Vanga was born in Strumica, then in the Ottoman Empire. During the second Bulgarian annexation of the region (1941–1944) she moved to Petrich, (then and now in Bulgaria). She was a premature baby who suffered from health complications. In accordance with local tradition, the baby was not given a name until it was deemed likely to survive. When the baby first cried out, a midwife went into the street and asked a stranger for a name. The stranger proposed Andromaha (Andromache), but this was rejected as "too Greek", so the second stranger's proposal, Vangelia (Vangelis, Greek: Βαγγελία, short for Ευαγγελία, "herald of the good news", from the components ευ- meaning "true" and άγγελος which means "messenger"), was accepted–also a Greek name, but popular in the region.
In her childhood, Vangelia was an ordinary girl. Her father was conscripted into the Bulgarian Army during World War I, and her mother died when Vanga was quite young, which meant the girl depended on the neighbors for a long time. Vanga was intelligent, with blue eyes and blond hair. Her inclinations started to show up when she herself thought out games and loved playing "healing"–she prescribed some herbs to her friends, who pretended to be ill. Her father, being a widower, eventually married a good woman, thus providing a stepmother to his daughter.
A turning point in her life was a twister which lifted Vanga up and threw her in the field (this claim has not been verified with meteorological records or other accounts from that time). She was found after a long search–very frightened, and her eyes were covered with sand and dust, so she couldn't open them because of the pain. No healing gave results. There was money only for a partial operation, so her eyesight was failing.