Page 173 - MIGRATION

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locals, the laying of a table with gifts (hand-woven table cloth with folk motifs, balloons, a round
Bulgarian traditional bread, souvenirs); the participants who come from the respective village
come to the fore (identified with badges bearing the name of the village, every participant wears
a badge like this throughout the trip), an official ritual phase – speeches, memories, verses, a
message to the descendants on behalf of the participants in the expedition, the presentation of
gifts, inquiries about remains of old houses, churches, water fountains or wells, visits to houses,
ruins, wells, old trees, stones placed in the foundations of present Turkish homes, friendly contacts
with the owners; dancing a chain dance
in the square, bidding good byes.
Hereafter I will enumerate some of the more important and recurring ritualized acts:
Presenting a round traditional bread to the local mayor or some other official
representative – what is emphasized is that it symbolizes fertility and health, the customary wish
articulated at this point is “
da e bereketliya godinata vi
” [may your year bear many fruits]; gratitude
is expressed because “we are welcome to the birth land of our parents”, wishes along the lines
of “may you be healthy and preserve this land!” are articulated. In this ritual communication, the
locals are thought of as representatives of a community of people who take care of the birth land
of the visitors’ ancestors.
Connecting with the land is crucial, both in material and in symbolic terms – the land
in which the roots are - the roots from which the family tree grows. The taking of soil
, which the
descendants would later scatter on the graves of their refugee ancestors, is a symbolic gesture of
merging with the land, of returning into it, of uniting with the native land in death. The place from
which they take soil is also significant – near the ruins of a Bulgarian house, under the medlar-tree
in the yard of the house of Ilia’s in the village of Chongara, at the ruins of the Bulgarian church in the
village of Turnovo (now Bayramlı), in the region of Uzunköprü – all these being significant places
which still contain traces of the steps of their ancestors. (This personal and privately cherished
practice was in fact taken on by the Union of Thracian Societies in Bulgaria which appealed to
its members – on the occasion of officially marking the 95-anniversary from the destitution of
Thracian Bulgarians – to conduct special trips to their birthplaces and bring back soil which was to
be placed in the ossuary of the Thracian Pantheon of the memorial in the town of Madzharovo).
Ritualized activities are also conducted to the aim of restoring spatial connections on
the territory of villages and towns. Special attention is paid everywhere to wells which were built
by the Bulgarian population in the past and which are being used by the new settlers at present.
On the well in the village of Bulgarköy (nowadays Yenimuhacir) a message to the descendants
was put in place, stones brought from the currently under construction Bulgarian school were
2 In Bulgarian traditional culture, we have the following practice:“In the past, and even nowadays, when leaving
for a long journey, people would take with them a handful of soil in a small bag and would carry it in the faith that
their native land would keep them safe, give them strength and energy” (Stareva 2007: 398). Native soil is a universal
symbol for emigrants. For example, Irish soil accompanied by a certificate of origin and a description of its possible
uses is sold to Americans of Irish descent for $15 for 1 lb. (; 08.03.2011). The website’s
and the certificate’s logo reads “Bringing heritage home” and the customers would put the soil in their gardens or on
family graves. An expression of the material connection between the native land of the hero from the Russian-Turkish
War (1877–1878) general Skobelev and the land on which he achieved the peak of his glory as an army leader, was
similarly accomplished by carrying soil from his family manor in Russia and placing it in a capsule at the foot of his
monument in Pleven in 2008.