Who knew there was a Japanese café in the middle of the Altstadt? We meet Albena Todorova at the Pit In Club, a very stylish café where we are introduced to the joys of Ginger Royal Milk Tea (looks like a cappucino but is actually a lovely sweet tea.) and a light, airy and sophisticated Japanese aesthetic (the mobile of kitchen utensils is particularly cool as are the stylish ceramics). It’s a place of connection for Albena: transporting her back to Japan where she lived for three years.
Albena has lived in Düsseldorf since securing a job with the Japanese trading and investment company Sumitomo Corporation. “I came here for an interview. They liked me and I moved here exactly four years ago.”
1. What keeps you in Dusseldorf?
“I came to Germany [from Bulgaria] speaking almost no German and speaking Japanese fluently. In Japan I never felt as at home as I do here… Düsseldorf really feels like home…In Japan you’re just different. There’s no bad intent.”
2. Outside of Work What are You Passionate About?
“I like writing a lot. Before coming to Germany I published a book of poems*. The second one is with my editor in Bulgaria…I would call it photo poetry. I try to keep a moment in time, to last a little bit longer.”
*Albena’s book of poetry won an award at the prestigious Ivan Nikolov Awards in 2014 – the first self published collection to do so.
3. If someone gave you 100k for a legacy project, what would you do with it?
“I would run a fund for a mentor and scholarship program for children who have lost one parent – children who have limited resources, especially teenagers. When you lose a parent, it is hard at any age. I was 14 when my father died but he was sick for 3-4 years before that so technically I lost him when I was 9 or 10. If he’d been around it would have taken me less failure to gain confidence. It would have been easier to deal. I wish there had been someone telling me I’m okay, that things were going to be okay. The world would be a better place if we cared more about people who have less.”
4. Who do you admire?
“I admire my grandfather, my mother’s father. He fought in the second world war without killing a person. He had the courage to stay a good person in ambiguous times…[Later] he loved what he was doing as a botanist planting forests in the Caucasian Region…He was a man of many deeds and little words…A huge man in terms of character and love.”
5. What is your favourite possession?
“My love to learn things. I have nothing more treasured than that.”
6. Where are you happiest?
“Saturday morning after breakfast with a cup of black tea sitting at the window getting ready to write. That is bliss.”