Today in the "Faces of FAR" column, we are speaking with Yana Obreshkova - an expert on programmes and projects. Initially, we had planned on talking about Yana as an “Alumni of FAR”, but we are very happy that soon after our conversation, she became part of our team!
FAR is proud that many of the people in our team are "our offspring" - graduates of the trainings organized by FAR in the past years.
In this interview, you can read how Jana encountered FAR and later became part of the team.
Interview date: 07 January 2023
Interviewer - Anna Velikova
Anna - Hi, Jana. I'm so glad you agreed to do this interview. We have known each other since the FAR training on the project "Defend - Preparing a new generation of young defenders of the fundamental rights of refugees and migrants". If I remember correctly, you have just recently returned from the Netherlands, where you completed your Master's degree in Public International Law. How are you experiencing the reintegration process after your return to Sofia?
Jana - I find it very strange. Especially in the beginning, it was hard for me to get back into the track of my "old life". In Holland, everywhere is very clean, including public spaces. In Bulgaria, unfortunately, we often don't have this practice of clean-keeping. But this is purely on the domestic side. Also, I was used to getting around everywhere by bike, whereas now it will be a bit more difficult, not only because of the difference in terrain (laughs). From the academic side - I'm probably finding it rather difficult to adjust back to the format of the Bulgarian exams, having spent a whole year taking exams in the Netherlands. There there were always casuistic or essayistic questions because most topics in international law are controversial, the idea is rather to be able to defend your opinion based on an international treaty or international custom. I like this approach very much because it makes you think during the exam - not just to memorize the textbook, but to understand what it says inside and be able to apply it to a real or fictional situation.
Anna - Was it difficult to deal with learning a foreign language?
Jana - In the beginning, it was a bit difficult for me because we had to read 50-70 pages for each lecture and each exercise, and by the second semester, it was already 140 pages for each subject per week. I was not used to reading such a large volume of papers in English, and it was difficult. Then I got used to it, there was no other way, and now I am as comfortable with English as I am with Bulgarian.
Anna - What is it like being a migrant in the Netherlands? What made the biggest impression on you?
Jana - What I liked most, actually, is a bit trivial. While I was there, the Dutch had elections for City Council and Mayor. And, as you know, any EU citizen can cast their vote in local elections. I didn't know they had local elections then, I hadn’t followed the local news that much. And they had put detailed instructions about the elections in our mailboxes beforehand: how to vote, where to vote, the parties that would be fighting for seats. It warmed my heart a lot because in Bulgaria, nobody will personally send you information about the elections. While this foreign country accepts you as one of their own and reminds you: 'You have this right to vote, take it!'
Anna - Let's go back in time a little bit: how did you encounter FAR? As far as I remember, it was while studying for a BA in International Relations at SU.
Jana - I got to know FAR through the 'Defend' project. It was very accidental: I was at the seaside then with a friend's family. At one point, we got into an argument with them about Syrian refugees.
After that argument, while I was ''scrolling'' on Facebook, I saw FAR's advertisement that they were going to do refugee law training. I said to myself then, "Okay, now after this argument, I need to learn how to defend these people so I can argue even more reasonably with others." :) Because this topic is really important, and people usually react emotionally. Besides, for many years my dream has been to deal with legal aid. So, these two reasons came together and I signed up for the training.
Anna - Yes, and 'Defend' actually gave you that opportunity to deal with legal aid. What do you remember about the training? What did you enjoy the most?
Jana - The training was incredibly interesting. I really liked that they gave us real examples from the practice of FAR, which we discussed together afterwards. This was very useful because that way, you understand a lot more than when you are just presented with dry theory.
And in the second part of the training, we had the opportunity to work on real cases, and myself and a few other people worked as a team on the case of a stateless person. It was enriching to deal with a real case, to see what the consequences of statelessness are, and to have the opportunity to help someone.
Anna- How did you then perceive Migration Law? What is Migration and Refugee Law for you?
Jana - I see it as part of human rights in a broad sense. Something like lex specialis: you have human rights, which apply to all people, but you have migration and refugee law, which deals with a specific group of vulnerable people, because personally, for me, all refugees are vulnerable people - they are forced to leave their home, and you don't know how they could have prepared for something like that. Often these people have lost everything and need to be treated with respect and understanding.
Anna - Today, you are already a part of the FAR team? How do you feel in your new role?
Яна: Още от проекта ‘Defend’ това ми беше мечта - да помагам на ФАР под някаква форма. Много се радвам, че Валерия е видяла потенциал в мен и ми предложи да се присъединя към екипа като Експерт проекти и програми. Винаги съм искала да работя с кауза: това, което правя, да има някакъв реален отпечатък върху хората.
Jana - Ever since the 'Defend' project, this has been a dream of mine - to help FAR in some form. I am very glad that Valeria saw potential in me and offered me to join the team as a Project and Program Expert. I have always wanted to work for a cause: for what I do to have some real imprint on people.
Anna - What do you like most about your job?
Jana - I like that every day I learn something new. I know it sounds cliché, but Valeria often gives me tasks which challenge me to learn new skills and develop in different areas.
Anna - What difficulties do you face, and how do you overcome them?
Jana - I wouldn’t say they are difficulties ….. I don't claim that I do everything with ease, because that's certainly not true, but now I think I call the more difficult moments of my work "challenges" and I try to fight them like little children would - with curiosity and with a desire to find out how the thing which is particularly difficult works. So maybe that's the answer to your question - I don't focus on the difficulty of a task, but on what I can learn from it and how I can do it best in order to aid Valeria and the team help as many people in need as possible.
Anna - What do you dream about?
Jana - Like every person, I dream of a world without war and suffering. I don't know if it is possible to live in such a world, but I definitely think it is worth fighting for.
On a more prosaic note, I dream of completing yet another degree and being able to be of help in FAR and through legal aid. And, yes, I also dream of teaching - to show people how cool Public International Law is and all its branches and sub-branches, including Refugee Law, and for there to have more specialists working with it.
Anna - I would like to suggest as a last question that you continue the sentence, I am...
Jana - This is a very difficult question. I am Yana :)
I've always wandered between saying I'm smart and saying I'm a good person. It's no good being one without the other. Because if you're smart but not a good person, then why are you smart at all. However, if you are good but not smart, there is nothing you can't do with that goodness. So I would like to somehow be both.