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Golyamo Vranovo, Rousse, Bulgaria. January 12, 2020. Religion has been a huge part of people’s lives – they dress by it, swear by it, live by it. There are only two remaining hocas in this Bulgarian village who still give service as spiritual teachers to the Muslims. One of them is Nedzmie Hoca (85). Similarly to Asiye Hoca, she finished school at 14 years of age, then continued working for her family in the fields. She married at 19 and never separated from her husband. Her duties as a hoca (hoxha – a religious teacher) include reading for the people on holy days like the week of Bayram. She kept the Ramadan straight (the month before Bayram and ninth month of the Islamic calendar, received as time for fasting, prayers and reflection) for the last 20 years, until last year when she didn’t feel as strong to do it. People go to them to find spiritual solace, often by reading from their own books like the one she is holding in the picture.

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