RE:TURN on the West Coast: The Audience Speaks

RE:TURN’s West Coast tour gathered together around 500 Bulgarians and their partners and associates—enough of a crowd to fill a theater hall. But they weren’t just a silent audience: they actively participated in the discussions, asked questions, exchanged contact information, and shared their experience with other attendees.

Their feedback told us loud and clear: Bulgarians abroad want to maintain a connection with Bulgaria as well as with each other; they just didn’t know what form that connection should take. (RE:TURN offers some good ideas.) Here is what attendees in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle had to say about RE:TURN. Some even said that returning wasn’t a far-off thought. 

Boris Busov
Boris attended the RE:TURN event in Seattle.

Birthplace: Sofia

Current city: Seattle

Occupation: Product consultant at data visualization company Tableau

Connection to Bulgaria: My parents are both Bulgarian (my mother is from Veliko Tarnovo and my father is from Sofia), and we moved to the US when I was a baby. As I’ve grown older, my desire to learn about and engage with my birthplace has become significantly stronger. I moved to Seattle after teaching English in Sliven, Bulgaria, as a Fulbright/America for Bulgaria Teaching Assistant from 2016 to 2018.

RE:TURN was…
It was wonderful to see so many Bulgarians from so many walks of life in the audience. Also, after hearing the panel of speakers, I learned that there are many Bulgarians doing innovative work in a variety of fields back in Bulgaria. As someone considering living in Bulgaria in the future, it gave me hope that there could be a place for me to land if I ever did move back. All in all, it was an extremely inspiring panel that made me miss Bulgaria immensely and made me hopeful of the future.


Elli Manolova
Elli attended the RE:TURN event in Los Angeles.

Birthplace: Plovdiv

Current city: Long Beach, California

Occupation: Architect

Connection to Bulgaria: My roots are in Bulgaria, and RE:TURN was yet another opportunity to go back to my roots.

The event was a great reminder how wonderful Bulgaria is and how many opportunities it offers. It was really satisfying to learn that there are people and organizations who care and make people’s lives there better. It felt good to learn that there is someone there who can help you out. We really can do more together. I’m thinking about ways to get involved in the initiative.


Nick Dimitrov
Nick attended the RE:TURN event in Seattle.

Birthplace: Razgrad

Current city: Seattle. He has lived in the United States since 1995.

Occupation: Cofounder of Amazon Game Studios, founder of Amazon Bound

Connection to Bulgaria: I was born in Razgrad, graduated from the English Language High School in Ruse, and was accepted at Northeastern University in Boston in 1995. I arrived in Boston with $900 in my pocket, and I worked night shifts at the front desk in the student dorms to pay tuition. While I was still at university, I was lucky to get an internship at Microsoft. When I graduated in 1999, the company employed me full time. I left Microsoft in 2013 to join Amazon. I left Amazon in 2018 to found Amazon Bound.

RE:TURN was…
I was very impressed by the positive changes in Bulgaria and the atmosphere of openness and optimism. Sometimes, it is not easy to find positive news about Bulgaria, and in this respect the meeting was like a breath of fresh air. I was also very impressed by the guests and presenters, especially Vassil Terziev, Genoveva Christova, and Kalin Radev. These people’s successes are an inspiration and made me feel optimistic about the future of Bulgaria and Bulgarians all over the world.


Tanya Otsetarova
Tanya attended the RE:TURN event in San Francisco.

Birthplace: Plovdiv

Current city: Stanford, California

Occupation: First-year student at Stanford University

Connection to Bulgaria: I grew up in Bulgaria, and 2018 was my first year in the United States.

There aren’t many Bulgarians where I live, and a Bulgarian event always brings benefits, especially when it gathers together people who want to help and bring about change. RE:TURN made me think about Bulgaria’s current problems—what problems need to be given priority and what people around me are doing to help solve them. Such topics always make people rethink what’s important and look at the big picture, and I’m glad I was able to hear different stories and points of view.


Vince Gaydarzhiev
Vince attended the RE:TURN event in San Francisco.

Birthplace: Ruse

Current city: San Francisco. Vince has lived in the United States for 20 years.

Occupation: Founder and president of Alcatraz AI, a company developing facial authentication software

Connection to Bulgaria: I was born and studied there until I was 16 years old. All my relatives are there. Alcatraz AI has an engineering office in Sofia. I opened the Bulgarian office because I noticed that there were many talented engineers in Sofia, particularly engineers with advanced knowledge in mathematics and physics, and that there were hardly any companies in the field of computer vision and machine learning. This made hiring engineers easier, and they are also more loyal.

RE:TURN was…
I was impressed by the organization and its mission. I think the initiative is very meaningful, and I know it is a step in the right direction for Bulgaria. I think Bulgaria could be a good technology development center. More young talent should return or stay in Bulgaria to help develop the ecosystem.

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