Repopulating the Bulgarian vultures – a pointless struggle or a lesson in true purpose.
The vulture man, Bulgarian Amazonki and Green Balkans



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The adopted vulture Galio

Manual labour isn’t usually my thing, but the invite is from a very good friend so I take the bite. Valio and his wife, Galia, discovered Green Balkans on Facebook and decided to donate, and adopt a vulture. With a touch of creativity, his name naturally becomes Galio. Long story short, Valio invited me to their camp and this is how I met the ‘vulture man’ and the Bulgarian ‘amazonki’ – literally the only people crucial to the vultures’ survival.

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Expect Nothing, Find Everything

Valio and I set off early for Rakitna. Never been there, and know nothing about Green Balkans so no expectations. We get there and the first impression is WOW! No WIFI! Once I get past the social media detox, the place reveals itself – inspiringly spacious and breathtaking. The people I meet reflect the environment – incredibly positive with a unique charisma. Hristo, Poly and Ina are the main organizers. Hristo is the main field man, while Ina and Poly are the logistics and the heart and soul of the initiative.

The view from our house - the Boundless Breath!
The view from our house – the Boundless Breath!
True picture! This is how we are welcomed.
True picture! This is how we are welcomed.
Ina and Valio
Ina and Valio
Hristo and Poly
Hristo and Poly

The one-man army

The first night is an eye-opener. Hristo tells us the tough stories with lighthearted humour, downplaying their struggles. It’s fun to listen to, but it gives me mixed feelings: admiration and compassion. He is the only field man in Rakitna, occasionally backed by a few locals.

How profound and dedicated must one be to spend a life fighting what seems like a lost battle? The pushback is from everyone and everything: from locals’ incompetence and stupid government laws to a complete disrespect to nature. You name it they face it. Once, the entire vulture population was massively poisoned by locals out of ignorance – Galio one died that day.

I am genuinely moved and lost in contemplation. ‘Does such a selfless dedication even make sense?’ I directly ask Hristo. His answer is unexpected: ‘What struggles? Nah, these are all just fun stories to tell.’ Respect!

The stink of death and decay

`The next morning, we arrive at the site….It is like a horror movie scene! Piles of corpses and bones. It takes a few minutes to get used to the stink, but we quickly become absorbed in work. Much to do. Almost everything needs fixing. Such is life! The highlight of the day is the door repair. Valio has the most brilliant idea for the handle – “Let`s use a bone. The most organic solution!”, Hristo approves! Btw Hristo and Valio look so alike, it is unbelievable.

Celebratory selfie for the 2 look-alike partners in crime.
Celebratory selfie for the 2 look-alike partners in crime.

Some more selfies with the decors and we put the vultures back in the cage. We did more than expected and the feeling of fulfillment is definitely there.

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Time to meet the “Amazonki”!

We are back in the house, and suddenly the backyard turns into a movie set. The female part of Green Balkans has a hidden skill. Daytime conservationists and weekend ‘Amazonki’. They are part of Bagatur (an academy for ancient Bulgarian Combat techniques). It is our time to learn archery. What a twist of times! Once a tool of men for hunting and battle, here we are in the backyard, learning from women. A good lesson on feminism! Anyway, joke aside it is a lot of fun spiced up with a few minor injuries. Blood is shed so it totally counts!

What is the lesson here?

The camp is over, and everyone is back to their normal lives. But what did we learn? What are the takeaways? I don’t know really. We touch only the surface of what it takes to drive this project and honestly, if I am doing all this hard work every day without some serious support I would be just – f*ck it. I live only once. Someone else can deal with this sh*t.

Yes, we are all idealists in our head, but facing the actual struggles unmasks that our actual breakpoint is not very high. Now, thinking about it, that’s the lesson! It’s about respecting the ‘vulture man’ and the ‘amazonki’ for their unmatched break point.

To what seems like a lost battle for most people, for them is just another good day – fighting for something they love and believe in. I know that this sounds too idealistic and fake, but I don’t care. I tell it as I see it. What is your truth?

UPDATE: party mode

Few months later we organise a party to celebrate and support Green Balkans. Poly(routine collaborator in crimes) has the amazing idea to dedicate our birthday celebration to Green Balkans. It turns out amazing. Many people join and learn about Green Balkans and show their support. The party highlight is the amazing presentation from Hristo seasoned with a little bit of Bachata after that. There is light in the tunnel!

UPDATE: This camp might be the last one

The following year, we meet again. This time in Varshec to meet the other “vulture man”. Forgot to mention that there was a marriage proposal at the first camp, so naturally this year the camp is +1 with an extra helper. The highlights of this one are: a very close call to a sunstroke, bachata and folk dancing and another learned skill from the “amazonki” – whip handling. Sadly I understand that their funding is drying out and this might be their last year!

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video
A dangerous sex toy
A dangerous sex toy