António from Portugal is working with Frontex in Bulgaria as a border guard. He started his mission in Malko Tarnovo in the beginning of March.
I come from the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service (SEF) and have already participated in several Frontex missions. When I arrived in Malko Tarnovo on the first of March, I was excited for the new adventure. Together with my Polish colleague, we went to the border crossing point where we were approached by the commander, a Bulgarian police officer:
- I have something for you, he said, and gave each of us a ... bracelet.
It turned out that in Bulgaria, people exchange such bracelets – known as martenitsas – among family and friends to bring health and good fortune. Some have their arms and wrists covered with them!
In the old times, the martenitsas served to ward off evils that came with the winter. The martenitsa calms the spirits of Baba Marta, an important figure in Bulgarian folklore. When she is happy, spring will come, bringing health, happiness, prosperity and fertility. The bracelet should only be removed when the person wearing it sees the first stork in the new season.
The commander told us to make a wish while putting on the bracelets. As soon as the trees will start to bloom, we are supposed to tie the martenitsa to a branch for the wish to come true. I have never been so anxious for the arrival of spring!
I do believe that such a small thing can bring happiness, after all it was an act of kindness from my Bulgarian colleague. Having and making friends everywhere I go is a very important part of life for me.