Page 38 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
in 1913 (the Day of Thracian Memory in Madzharovo), the commemoration of the women and
children who died in 1913 in the Maglenik area (the National Thracian Women’s Fest in the
village of Avren, Krumovgrad district). There are memorial signs in all of these spaces, references
to historical narratives. They are concentrated along the southern border and are similarly
structured: a monument of the victims, a chapel, usually by the name of
St Petka
, and a drinking
fountain. Representatives of UTSB, of Thracian societies from the region and the country, of the
legislative, the executive, and the judiciary power, of schools and other institutions take part in
the commemorative events. The public celebrations follow similar scripts: Revival-period and
patriotic songs are played first, then the occasion for the gathering is emphasised, a reading of
poetry comes next, there are official speeches, a church ritual of prayers for the souls of the dead,
a minute of silence, laying wreaths and flowers, and performances of amateur groups.
I shall elaborate in more detail on two commemorative events, a new one and an old one,
both exemplary of the process of emblematising and connecting towns or villages with traumatic
moments of our national history, an approach that aggravates separation and
reinforces the
border
.
The commemoration near Ivaylovgrad dates back to 1996: on the land donated by a
Thracian Bulgarian a monument was built in memory of the more than 200 children of refugees,
who died during the flight to Bulgaria, the
St Petka
chapel was erected and a drinking fountain
was made. The location is symbolically constructed: the site is imagined as the place of the
children’s death, the chapel is a symbol of the Thracian victims, and the drinking fountain is the
living connection with the native land. The commemoration includes both spaces. The village of
Pelevun is one of them, and it is converted into historical capital. Wreaths are laid there at the
monument of Captain Petko, the savior of the village; the old school, a museum of Captain Petko,
and the
St. Panteleimon
church, where the chieftain (
voivoda
) fought against the Turks, both get
visited. The second site is the Ilieva niva area, where the major acts of paying tribute take place:
a concert, a requiescat, usually performed by Father Boyan Saraev, known as the Baptist of the
Rhodopes, or other priests, among them Father Alexandar Chakarak from Edirne; laying wreaths
and flowers; Father Boyan Saraev baptising children and adults in the
St Petka Balgarska
chapel;
cooking boiled mutton and offering it to those present; a Thracian fest of children’s and youths’
amateur groups.
The traumatic moments are turned into elements of group identity; they have been given
symbolic value. The Thracian sites of memory are interiorised in the collective body as places
of national tribute, the deceased become “martyrs of the Christian faith and Bulgarian ethnic
belonging” and “victims in the name of Bulgaria,” while the events of 1913 are represented as
“bloody and heroic moments in the most recent history of Bulgaria.”The awareness of the social
significance of the victims has found its expression in the suggestion made by the Thracian
Women’s Association and Father Boyan Saraev and addressed to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian
Orthodox Church for the 42 women and children from the village of Manastir, Western Thrace,
and the 200 children, casualties of the flight to Bulgaria, to be canonised and declared saints.