Amidst the excitement of the first week of classes students had another surprise prepared for them – Princess Maria Louisa of Bulgaria, a dear friend and supporter of the university met with AUBG-ers in the packed Andrey Delchev Auditorium. The room was filled with young people who wanted to see and hear the story of the royal family member and draw inspiration from her unfading love towards her fatherland.
President Michael Easton briefly introduced his guest, pointing out her long and dedicated job on the AUBG Board of Trustees and said that it was a real pleasure for him and the entire AUBG community to have the 2012 recipient of the Doctor of Humane Letters on campus. The floor was then open to questions from the audience. The first one to take the plunge was Boban Markovic, a senior student from Serbia and this year’s representative to the Board of Trustees. He sought Princess Maria Louisa’s opinion on the role of AUBG in the development of Bulgaria and the region and if she thought AUBG students still kept the momentum of change in Southeastern Europe. “AUBG is, without doubt, the best university on the peninsula and educates students who have the potential to drive their countries to a brighter future,” responded Maria Louisa passionately. “What is more it has an outstanding reputation not only in the region but overseas as well.”
The questions that followed brought her back to a sad and yet quite eventful past. She shared her memories of the time she and her family had to leave Bulgaria overnight, packing their belongings and boarding the train that lead them to a life of refugees. This, however, did not diminish her love towards Bulgaria and the audience could sense the sincere emotion in her voice when she spoke of her return to the place she was so fond of and the warm welcome on the part of the Bulgarian population.
Princess Maria Louisa also spoke of her time in exile, her everyday life in Egypt (where she spent most of her youth), and how she ended up settling in the US. Prompted by a student’s question she confessed that though she studied economics, this was not her true vocation. She got a diploma in nursing and ever since she has been involved in numerous social projects – bringing a ray of hope to the lives of less privileged people.
A story was shared by first-year student Mitko Nikolov that brought tears to the eyes of Maria Louisa and touched the hearts of the audience. His great-grandparents were living in extreme poverty – they had no place to live and almost no means of supporting themselves. In an act of desperation, his great-grandfather went to the king and told him of his situation. King Boris III made sure that a solution was found to this problem by providing Mitko‘s great-grandparents with work and a place to live. „My grandfather used to tell me and my cousins this story and I just wanted to thank you,“ Mitko said. Maria Louisa was moved and wished him luck and success in his future endeavors.
The hour rolled out almost imperceptibly and upon leaving the room the room Princess Maria Louisa shared that she was always glad to return to Bulgaria and nowadays she has one more reason to return – AUBG. After years of terror and injustice to people whose only sin was that they were in some way associated with her family and thus deprived of everything, she was happy to stand in front of so many young faces with such a future lying ahead of them. „Sky should be your only limit,“ was her final message to all the bright individuals in the room.