Anna Kanashevich, founder of Antimassma and member of Sofia Accueil, believes that Bulgaria “will take you as you are”
Edited by Lindsay Martin.
What is your story – where have you come from, how have you chosen Bulgaria?
My name is Anna (or Hanna) Kanashevich. I am a U.S citizen of, and I’m proud to say it, Belarusian origin.
15 years ago my university was closed by the Belarusian authorities. Those circumstances put me in a dramatically difficult situation. I didn’t want to spend my life waiting for the Belarusian sunshine, so I decided to leave Belarus. I had a choice to go to Russia or Bulgaria. Since I wanted to run away from the “block”, I chose Bulgaria.
After two years here, my husband and I got a chance to move to the United States. We decided to use it and moved, and we spent almost seven years there. However, Bulgaria seemed to be a better and sort of easier place to live. After a while of thinking and pondering, we decided to move back to Sofia and start over again. I don’t regret it for now!
What is Antimassma, why did you start it? Who is it for?
Our idea was to create an Anti.Mass.Market store and online platform where everybody would be able to find something cool, rare, or even unique and hand-made, at a price that is reasonable. Right now we offer an interesting and very special selection of wines and French ciders, many of which you cannot find anywhere else in Bulgaria. We also have little goodies such as French and Portuguese soap and Irish shopping bags.
In our store, you can also find handcrafted and exceptionally beautiful lamps made by our craftsman friend, Vasil Maevski. And we are planning to enlarge our product variety in the nearest future.
We started Antimassma because we wanted to share our experience and values through our business, a business that benefits artisan producers and customers at the same time and creates real choice and value in the sea of the mass market.
Getting new customers is a very interesting process. You have to share your style, your taste, and even your biography with potential customers. You have to win their trust, expand their vision, and make them feel comfortable with you at Antimassma.
What was the most surprising – positive and negative – thing you’ve learned once you’ve arrived in Bulgaria?
Bulgarians are very easy going people. They are nice and cordial. They take you as you are if you want to be friends with them. You can feel this inner freedom while living in Bulgaria.
To reach this point in your relations with Bulgarians you have to go through some moments of ostracism because of your foreignness.
What do you wish you’d known before moving here?
Maybe the Bulgarian language! This knowledge can help you fully understand the Bulgarian mentality. Without this knowledge, you can’t feel the full taste and joy of Bulgaria.
How has your life changed once you’ve moved here?
No dramatic changes. I just can be fully me. I can express myself without fear of not being understood. I enjoy the atmosphere which reigns here. I like to live my Bulgarian life.
Would you consider coming back to Belarus, or moving to another country, or would you stay here? Why?
Belarus is my home country, it always will be. I’m very proud of its people, I’m proud to have Belarusian blood, to speak the Belarusian language. On the other hand, I’ve lost all my sentimental connections. I feel no deep roots anymore. All my friends are living abroad. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to move back. I found my way, and I found myself. For now, I feel comfortable living in Bulgaria, both mentally and physically.
What would be your piece of advice to a newcomer here?
“Relax! Take it easy” is the essential advice I can give everyone living here. In many ways, Bulgaria is one of the most extraordinary places in Europe. Bulgarians have their own way of life which can be described as “lightness of being”. If something does not happen easily, it is not worth the effort. You can just put it aside, and either wait for it to go away or hang on until somehow it comes back.
It is a very comfortable, even philosophical state.
The downside is, in an activity where more than one person – that is, you – is involved, the result cannot be guaranteed!