Bulgarian ambassador visits Winchester

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — The Bulgarian ambassador to the U.S. visited The Village at Orchard Ridge retirement community on Tuesday.

Elena Poptodorova, who is serving her second term as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Bulgaria to the U.S., spoke to retirement community residents about continued efforts to move toward gender equality in Europe and the rest of the world.

She said women in Bulgaria are paid much less than men and are perceived as the family member tasked with domestic responsibilities.

Pay inequity between men and women averages about 11 percent in the public sector and up to 20 percent in the private sector, she said.

She said her goals are to provide higher education and improve working and living conditions for women in Europe.

Poptodorova served as ambassador from 2002 to 2008 and began her second term in 2010.

Her son Petrov graduated from American University and interns with a home health care company.

She said Bulgaria has some private retirement homes, but they can only be afforded by those with affluence.

“They [retired people] basically stay in their homes, many with their children,” she said.

She said she was amazed by the size of the Winchester retirement community.

“I didn’t expect it, it’s like any other gated community,” she said.

“It’s not only the warmth of the rooms, but how they live.”

Poptodorova was brought to The Village at Orchard Ridge by Ken Hill, a community resident who served as the U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria between 1990 and 1993 when Poptodorova was a member of the Bulgarian National Parliament.

“She was the ambassador when Bulgaria became a member of NATO and later when it became a member of the European Union,” he said. “So she’s been involved with making significant changes.”

Following her presentation, she met residents and was led on a tour of the community centers.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com