Saturday, 01 September 2018 13:00

Living in the show

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You can’t help but notice the big smile she’s giving you even if it’s the first time you both have met. You can sense her positive outlook and extreme vitality which create a friendly atmosphere around. We’d like to ask her about the popular and tremendously successful show she’s been hosting in the social media for five years now (Boryana  Topchieva Show). She’s occupied with plenty of activities being a vlogger, a translater, an athlete, a show-woman, a traveler, a parent and … the author of an upcoming book! But I’m not telling you anything more about her. You’ll see for yourself now that we’re letting Boryana Topchieva speak about it all.

Boryana, we’re meeting up again. Our last encounter was in Plovdiv, at a charity concert having in mind you also take part in various local festivals and events. People from the deaf community know you pretty well, but I’m sure there’s a side of you that the readers of We Hear You haven’t seen so far. I’m sure to ask you about your show, but let’s start with a few words about yourself.

Hi, folks! My name’s Boryana. I’m 34, my zodiac sign is Sagittarius and my hometown is Plovdiv. I was born deaf. Whenever my parents found out about it, they thought I’d thrive if I’m around other deaf children. This is why I was enrolled at the local Specialized School for Deaf Children “Prof. Stoyan Belinov”. 

I’ve spent nearly all of my days around deaf people. When I was at school, I was very active. I loved acting and I’d take part in school pantomime plays. Then, I took up sports and became a member of the Youth Organization of the Deaf. There came a point in my life when I started the show of my life or, you name it, I started living in the show. *laughing*

What about sports? When did you start doing sports and why did you stop the athletic activities?

Well, I’ve never really stopped playing badminton – it’s a love for life! I took up the sport when I was 15 and shortly after my first encounter with it, I was invited to be a part of the Bulgarian National Deaf Badminton Team. I’ve participated in a number of European and World Championships. I was even asked to be a Gestuno Interpreter at the 2013 Paralympic Games.

But I’ve had 3 knee surgeries in 2016, so I had to put an end to my career as an athlete. Funny thing is I started training the children from my school a year before it happened. They participated in the World Junior Badminton Championship in Sofia. They’ll  pretty sure be on the Bulgarian National Badminton Team soon. I’m really proud of them!

We’ve also met at youth camps and Spring balls. I’ve seen you sing in sign language. As far as I remember, you’ve participated in the beauty contest in Yambol (2005) during the Ball. Have you ever thought of taking up modeling?

Yes, I’ve thought about it! *laughing* Being part of beauty contests is a way for many deaf girls to have fun and build their self-confidence. Back in the days of 2002, I was crowned Miss Deaf Star in Plovdiv. The following year, I had to present Bulgaria on the international podium. I wasn’t fluent in Gestuno back then, but it’s when I started learning the international sign language.

In 2012, I participated in Missis Deaf Star in Plovdiv and I got second place. At the beginning of this year, I was invited to join the judging committee of a beauty contest for deaf models in Frankfurt. The hosts were really kind to send me the invitation. It was the first time such a contest was held in the city. I had also never been a judge before the event… A truly unforgettable experience!

Some people think of life periods in the following way – life before family and family life. In what way did your life change ever since you got married?

My life became better, brighter, more meaningful and certainly complete. I married my longtime boyfriend Ivo Topchiev, whom I met at school. He’s 5 years junior and is also deaf. At first, I was a bit concerned with the age gap between us, but I found out this is just an insignificant detail when two people love each other. We started dating in 2007 and got married in 2010.

We had a fairytale wedding in a castle in Nedelino with many guests and friends invited. The following year, our daughter Melina was born. She’s 7 years old now and is hard of hearing but is a student at an ordinary school and is surrounded by hearing children. You know, this summer was the first time she’s boarded a plane. It happened on our family holiday to Dubai. She was thrilled by the flight and truly enjoyed every bit of the holiday! I’d like to thank my family for always being by my side.

So you’re not just an athlete, a trainer, a model and mother, but you’re also into crafts! You create exquisite hand-made items with a dash of magic in them – scarves, various kinds of cases, bags to name a few. How did you learn the ways of sewing?

I never did… Turns out I’m a natural at sewing. It must have been 4 years ago when my mother gave me her sewing machine out of the blue. I started thinking of ways to use it and came up with the idea to create a few simple things. I went shopping and bought 3 types of fabrics in different colours and designs. I made a few scarves and uploaded photos of them. The people on the online marketing site really liked them and started ordering scarves. This is how I started sewing. Now I also make leather cases, bags and some types of accessories.

Some of the things I make for my own use, but I also take orders to design personalized items. I’d love to have my own shop. In case you’re interested, you can see some of my handmade items on my facebook page Handmade by Boryana. Oh, there’s also a special marketplace for  deaf people to sell handmade stuff crafted by them. It’s called Deaf Messe and is a national marketplace in Germany, Frankfurt where deaf people from around the city and the country gather to show some knitting and sell crochet items. They also make various items during the sale and present ones they’ve recently created.

You can basically buy and sell anything there. Such sales are held in various cities in Germany with the location changing on a monthly basis. Last year, I managed to visit such a sale which is a dream come true for me. This year, Frankfurt is hosting the November Deaf Messe again, so I’m looking forward to participating in the sale.

This goes to show that deaf people are versatile. Talent knows no boundaries in both literal and figurative sense. Exchanging some handicaft ideas with other people from deaf societies is wonderful. Is there anything else you’ve got in hand that’s particularly surprising? I heard you also like fishing.

Oh, yeah! *laughing* Who says fishing is exclusively a man’s sport? I remember my father took me to the fishing place in my childhood years. He showed me how it’s done and taught me how to catch fish. I didn’t really like it, so I didn’t try fishing again until 2018. This year, I took part in a fishing contest for the deaf held in the countryside near Asenovgrad (at a lake called 40-te izvora or the 40 springs in Bulgarian).

What I really liked about it is that they organized a fishing contest for amateur women for the first time. I managed to catch a small fish and its size seemed to be enough to land me the second place. I also won a cup for the most beautiful fish caught. I must have caught the golden fish for it brought about a range of wonderful emotions I felt throughout the event. We slept in tents and had a great time speaking to friends from the deaf community around Bulgaria. Surely, I’ll be delighted to take part in the competition again in 2019.

Life is wonderful when you’re enjoying every moment of it. So, how did you decide to start a show?

Well, I’ve been into entertainment from a very young age. I liked setting up funny games  and making out holiday programs. I’m what they call an entertainer – a person whose job is to entertain people of various ages constantly getting their attention with jokes, games and tricks. Whenever I visited my deaf friends, I would make them laugh with funny stories and jokes and they always got amused. I like playing magic tricks.

One day, I thought to myself "Why not make a video blog (abbr. vlog) telling the world funny stories using international sign language?" In 2014, I started uploading my own videos on facebook. In the vlog, I would tell jokes or sad stories, I would play magic tricks and share about interesting topics. I’d been working regularly on it for two years and it got plenty of likes and gathered about many fans.

Then came the proposals from a few countries where I could perform on stage in theatres. At first, I would turn them down for I thought my future was not in live stage performance. Then, I changed my mind and thought Why not try live performance? I thought it would be a worthy experience and would let deaf people from other countries enjoy my show.

Which country hosted your first live performance?

Belgium. My fellow vlogger Hisham Salman and some other deaf friends had organized a two-day event in Antwerp entitled Deaf friends from around the world. It was a show featuring a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate the upcoming year 2017. About 600 people attended the show and it was my first live performance on stage, which got me particularly excited. I could feel my heart beating faster and faster.

I guess this is what they call stage fright. *laughing* But it just faded away and I got used to performing in front of people. The party was splendid. So, New Year, new beginnings. I walked around Brussels and got in love with the taste of the delicious Belgian waffles. This is how Boryana Topchieva Show started its live performances.

Your show is about to turn 5 years in 2019. Congratulations on its upcoming anniversary! Boryana Topchieva Show is the reason you’ve been a part of many events team We Hear You has written about. You hosted John Maucere’s show in Sofia, took part in the Clin d’Oeil visual arts festival in France and was an honorary guest at the 110th anniversary of the Hungarian National Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing SINOSZ. What are your impressions on the deaf culture worldwide?

True, I’ve been travelling a lot since I started the show. Travelling is my passion! Much like their Bulgarian counterparts, deaf people from around the world have similar events held in restaurant, with lotteries and show programmes included. Starting with Belgium, I attended a Ball in Slovakia and gave numerous performances in Portugal. The last year edition of the Visual Arts Festival Clin d’Oeil in Reim (July 2017) was particularly interesting.

You could see all sorts of performing arts featuring deaf artists from around the world – theatre, dancing, movies, visual arts and street performances in sign language. I was a part of a conference and engaged in a debate. In my spare time I went for walks, visited the theatre and watched a magic show given by colleagues from other countries. Each and every performance I saw was a professional and pretty enjoyable one.

This very night we attended a party with a huge musical playlist and dances for the deaf. Reims is a little town which is very picturesque. It hosted 8000 deaf people from around the world for the festival. I was walking downtown and I could see gesturing people all around. It felt like I’m in a deaf town. I noticed that in Belgium they also organize classmate gatherings like the ones we have at home. They are held in restaurants and include funny games.

The deaf community there celebrates the eldest deaf couple and the eldest deaf guests. I’ve been to India, Israel, London, the Czech Republic, Poland and pretty much anywhere you can imagine. I could say deaf people are all kind, friendly, hospitable and well-behaved anywhere you go.

Turns out your show is destined to be a bridge between the deaf cultures from around the world. Deaf people also learn about Bulgaria through the enriching experience of exchange Boryana Topchieva Show offers. What surprises are you planning for the fifth anniversary of the Show that your fans from the country and abroad could enjoy?

Well, I’m really glad and pretty excited about the fact that the Show had gathered around so many friends over the years. Of course, I talk about Bulgaria, our culture and customs. We need to know more about each other. I have a few performances abroad planned by the end of 2018. This is it. We’ll see what happens next! I’m not telling you about my future plans, but I’ll admit I’m planning on publishing a biography book on the occasion. It will be bilingual (chapters in Bulgarian and English) and will feature a number of photos. I hope to find the right editor for the book by January 2019.

Good luck on it! We’re pretty sure the book will feature plenty more interesting facts. This is what living in the show is about. Dear Boryana, we’re sure to meet again. May the odds be in your favour! 

Interview by Christina Tchoparova

Photos: Boryana Topchieva, provided by her

Collage: Christina Tchoparova

EN Translation by: Maria Mihailova

Alliance NCAC “We Hear You” is the holder of publishing rights on this article


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