Annie: Hi, Olga! Thank you for accepting our invitation. Your birthday is coming up soon. As far as I know, this anniversary is not a milestone for you, but it is one for FAR.
In one way or another, you have always been part of the Foundation. How has FAR developed in these last ten years?
Olga: Ten years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the place that FAR holds today. The growth of the Foundation has surprised even myself.
But FAR's growth has not been linear. It all happened very organically: with upward moments and also many challenging ones.
Annie: FAR is an organisation whose main task is to provide legal assistance and information. For many years we have been working in order to make these services available to everyone who needs them.
You are a specialist in the field of digitalization. What is its importance in the integration of refugees?
Olga: Digitalisation and the overall change that is happening in the world is actually a great opportunity. Digital inclusion allows us to help the people who we work with to overcome many barriers.
At the same time, along with the opportunities it gives us, the digital space poses risks. The process of inclusion is complex, but the potential is huge.
Annie: In what exactly does the power of digitalization lie?
Olga: In its inevitability and comprehensiveness.
It is hard to find an area in life that is not affected by digitalization. Similarly, the integration of refugees and migrants is increasingly affected by this inevitable process.
Annie: And where does FAR's strength lie?
Olga: The Foundation's strength lies in the individual approach towards the people we serve. The real magic is the fact that we see them, first and foremost, as human beings and that's how we try to work on their cases.
Often, NGOs fall into the trap of mechanizing their approach to people, while we still very much insist on individual work.
I think that's one of the intentions of FAR - to listen to people and give them the possibility to have an impact on the things that happen in their lives.
FAR's power goes well beyond pure legal expertise.
Annie: We're doing the interview on the eve of your birthday, and, because of that, I'd like it to be a little more personal. Tell us about your childhood - what was it like and how did you get into the world of international relations in the first place - the subject you originally studied.
Olga: I am from Kyustendil. My childhood was typical for a small town - peaceful, away from worries and dangers. In a way it was like a bubble, but with a lot of comfort. Among other things, I had access to a good education and different informational resources.
I often reflect on this when I think about the childhood of unaccompanied children in forced displacement situations. Against the backdrop of their childhood full of insecurity and danger, mine was the opposite.
Why did I choose to study International Relations? I am a very opinionated person and I am stubborn. My parents insisted that I study Law, but I decided to study something else. International Relations was an opportunity to show my parents that I would not follow their "mandates" for my life (laughs).
Annie: What brought you into the field of Refugee and Migration Law?
Olga: A coincidence, or rather the Refugee Law Clinic's advertisement to recruit participants. That's when I decided to give it a try and applied to become part of the Clinic.
It may sound like a cliché, but the Clinic changed my whole life and defined who I am today, as a person and as a professional.
Annie: You've lived in different countries. Where have you felt most at home?
Olga: We live in a very Eurocentric world, where it is hard to imagine what lies beyond that.
Actually, I like it most outside of Europe. South America, where I had the opportunity to undergo part of my studies, is very close to my heart.
Annie: What do you like about South America?
Olga: The people. They are very spiritually rich and warm.
Annie: Has your experience as a migrant helped you understand the problems of the people we work with?
Olga: Actually, no. Unlike them, I have never had problems with documents or concerns about residing in one country or another. I have never experienced the worry of not knowing whether you will be allowed to stay or have to return.
Annie: We've already mentioned a couple of times that it's your birthday. You always receive different wishes on this day. And what would you wish for yourself?
Olga: One of the things I wish for myself is a world where women don't die every hour at the hands of their partners. I often think about those who disappear without a trace and no one is held responsible afterwards.
Annie: What gives you the strength to keep going despite the cruelties of everyday life?
Olga: The sense that I am dedicating my life to the right cause.