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had, that we are going to Chongara – I went to the back of the bus and put onmy folk costume
from Yasna polyana, so if anything, they could recognize me…
(S. Y., Burgas)
The practice of videotaping some of the trips to make professional video films amplifies
the power of the document-memory by transferring images and materializing places of memory
to the benefit of those who were not necessarily present there.
We brought back two bags of soil and when we presented the film in Yasna polyana,
we distributed among the members of the audience some soil in paper napkins – a handful
each. Shall I tell you what people did? They cried and took the handfuls. The next day they all
went to the cemetery to scatter it on the graves of their parents.
Interviewer [N. R.]: Where in Chongara did your take the soil from?
From the yard of the house of Ilia’s, under the medlar-tree, together with some medlar
fruit. They all came to touch the bough we brought too. There are plenty of medlar-trees
in Bulgaria! We pick, eat, and throw it away. Over there it was as if that medlar-tree was a
monument – everybody would touch it. And the bark of the mulberry tree too – everybody
would go to touch the bark of the tree and charge themselves with the energy of their parents.
Very moving, right? Me telling the story now, but if you are there? Imagine the thrill!
(S. Y.,
The elevatedmood and behavior of the Thracians returning to their places of origin derives
from the emotional state of the “actors” – each one of them experiences one’s own constructed
familial memory and joins in the shared experience of the rest by virtue of its elevation into a
ritualized act.
Ritualized acts
Ritualization is accomplished through degrees of organization, but it is based on mutually
accepted and well known in the community actions and symbols, aiming at enhancing the sense
of belonging and maintaining traditions. It emerges on two levels and from two directions:
“bottom-up” – in the personal rituals of every individual who takes or leaves something material
(soil, a roof tile, a stone, or a plant) in the birth place of ancestors; and “top-down” – by means of
preliminary organization and preparation for the shared moments of the speeches delivered on
site, the prepared in advance by some of the participants texts with messages, poems, folklore
songs. In participant observation, it is not always possible to differentiate between the two.
The structure of the trip itself can be outlined in charting a couple of key moments:
Along the way, the memories are intensified through shared again stories about the
village they are going to, about the livelihood there, the life there, or by recalling songs – rekindling
cultural memory; through familial memories – howeach of thembecame a refugee, place of origin,
the vicissitudes of running away and re-settling, the establishing of kinship ties.
On site in the respective village, preparation for ritualized communication with the