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When you see him, sitting in his wheelchair, moving around the prison halls, it would be hard to believe that this man has a thick criminal record being a horror man for many of the inhabitants of this facility, though he is not able to move from his waist down. However, this is the very truth. The 41 years old Stoyan got in prison 20 years earlier. There were scores of court cases against him for hooliganism, gun possession… Perhaps half of them are for crimes done by him when he is already in the wheelchair. He shares that he has been put behind the bars three-four times. For his last sentence he is here since 2009 and he is serving it in the prison hospital at the Sofia Central Prison because of the paralysis and a number of accompanying illnesses.
“My old way of living brought me here. The unconscious one, which I though was good for me, appeared to be the bed side of the coin. The reason to go down this path was the surroundings I got into”, the young man explains. And though his name is Stoyan (in Bulgarian it means ‘standing’) for many years now he cannot stand on his feet and move along by himself. The reason is a policeman’s bullet which affected his spine and caused the paralysis. It took place abroad during police campaign for ID check. Instead of obeying Stoyan started running and then the bullet got him. Today he states that he has realized the wrong path he took and the damage it caused him; “not only to my loved ones but also to a number of people on the side”. He admits to have gotten rid of the long kept bitterness and hatred toward certain people:
“Honestly speaking, before I used to carry this inside of me. Now, I already realized that I am not the one who is to judge them. One day we are all going to be judged. I am glad that there are people like Ivodor Kovachev who are helping us realize we did not have a good life and to put a new beginning. The man does that out of his heart. Through the project “The way of the new beginning” they are trying to help us and to give us another chance”, Stoyan says.
Each week Ivodor Kovachev visits him in the hospital and spends personal time with him in order to support him and direct him in the process of change. Stoyan is also participating in the art workshop which is also part of the activities of the project “The way of the new beginning” done by Mission Salvation Foundation. He tells us that he has never painted anything in his life. In the beginning he was even uncomfortable to hold the brush and preferred to make things out of clay. However, encouraged by Nana Raicheva, who is facilitating the art workshops; he gradually became more relaxed and now paints with pleasure, mostly still life.
“I continue making different things out of clay. One can see that I am improving. The art club brings to me positivism, charges me with energy which I cannot find otherwise here in prison.” He adds.
According to Nana, Stoyan is her outstanding student: “The most humble of all, the most silent while working and getting the best completed results. He is a joy for the teacher.”
Stoyan believes that every person carries the good in his heart. It just needs to be discovered. He is convinced about himself that he already started the way of the new beginning. At this time, though, he needs faith and strength to endure to the end. The first steps in the right direction are reality. The man says the he is completely through with his old surroundings, which is part of the criminal contingent. His family could also see the change. According to Stoyan’s words, his mother used to be quite negative toward him in the past, however now she trusts him more:
“I receive great support from my family. Lots of positivism – he adds. – At the same time they worry a lot about me being here in this condition. My grandmother is taking it really hard. Nevertheless, even if I have problems I don’t bother telling them in order not to worry about me. It is not their fault for me being here. It is totally my fault and I don’t want to burden them additionally with my problems. I am trying to achieve my goals alone. There’s got to be some change. And the change starts with us. If we sit apathetically there is no way to expect and to want something to happen. I am a man of action and it doesn’t matter I am in this condition I am trying somehow to stir up change not only in me but also for the other inmates.”
Stoyan’s biggest pride is his daughter who is 19 and she is a student at university.
“She gives me motivation. She wrote an amnesty petition to the president but it was rejected. I did not expect her to write such petition. At that time she was only 17. She is smart! I wish her good life and health! May the Lord protect her!” says with obvious emotion the man, who still has around two and a half year to serve.
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