People stopped living a proper life due to fear

"People felt so threatened with death and illness that many of them stopped living a proper life due to fear"

Associate Professor Maria Endreva is currently working as a lecturer in the Department of German and Scandinavian Studies at Sofia University ‘St. Kliment Ohridski’ in Bulgaria. She gave an interview for the Alumniportal last year on the coronavirus situation in her home country and was surprised at the population’s discipline. We wanted to know if she still thinks this is the case.

Dear Maria, has the population in Bulgaria remained as disciplined as they were during our interview in April 2020? And what is the current situation?

No, unfortunately things have deteriorated. Our entire society appears to be suffering from fatigue. People no longer want or are not able to comply with the measures, because they’re afraid that life could permanently depart from its usual course. Especially those who are financially impacted by this crisis. Others are so overwhelmed by the situation that they seek to understand and cope with it in irrational ways and through conspiracy theories. This makes it more difficult to control the pandemic.

The restrictions were relaxed last summer and we experienced a kind of break from the pandemic. The measures after that weren’t as strict as in other countries. We never had a ban on going out or any restriction in the number of contacts. Restaurants, fitness studios, businesses, shopping centres, theatres, cinemas and hairdressers remained mostly open. Although schools and universities did have to strictly rely on online education, which had a negative impact on young people.

I agree with this relaxation of the measures and with the normalisation of everyday life, to a certain extent with compulsory mask wearing and social distancing, because a crisis of purpose became apparent during the strict limitations and isolation. People felt so threatened with death and illness that many of them stopped living a proper life due to fear. I know some people who were badly affected psychologically by these constant references to the risk.

Death doesn’t have to be depicted in that way. We can learn a lot from literature in this regard. Death was always an integral part of life in earlier eras – against this background people felt a much greater sense of purpose and valued life by enjoying it to the full. I don’t see this in the current situation, unfortunately, since it’s mostly fear that’s operating as the control mechanism.

You saw the crisis as an opportunity to discover new, more sustainable economic models that are aligned less with consumption and more with responsibility for the environment. A year later, do you see any signs of such development?

I believe that consumerism was inevitably restricted by the pandemic. But this by no means suggests that people have come to their senses. Rather that they don’t have the opportunities to consume as much as they would like. Unfortunately, I can’t see any progress here. Bulgarian society apparently still needs to warm to this idea.

What are your plans for this summer? You consider travelling for pleasure during this crisis to be irresponsible.

Personally, I’ll be driving to my parents in July. They have a house in the mountains and I’ll spend my holidays there. Tourism is a major sector of the economy and its losses are massive. Around half the hotels on the Black Sea coast will never open again, which represents the flip side of ceasing travel for pleasure.

The politicians are concerned and are attempting to save the season. I expect that progress with the vaccination campaign will enable people to make business and holiday trips as normal, because online platforms can’t really replace direct human contact with colleagues.

TI hope that we can reclaim our old lives, but also that we don’t forget the lessons from this crisis. That would enable society to gradually adapt to new models and become ready to accept them. It would also be good to be able to spend more time with our families again, and to not forget how important interpersonal relationships are to us.

 

Interviewed for Alumniportal Deutschland: Admir Lleshi

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June 2021

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