Irmela Mensah-Schramm, who has painted over far-right graffiti for 31 years, is part of a long history of anti-fascism.
That’s also how it used to be in Odrintsi, a small village on the border with Greece. In fact, at one point it had just two residents: 85-year-old pensioner Ruska Dimitrova and Vlado, a shepherd who looks after two dozen animals.
But then came the Germans. Fourteen adults and five children. They bought eight derelict houses and fixed them up. They leased more than 100 hectares of land, which they farmed. They bought animals. Horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, hens, geese. And began living the way people did centuries ago.
Without electricity. Without motorised machinery. Without electronic gadgets, such as mobile phones and the internet. Their daily routine consists of meditation, work, and countless discussions about the meaning of life. Today, two years after their arrival, the community leads a self-sufficient existence and has virtually no contact with the outside world.
“We don’t want to have anything more to do with the Western world and its exploitation of the Earth’s resources. We want to be in touch with nature again,” explains Jurgen Hummes, leader of the group. Jurgen, 59, a man with white hair, a long beard and an amulet around his neck, describes himself as a healer and shaman. He claims to be in direct contact with the “spiritual world”. “It shows me the way,” he says.
And his followers believe him. At some time or other, he has healed most of them from illnesses with the help of meditation and medicinal herbs, they say. And they have been following him for years. Initially, 11 years ago, to southern Germany, then to Togo in West Africa, where they lived for eight years, and finally, in 2015, to southeastern Bulgaria.
“Living here, in a world where so little happens, allows us to contemplate nature and focus on a spiritual existence,” says Jurgen. “That, after all, is something we all desire.”