The way, perhaps, as one philosopher said, "is to live moving forward, and reflect going backwards."
Annie: Thank you for accepting the invitation to be the new "Face of FAR". I always get very excited when I tell people's stories through these interviews.
Rosi: I am very excited as well, I feel flattered (laughs). I've been a face of FAR for a long time, but this is my first interview for the organization.
Annie: I know you as a lecturer in the training program. How do you feel now in your role as an advocacy and communications expert at FAR?
Rosi: That's a hard question because, in one way or another, I have always been part of the team. I worked as a volunteer at the Foundation for many years. I have done country-of-origin reports on refugee cases and research on various topics.
I like to tell people that Valeria is the reason I do what I do. Years ago, when I was an intern at the Home Office in the United Kingdom, I watched an interview with Valeria in which she talked about how she had prevented a woman and her children from being taken back to Greece, where they were at risk of being repatriated to Iraq. The woman was threatening to kill herself. I was very moved by this story, and I thought, ''This is what I want to do''. Later, thanks to a friend of mine, Lydia Staykova, I officially met Valeria and we have been in contact constantly ever since. To a large extent, what I know in the field of refugee and migration law, I have learned from her, in combination with fieldwork.
Annie: That's over 10 years of collaboration?
Rosi: Yes, it is. We've been collaborating in one way or another all this time, although my first official commitment to FAR was the refugee and migration law training programme for students.
Annie: Actually, I know you from those trainings. I am taking the opportunity of you being today's "face of FAR" to ask the following: You have an impressive background, graduating from the best universities in the world. How does a girl from Haskovo get to Harvard and Cambridge?
Rosi: The way, perhaps, as one philosopher said, "is to live moving forward, and reflect going backwards." I've always dreamed of traveling, exploring new cultures, learning new things. I went to the States when I was still in high school because I wanted to study in an American university, and I thought it would be easier if I finished my secondary education there.
Annie: You also have a Master's degree in Islamic Studies. Was this choice also driven by your desire to explore new cultures?
Rosi: I always wanted to study Law. In the States, however, the system is different and you can only study Law after obtaining a Bachelor's degree. My first undergraduate degree, before Law, was Classical Philology - Ancient Greek and Ancient Hebrew. This major is not very popular, but I had amazing professors to whom I am very grateful. My verb conjugation knowledge may be gone now, but I'm left with a lot of important skills, like the ability to read and analyse critically, to process large amounts of information and not wait to receive it already summarised.
During my undergraduate degree, I did an exchange year in France where I made a documentary about the reasons why Muslim women there, who are second and third generation descendants of migrants, wear the headscarf. My Master's was an extension of that. My academic advisor at Harvard was researching issues related to women in Islam and Muslim communities in Western Europe. I applied specifically to work on her study and I was accepted.
Annie: And why do these women wear headscarves?
Rosi: For very complex reasons. As it keeps happening, different people and experts speak for these women. Rarely does anyone sit down with them to inquire about their own motivation to do so. That's what I wanted to do. As with any human being, there are very different cases and very different motivation. Each case is unique, and first and foremost you must listen to the person. This is a guiding principle for me, and I love that it is also at the heart of the work at FAR.
Annie: You have lived in different countries, I already counted at least four. Which are they?
Rosi: I have lived in Tunisia for an extended period when I was young. Then, because of my education, I lived in the States, France, and England. I have also lived in Syria, Portugal, Spain and, of course, Bulgaria.
Annie: Where did you like it the most?
Rosi: I have liked different things in different countries. In Portugal I felt most at home, culturally and aesthetically this country resonates with me a lot. On the other hand, I greatly value the education I received in America - I have always had incredible freedom and support and no one has ever told me how or what to think.
Annie: Nowadays you are mainly engaged with FAR. What inspires you?
Rosi: I am most inspired by the team at FAR. We have a great team where the colleagues are greatly dedicated. I am also inspired by our standard of work. The quality of our work is high, which is difficult to achieve in the NGO sector as resources, both human and financial, are always very limited. Although it sometimes costs us a lot to do, the individual cases are always followed through. Every person whose case we have taken on knows that they can count on us until the very last moment.
Annie: Do you regret that you chose to be involved in human rights?
Rosi: No, how can I regret it. I feel that this work suits me the most. No matter how many difficulties there are, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
Annie: What are the difficulties?
Rosi: I'm mainly working in advocacy at the moment. My motivation started when I was working on the ground for Doctors Without Borders. In six months, we did a great job. But then I thought about what would happen to the people after the project ended. I realised that if you can help change the whole system for the better, you help a lot more people and that change is much more sustainable over time. That's what advocacy is about for me. Sometimes it's very frustrating because you cannot always see the causal link between your work and the change. That's why it's important not to lose perspective that, albeit slow, change does happen.