will start with the individual person, will pass through the small community and will eventually grow to encompass the larger one, the nation etc. This is my visionary view and whatever depends on me, I do every day…
We are in an era of political situations in which more and more people from the world of arts enter the public administration sector. Isn’t this a sign that it’s time to turn our attention to the chasm which exists in our consciousness between administrative and creative work? If we want to see a better world, of course…
This will probably become possible when politics is recognised and practised as an art, as I mentioned. When the politician starts to perceive the world which he creates like the artist the picture he has painted and the director the film he has shot. Then these two systems, which today exist in separation, would be able to exchange something. In the final analysis, the role of the statesman and the artist are one and the same: they serve society. They exist to provide it with structure, values and spirit. Divided they can’t do this, neither the one nor the other. Maybe that’s why people from the arts sphere feel some attraction, although they bear in mind that they’re ‘risking their necks’. I hope they manage to make a breakthrough.
How wonderful! Well, what have you got to say about synchronicities in life? Probably everyone has experienced this kind of thing: can you also recall interesting coincidences of this type in the course of your life?
Synchronicities are a constant phenomenon and for me they show where our focus of attention is directed. Even if we’re not aware of it the whole time, we’ll have synchronicities connected to our specific focus of attention. We might suddenly, all at once, receive information; we may encounter people to give it to us in one way or another. If we introduce energy into the structure of the Universe, it’s set in motion. It’s a field of energy and makes its components move. What gets materialised is the thoughts and emotions we transmit, not what we write on a piece of paper once a month. Our fears and worries are also types of wishes, the state we reside in on the whole. Synchronicity occurs in the way that, if we’re travelling towards Plovdiv, we see the sign that shows us we’re moving in the direction of Plovdiv more and more often. There’s no mystery. There’s a focussing of attention and energy which sets the ‘morphogenetic field’ in motion. Day by day we’ll get used to the fact that this is normal.
Two concrete examples from Mihaela’s Facebook Profile:
2016: Last evening I was attracted and listened to the Shamanic type of American Indian music. I had no idea why. I was amazed at how much I liked it, and yet I’d never listened to it at all before. I especially liked a song about the transition from this world to the next. This amazed me even more. But it didn’t make me tense – on the contrary, I felt great peace of mind, even happiness. I’ve just found out that my Godmother left this world last night. She really loved Indian Shaman music!
Madam, thanks for everything! I love you! I’m glad that I’ve ‘heard’ what kind of send-off you want.
M.K. (a comment under the post): For some time now it’s started to become impossible for a person not to be informed instantly about things connected to him… May your Godmother Rest in Peace!
2017: Oh, I only work to deadlines. There’s just no other way. When I was submitting my book, I asked my publisher to give me a deadline. He said: ‘I mean whenever you’re ready.’ Me: ‘If you don’t give me a deadline, it’ll never be ready.’ What could he do? The man gave me a deadline. And the interesting thing is that in that very second the Universe re-arranged itself in such a way that I ended up out of work for two months, exactly the period until the deadline, in which time I finished everything. Incidentally, ultra-surprisingly and from an absolutely unexpected source, just the right amount of money appeared for me to get through these two months plus accommodation where I could work in peace.
It’s as if we’re all becoming more sensitive – we’re moving towards a new mode of perception, perhaps with an intuitive telepathic form of communication?
The more we intensify and activate the dormant layers inside ourselves, the more we amplify our vibrations. Then we intuitively perceive the bigger picture. For example, with two or three words from a friend of ours, we can understand the whole story behind them. We connect ourselves to the field in which the whole knowledge is contained. There’s no point in being afraid that in the future we won’t be able to hide what we’re thinking: we don’t ‘hear’ or ‘see’ the thoughts themselves, we don’t see the details as in ‘zoom’ regime of ‘Photoshop’, but we sense what the person has gone through, we become empathetic in our contact with him. We feel what he feels and then we can open our hearts and let a stream of light flow through us. It balances our shared field and when we part, the person finds some kind of solution to their problem. We are also enriched by this contact and we may be inspired about our own things. There’s no reason for this telepathic communication to be a cause for concern: it’s the essence of people with a more developed consciousness which we are moving towards in evolutionary terms. This view of ‘telepathy’ is of a process of exchange, of co-operation and co-creation.
 Literally ‘may her path be well-lit’. This is the usual phrase in Bulgarian, because the journey of the soul is supposedly not over.