Pavel Djunev, a 31-year old Ph. D. student of high-speed computer networks, always looks on the bright side. It was his positivity coupled with a keen interest in computers and the internet that led to the conception of a news website to celebrate the good aspects of life in Blagoevgrad.
The year was 2000 and Pavel’s “Virtual Blagoevgrad” proved to be too innovatory.
“When it was time to think about the realization of the idea, or in other words, to figure out how to finance it, we turned to local companies for support, offering them to advertise with us. But they told us: ‘Are you crazy? We have our clients and credibility, we cannot advertise on the Internet,’” Pavel said.
After a number of firms deemed the prospect of internet advertising too novel and risky, Pavel was forced to halt the project.
However, he never gave up on his idea. In 2009, after finally securing a long-term contract with a sponsor, Pavel revived his project under a new domain name (Blagoevgrad.eu).
Pavel rolled out the website with the intention to stay positive and break away from the prevalent bleak news reports.
“The truth is we were fed up with news that filled our heads with negativity,” he said.
Well into its four year now, the news website enjoys broad popularity in south-western Bulgaria, Pavel said. Although he cannot entirely avoid covering tragedies, the knowledge that he also brings positive news to people delights him.
However, every success comes with a price to pay. For Pavel it is the endless hours of gazing into a computer’s screen and the stress of coping with sudden internet failures.
“I exercise a lot to fight off the stress – fitness and football every other day and tennis once a week,” he said.
Often present at Pavel’s football games is his son Iliyan, 4. Pavel’s voice softens and his brown eyes glow when he speaks about Iliyan.
“When you have a kid, you push everything else to the background,” Pavel said, adding that Iliyan stands at the center of both his biggest joys and fears.
Father and son spend a lot of quality time together, going out for a stroll, a delicious meal or some fun in the park. Pavel tries to give little Iliyan the happy, care-free childhood he had on the street, where he played with his peers from dawn to dusk.
Pavel smiles broadly when he reminisces about his childhood and adolescence. Those were the exploratory years of many “firsts”: first sea vacation with friends, the exciting first kiss, the first girlfriend, whose name, however, he cannot remember.
Pavel’s nine-month compulsory military service in 2000 is another treasure trove full of memories and funny stories.
Pavel served as a corporal in Sliven, an ethnically diverse town home to Bulgarians, Bulgarian- Turks ad Roma. One day he had to teach 100 of his peers how to march and yell in exultation when greeted by their commander.
“When all those mouths dropped as wide as possible, I could not help it but turn around and burst into laughter. Before me I saw 100 people exposing either gold teeth or a lack of teeth. Moreover, it was a sunny day and the gold teeth reflected the sun light. It is still vivid in my mind,” Pavel said, unable to contain his laughter.
Listen to Pavel share his dreams and most important lesson he has learned so far:
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