Young Bulgarians are leaving the country's rural areas in droves, leading to a phenomenon known as ghost villages.
With the EU Parliamentary elections now three weeks away, Euronews is counting down by taking a road trip across the continent to speak to voters about the issues that matter to them. We are visiting towns and villages around Europe – inviting people to talk about what's on their minds, ahead of what is a key vote at a crucial moment for the European Union.
In the next stop of the Bulgarian leg of the trip, Euronews correspondents Bryan Carter and Apostolos Staikos travel to Vidin, where they discover Bulgaria's ghost towns.
Northwest Bulgaria is the poorest region in the EU. It is home to hundreds of so-called ‘‘ghost villages’’.
In the village of Kanitz, the population is just four. Thirty years, ago, more than 100 people lived walked these streets. Now, there are only empty, abandoned buildings.
Petko is one of the last remaining residents of the village. "A lot of people used to live here. There was a livelihood, there were animals. After the collectivisation of 1956, we had a huge collective farm. Now, there is no one here. On Mondays and Fridays, I go to the nearest village, because there is no one to talk to here," he tells Euronews.
"A lot of people are dying, my friends are dead, people that I used to work with. But I’m not that lonely. I live with my livestock. If it weren’t for my animals and my tv, I would die on the spot. There would be no one to talk to. When I talk to someone on the phone, it lasts for hours. There is no future here." he adds.
This could soon too be the reality for the village of Rabrovo. The local school recently shut down and only 250 people live here, half of the population 30 years ago. Galina Vakaritzova, the town’s mayor, remembers what life was like back then.
"I feel very sad, very troubled by the state of our village. I’ve been living here for 30 years and there used to be so many people here."
The closing of factories, combined with land privatisation after the fall of communism in the late 1980s, drove residents away from these villages.
Today, young people continue to move to cities to find jobs, and the majority of those who remain are over 60, living on pensions of less than 150 euros per month.
As Vakaritzova says, "The agriculture sector fell apart, everything became private property and things went down the hill for the villages. Old people are definitely nostalgic of communism. They say that things used to be much better. They had less money, but at least they had work. Now, there is no money and there is still no work".
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