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‘Do you please want to clean the fridge?’

31 October 2007 - Hristina Tasheva from Bulgaria worked for years cleaning houses in Amsterdam, while staying here illegally. Suzanne Raes made a documentary about her life and her photographs. The film will premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

Tasheva has collected hundreds of notes used to communicate with the people whose houses she cleaned, with messages such as: “Hi Hristina, how are you? Do you please want to clean the fridge? Thank you. The cat is back home. Nice weekend”.

Tasheva thinks the notes were a convenient means of communication, since the people she worked for were not really interested in how she was, as long as she did a lot of work for little money. “Sometimes I write that I’m not well. Just to make the difference between this note and the note from last week. But most of the time I write that I’m fine”.

In fact Tasheva, who studied agricultural economics in Bulgaria, thought she was wasting her time. She feared that if she had children, they might call her stupid for leading such an empty life. To do something meaningful, she started taking photographs of herself at the houses she cleaned.

Since Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007, Tasheva is no longer staying here illegally. She earns her money doing photography projects.

Through her documentary, Raes wants to show one of the many people who normally remain virtually anonymous. Interestingly, she also provides an insight into the private lives of the relatively well-to-do Amsterdammers who live in canal houses with high windows, wooden floors and primitive art on the walls.

The documentary will premiere at this year’s IDFA and will be shown on television next year. Raes is talking with All Included about organising discussion meetings about the documentary.

Photo: self portrait by Hristina Tasheva. The Houses of Hristina documentary, All Included, Hristina Tasheva website


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