Meet The Bulgarian Woman Helping Teen Girls In Eastern Europe Escape A Life Of Communist Oppression


Here at GTHQ we love to talk about the importance of celebrities taking their role model status seriously and using their platform to influence their fans in a positive way. But it’s not just up to celebrities and those with notoriety and fame to change the world. Each of us has a responsibility to make the most of our lives and we all have the ability to make a difference in our communities.

One young woman who has transcended borders, political tensions and gender barriers to be a role model to many in her community is Tsvetta Kaleynska. She was born in Bulgaria in 1988 and is the daughter of a University Professor and a doctor. Tsvetta came into the world at a time when Communism was about to fall in her home country 1989) due to the collapsing of the Eastern Bloc, which was the start of major social, political and economic change for countries in Eastern Europe.

It wasn’t until 2001 that the country saw economic, political and geopolitical conditions improve greatly when it achieved Human Development Status.

Unlike many other young men and women who got caught up in what was happening nation wide as the country came out of Communism and moved toward a democracy, Tsvetta was one of the lucky ones who received a scholarship to study in New York after graduating at her local language school in 2008.

Because of her experience growing up in Eastern Europe then relocating across the world where freedom was defined in an entirely different way, Tsvetta became passionate about wanting to help other young Bulgarian girls to live a life where they too feel empowered.


She graduated from St. Francis College in New York with multiple business degrees and then went on to study a Masters Degree at the City University of New York at Baruch College. Having done some modelling and acquiring some experience working at a digital marketing firm, it was her heart for inspiring girls in her home country that led her to her purpose.

Back in 2004 while she was still in Bulgaria, she attended a US Peace Corps empowerment initiative camp called GLOW, which stands for Girls Leading Our World, and says it changed her life. GLOW began back in 1995 when the Peace Corps were in Romania and worked with local Romanian volunteers to address the unique challenges that local young women faced. The program was so successful that over the last 20 years it has been implemented in many other countries around the world, including Bulgaria where it first took place in 2000.

“It began in Bulgaria in 2000 as an initiative of Peace Corps volunteers who wanted to address the emotional and educational needs of adolescent girls. The initial aim of GLOW was to inform youngsters on topics such as sexual health, eating disorders, drug abuse, and domestic violence, as well as to provide them an appropriate platform and environment to share their thoughts and raise their concerns,” Tsvetta told in an interview in 2014.

GLOW also has a 7-day leadership camp which helps Bulgarian girls reach and explore their potential as future leaders, something that would never have been possible under different circumstances for a country coming out of the throes of Communism.


Approximately 70-80 girls a year take part in the camp and it also gives them a chance to learn English which is a huge selling point because Tsvetta says there aren’t a lot of opportunities for girls to learn English regularly. The workshops ranging from topics such as sexual education, leadership, self esteem teach and empower them to know they can take on the world.

“The girls came out of an oppressive communist lifestyle.  This gives the girls the confidence to break out of their shells and grow as women,” she said in an interview at a fundraiser event for GLOW in New York, 2010.

After her life-changing GLOW experience in New York, Tsvetta went back to Bulgaria to work with their local team and has become their volunteer president and is passionate about showing girls what they can achieve in life by being a living, breathing example.

But it wasn’t always easy for her, despite being lucky enough to move to the states.

“If I had to name one of the biggest obstacles and challenges I have overcome, it would be my move to the United States. Growing up in a post-communist country, I had extremely limited opportunities for development in any and every aspect of my life,” she told Girl Impowered in an interview earlier this year.

Tsvetta said her struggles and subsequent success taught her to dream even bigger, and be proud of her achievements as well.


“At first my dream was simple and entailed just having a better life and living in the US. The journey and arriving here showed me that with planned action and hard work absolutely any dream I have is possible,” she said.

In 2014 her hard work was recognized in a big way, when she won the Steve Award for theWomen Helping Women Globally’ category. The annual Steve Awards were created to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of businesswomen from around the world. Tsvetta was nominated for her work with the GLOW Leadership Program.

It was further proof that what Tsvetta was doing for Bulgarian girls was important. Buoyed by her success and recognition, Tsvetta has laid the foundations for another initiative in Bulgaria promoting foreign language literacy called ‘Tsvetta for the Colors of the Languages’.

“I have been donating a large number of books to libraries in Bulgaria. I am very passionate about that initiative. When I was in high school, I spoke English, French, and Spanish fluently, and I had read all the books available at the school library in those languages. The school did not have any funds for new books and that made me feel very knowledge-deprived. I want to expand the library funds in small villages and towns where there is a need for more foreign literature,” she said.

Her drive to help other girls have access to education is important to her as she believes it was the key to her success.

“I feel as if I have been granted an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the world,” said.


There are girls in countries who have to literally fight for an education, and may never even have to chance to study. We’ve seen how a young Pakistani girl literally stood up to the ammunition of the Taliban in order to become the world’s foremost activist on girls education. We’re talking about Malala Yousafzai of course. But she is not alone in her fight.

Women like Tsvetta are amazing examples of people who are given a life-changing opportunity, then turn it around and use it as a way to help others in their community succeed like they did.

The Peace Corps phased out the GLOW program at the end of 2013 after 13 years of successfully enabling girls to have the vision of what a better future looks like. Tsvetta’s courage is a great reminder to all of us today that no matter how bleak our circumstances may look, we hold the power of our future in our own hands.

“It is important to stand up once we have fallen and to acknowledge that the best is yet to come. We must never give up, no matter what. Do not let obstacles hold you down,” she said.

“Every time I face difficult challenges, I just think that I am alive and in perfect health, that I have food on my table and a roof over my head and if I was able to find my way through life until now (and the cross-Atlantic journey), no situation can challenge me enough to break me. We must only allow difficulties to affect us so we become even more empowered.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Here’s to the media spotlight on more everyday women like Tsvetta Kaleynska who take on the world in order to make a difference.





  1. You have to be kidding me… this is clearly written by someone who is stuck in the 80s and have absolutely no idea what is going on in eastern Europe nowadays. To get you up to date, Bulgarians now have equal study opportunities as any other western Europeans as a part of the European Union. Are you sure you are not mistaking this for some country from the middle east? I do not know how are you helping and with what, but I live in Bulgaria and access to education is absolutely no issue in here. Bulgarians study all around the world and are exempt from tuition fees in many countries that have such policies for European Union citizens. The libraries have huge collections of books, access to internet is on the same level as western Europe, as a matter of fact the speed of the connection is in the top 20 worldwide.

    What kind of BS are you talking about? Really? What communist oppression??? What sort of a uninformed person is the editor of this piece? This girl apparently loves to have her 15 minutes of fame and would exaggerate greatly to receive it. She did not live in communist times, she has no memories nor she has suffered during that time from a lack of freedom. Before you publish some BS, take the time to check the facts. This is pathetic.

  2. Pingback: Bulgarian Writer/Dir. Maya Vitkova Talks Democracy, Women In Film & Her Debut Feature 'VIKTORIA' - GirlTalkHQ

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