Photo archive 1995: During the establishment of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development – Ilian Iliev (center) and one of the founders – Assoc. Prof. Alexander Stoyanov (right).

The prehistory of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development begins with the Student Ecological Society at the Technical University – Varna. The year is 1993. The current chairman of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development, Ilian Iliev, was then a third-year student at the Technical University, studying Ecology and Environmental Protection. The proposal for a student ecological society came from the then head of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection and chairman of the newly established Association of Environmentalists from Municipalities in Bulgaria. The goal was to make a student organization to be a member of the association. After a few months, Iliev took the initiative and together with his colleagues created the Student Ecological Society. Only students from the Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection were members.

The positives were felt almost immediately. As an association, the rector received them at a meeting and provided them with an office in the barracks of the Technical University. “That’s how we got a place to gather. Just few students had such a privilege at that time, “says Ilian Iliev.

The first funding of the Student Ecological Society came indirectly from the late Prof. Alexander Chirkov. At that time, he took the initiative to clean the road artery and the areas around it from the Airport to Golden Sands, paying everyone who got involved. The student society organized the future ecologists and they took an active part in the professor’s initiative. A minimum fee, of the order of BGN 2, for the organization is deducted from the payment of each. “These were our first funds with which we financed the activities of the Student Ecological Society at the Technical University of Varna,” Iliev recalls.

In 1994, the association was already invited to the dean’s council. Some of its members went through their first trainings for writing projects in different cities in our country. The date of the second is memorable – June 26, 1994. “During the World Cup we were at this training. There we watched the first victory of the Bulgarian national football team at the World Cup. We would beat Greece 4-0 “, Ilian Iliev cannot forget. But … he remembers the training not only for that. “I was most impressed by the example given to us by a young Romanian who wrote a project for the Volvo Foundation. The car company invited him to a meeting. But since he had no means, he could not go to Sweden. People from his native village in Romania gathered, bought him a suit, a diplomatic briefcase, fashionable at the time, a ticket, and sent him away. And he returned from the meeting with a brand new car “, Iliev recalls.

Inspired by examples of people started from scratch, Ilian and his fellow students roll up their sleeves and sat down to write their first project. “Then we had the opportunity to apply to the Ecological Center based in Budapest. We studied – we didn’t learn, we wrote something like a “Dream list”. We wanted to have computers, printers, photocopiers – a complete dream! Of course, this project was rejected, “Iliev smiles.

But … practice teaches better than theory. They were learning a lesson. They were writing a smaller project, up to $ 500, to organize an ecology conference for technical students at the university. And it was approved. “It was a great joy. Years later, we learned that projects up to $ 500 were not valued, they were funded because the amount was negligible. So we held a conference, we published brochures of the company. Things started, “says Ilian Iliev.

Jeremy, a student from the United States, helped them write the next, bigger project. Funding came from the Open Society Club. “That’s how we got our first computer. At one point, it turned out to be even better than the rector’s – 486, LEO brand, with Hewlett Packard inkjet printer, Panasonic fax and secretary. “We are furnished! The student meeting shed looks like an office, ”says Ilian. Exactly on his birthday they had to receive the equipment from Sofia.

I spent my birthday on the train. We were three people from the student society. On the way back we travelled with a sweet talker who sold socks to “Pheasant” – Ruse. He kept telling us about socks and we were asleep. When we woke up, he laughed: “As you were deeply involved, I could pick up my computers and leave.” We missed each other. But temporarily … “, the current chairman of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development remembers.

The year is 1995, fifth year, state exam for the first class of students – environmentalists. “The written part has passed. While we waited for the oral exam, we decided to go to the office of the student society. It looked different. It turned out that they had cut the window grille and stolen all the equipment. So, while the others were taking the exam, I was testifying in the district. I barely managed to be the last to show up and take my exam, ”Iliev recalls.

Upon graduation and leaving the university, they bequeath the student society to the next generations – students. And now?

The date is December 15, 1995. The place, due to lack of another – the barracks of the Student Ecological Society – the people – several newly graduated environmentalists and two professors from the Technical University –  What’s happened – constituent assembly of the Association “Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development”. “We were the first class of environmentalists and no one knew what would work. That is why it was normal for this to be our first task “, Ilian Iliev concludes his story. At that time in Bulgaria there was almost no environmental legislation (the Law on Environmental Protection was adopted 7 years later), let alone an employer to invest in ecology and hire an ecologist. That is why the first batch of ecologists started to put environmental issues on the agenda and looked for ways to solve them. Thus began the ecological action.

And it continues … For 25 years. Many people and events have come and gone during this time. Some left a mark, others a clear mark, and still others a deep trace … In the name of a difficult MISSION – a change in our consciousness so that PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT BECOMES EVERYONE’S PERSONAL INTEREST.


Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations

The project “Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations” shall be implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism. The main goal of the project is to improve citizens’ awareness of the role of non-governmental organizations in society. This material is established with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The whole responsibility for the content of the document is held by the Public Environmental Center for Sustainable Development and under no circumstances can this material be considered to reflect the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria.