BULGARIAN CULTURAL CENTER – CHICAGO
Founded in 1997 by Stefan and Tatiana Dimitrov
They call Chicago “Little Bulgaria”. Quite deservedly, because according to unofficial data the local Bulgarian diaspora positively numbers over 50,000, and according to some sources even tends to 100,000 people. Thus the Bulgarians living in Chicago represent one of the biggest Bulgarian ethnic communities around the world and certainly the largest in America. At least half of them came and settled here in the 90s of the last century and they all keep memories of their difficult first expatriate years. The struggle for survival was so severe as the struggle for preservation of the Bulgarian spirit, traditions and culture, national pride and dignity. Unfortunately, besides that during those times Bulgaria also was experiencing some of the most difficult years and just was not able to assist with anything its emigrants, but for different reasons even the contacts with them were not among the main priorities of the Bulgarian governments. So, back then everything done for the sake of the social, spiritual and cultural communication between our countrymen here, was primarily a result of the selfless efforts of local Bulgarians, and the successful accomplishment of their goals depended on how and whether they wере то be appreciated and supported by the community.
Those were the times and conditions, when at the end of 1997 was established and opened the Bulgarian Cultural Center in Chicago (BCC), which for many years to come will be unique and still largely recognized as the most significant, influential and prestige local Bulgarian cultural institution. It quickly acquired great popularity as one of the very few venues for social contacts and started attracting hundreds, sometimes thousands of visitors weekly. It all started with the organization of regular supply and sales of Bulgarian newspapers and magazines, Bulgarian books, dictionaries and other teaching materials. Then Bulgarian souvenirs and gifts sales were added. Donations of books from the collections of old and new Bulgarian immigrants were the foundation of the BCC’s library, which soon reached more than a thousand titles. Similarly were gathered rich collections of audio and video records of Bulgarian pop, classical and folk music, movies, current TV shows, festivals and concerts. The main objective of BCC has always been to help the Bulgarian community by offering and developing activities and services of great temporary or permanent need, to reach their present variety, range and volume, as described and presented in this site. Here we need to mention also the contribution of our lawyers, doctors, financial and other professionals, who have volunteered and organized seminars, meetings and consultations providing help with useful information. All that gradually established BCC as an active information and social center
During all these years, there was no Bulgarian immigrant, arrived and settled in Chicago, who has not been helped, assisted, served with information and hospitable treated by the Bulgarian Cultural Center. In addition to that, many other local American citizens, as well as city and state administrative institutions, are approaching BCC on various occasions to obtain information and contacts with Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Radio and TV programs ALEKO
The highest recognition BCC won for the producing, hosting and financing, entirely by its own means, of weekly broadcasted Bulgarian radio program, which in 2000 was replaced by weekly Bulgarian television program. These programs, which were named after the beloved famous Bulgarian writer ALEKO, for almost ten years used to reach free of charge the homes and hearts of tens of thousands of Bulgarians in Chicago with news and music from Bulgaria. Today, when all that is incredibly fast and easily accessible via the Internet, it is kind of hard to remember, realize and appreciate the true value of the good job done by BCC in times, when our only other contacts with Bulgaria were the phone calls.
Artistic and musical activities
Works by the sculptor Peter Minov exposed at the large store windows have become kind of BCC’s trade mark image to residents and visitors of Chicago for a second decade now. BCC has hosted photo exhibitions dedicated to March 3, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Vasil Levski, as well as the life in Bulgaria and Bulgarian ethnic communities abroad today. Still are remembered the organized and sponsored by BCC annual spring and several Christmas balls and concerts. To visit Chicago and participate in those events were invited ones of the most prominent Bulgarian musicians and artists, as BCC took care of all their expenses for traveling and staying in the U.S.A. Chronologically through the years, our countrymen had the honor and pleasure to meet with Kichka Bodurova and Georgi Hristov, Lili Ivanova, Kamelia Todorova, Milcho Leviev, Margarita Hranova, Shturtzite, Kristina Dimitrova, Orlin Goranov, UFO, Signal and Poduene Blues Band. BCC has organized and sponsored performances in Chicago of U.S. touring theater performances by the National Theatre “Ivan Vazov”, The Military Theatre, as well as several public screenings of Bulgarian films.
Supporting local creative arts, social and political initiatives and events.
Throughout its existence BCC has always been in the center of all events in the life of the Bulgarian ethnic community in Chicago, as through its radio and television programs has been actively participating in their organization and promotion. That way it has supported the charity fundraising and building of the Bulgarian church “St. Sofia”, the construction of the iconostasis for the Bulgarian church “St. Ivan Rilski”, the annual forums of the long time veteran organization Bulgarian National Front, exhibitions of artists from the art circle TZ Galery, theater productions of “Apostles,” Spring Balkan Workshop performances of our local amateur orchestras and folk dance troupes, celebrations of Bulgarian classes in some schools and high schools and more.
BCC has participated and worked in the initiative group for establishing Bulgarian Consulate in Chicago.
BCC is active contacts with various administrative and public institutions in Bulgaria, the Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, Bulgarian Embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in Chicago. Its premises have been used to held the sectional votes for all presidential and parliamentary elections in Bulgaria.
Over the years many administrations of the local city and state institutions have been considering BCC as official representative institution of the Bulgarian ethnic community in Chicago and referred to it on issues of mutual interest, and with official addresses and congratulations on the occasion of the holidays, notable events, dates and anniversaries. BCC has been rated highly for its work by the successive administrations of three governors of Illinois, and at the same time by the administration of City Hall in Chicago.
With its presence BCC has been an integral part of the urban landscape and history of the city second decade already. In this sense it is part of the life and the memories not only of the Bulgarians here, but also of the millions of citizens and visitors of the metropolis, which travel daily, or at least often, on Irving Park Road, the largest and busiest boulevard in the northern part of the town. And it should be emphasized that this presence is quite decent, because of the beautiful facade, exterior and interior, which have been remodeled and renovated on a regular basis.
During all those years Bulgarian Cultural Center has been the institution that gave tens of thousands of Bulgarians in Chicago the things that most lacked. It was, and now is there always available to meet anyone, who approaches him, especially for those who most need help, assistance and support. This is the true meaning of its existence, and since the Bulgarians in Chicago remember, appreciate and respect that, in return they give their active patronage and support.
Welcome to the Bulgarian Cultural Center – Chicago!
Piece of “Little Bulgaria”, which we carry in our heart.