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Dilma Rousseff is the newly elected President of Brazil

Happy New Year 2011 to all of us! May it be better than 2010 and worse than 2012! 🙂

With the New Year along came the New President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. She is the first woman to ever hold this office, and she is half-Bulgarian!

The new head of the 8th economic power in the world and “the 16th most powerful person in the world” according to Forbes magazine is the daughter of the Bulgarian lawyer and entrepreneur Petar Rusev (Perdo Rousseff) and the Brazilian teacher Dilma Jane da Silva. Petar Rusev was from Gabrovo, but emigrated from Bulgaria during the political persecutions of 1929. Notably, he was an active communist and a friend of the Nobel Prize-nominated Bulgarian poet Elisaveta Bagriana.

The whole of Bulgaria followed the Brazilian presidential elections with bated breath and crossed fingers. Dilma’s victory received as much media attention in Bulgaria as in Brazil. Truly, Bulgarians feel tremendously proud that someone who we consider very close to us has earned the trust of the entire Brazilian nation and has been elected to the position of one of the world’s top leaders.

Young Dilma (top) with her mother Dilma, brother Igor, sister Vana, and father Petar Rusev (Pedro Rousseff)

The best of it is that the warm feelings seem to be mutual. During an interview in October, Dilma Rousseff said that she “feel[s] tenderness and love,” for her father’s homeland Bulgaria. The 36th Brazilian president has definitely not forgotten her origins. During the last days of 2010, Dilma received the Bulgarian official delegation headed by the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who presented her with her father’s family tree.

Dilma’s candidacy and election caused quite a media frenzy in Bulgaria. Our TV and newspapers closely followed her 2010 campaign. The citizens of Gabrovo even compiled an exhibition called “Gabrovo Roots of the Brazilian Presidential Candidate Dilma Rousseff” in the town’s historical museum. Her relatives from the Rusev family have already collected old photos and memories from her father’s youth. They are awaiting her visit, which will most probably take place this year. Dilma’s aunts said that they are excited to meet the Rousseffs and to fill in the missing names on the Brazilian branch of the family tree.

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A recent article in The Economist expressed surprise that Bulgarians are cheering for Dilma’s election. After all, the article said, Hungarians’ didn’t claim that Nicolas Sarkozy was one of their own when he became the French president, so why should we. The European media calls the Bulgarian sudden interest in the Brazilian politics “Dilma’s fever”.

Do you think that it is silly for a small country like ours to celebrate the achievements of those who share, at least partially, our common heritage?

I agree that our interest is a bit of an overreaction. The fact that everyone here knows about Dilma’s origins, but hardly anyone knows much about her party or policy speaks enough. But after all, Bulgaria does not claim that this development will have any effect on our countries’ foreign relations.. or maybe it will, I don’t know!  But in response to the skeptics, I would only say that I think the Bulgarian reaction is just a testimony of how important family relations and blood connection are to Bulgarians. Plus, we are happy that Dilma is not one of the many immigrant descendants who turn their back to Bulgaria. In the end, we don’t expect any favors and don’t want anything from her.

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