By Maria Milkova
The residential home was new, the rooms clean and airy. But the lift to the second-floor bedrooms had not been working for months, so the children spent nights sleeping in their wheelchairs or on the sofa.
There were toys, too, but it was the television on the wall that captivated the children, while at the table, an elderly carer briefly, clumsily, held a child by the hair to keep her head steady as she fed her.
The carer was not rough or abusive. But there it was, in her untrained hand, in the broken elevator and the boredom, a reminder of the recent past, a period Bulgaria is trying to leave behind.
The house, in the Benkovski suburb of the capital Sofia, was one of almost 150 built in Bulgaria over the past six years to house up to 12 disabled children each, replacing the isolated, over-crowded and under-funded state institutions where such children were once held far from the wary eye of society.