Page 52 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
appropriation of territories outside the confines of the nation-state is indirectly expressed by
the Thracian leader, general T. Boyadzhiev: “We should not forget that there is a Bulgarian spirit
where Bulgarians have lived or live today; i.e. this is where Bulgaria is” (
Trakia
newspaper, April
2010).
The
Saints Konstantin and Elena
Church has become a centre for culture events and
activities. The church territory is utilised to host exhibitions from Bulgaria on various topics, as
well as concerts, meetings with poets and writers, or various celebrations. This is where the Days
of Bulgarian culture in Edirne begin, the opening of which, in May 2010, was an official occasion
in the presence of the Bulgarian Consul-General, the governor of Edirne and the district governor
of Yambol.
On the territory of the
St George
church there is a library with Bulgarians books
(methodologically approved by the Specialised Higher Education Institute in Library and
Information Studies), a culture house (
chitalishe
, which is a branch of the
Prosveta
culture house
in Svilengrad), and an ethnographic exhibition
Working Days and Festive Days of the Bulgarians
in Eastern Thrace
(with artefacts of the National History Museum in Bulgaria and the Municipal
Museum in Svilengrad). The culture house organises visits of amateur folk groups from Bulgarian
villages on the border.
The Thracian societies have a key role in the Bulgarian presence in Edirne. The visits of
Thracian Bulgarians to Edirne are annually planned in the UTSB national calendar of culture
events. The members of those societies are active participants in the Christian celebrations and
in other culture initiatives. The holiday of the
St George
Church in 2009 brought together Thracian
Bulgarians from the societies in Burgas, Varna, Haskovo, Stara Zagora, etc., Bulgarian officials
from the diplomatic services, representatives of the municipal and regional authorities of Edirne,
Turkish students of the Bulgarian language, and local population from the residential area.
On Easter night in 2010, the church was full of visitors from Bulgaria (Haskovo and Sliven),
Bulgarians from Edirne, Greeks, Romanians, Turkish Christians, and Muslims: people from the
neighbourhood, Father Alexander’s friends, lecturers and students from the Thracian University,
journalists and photo reporters.
Celebrating St George’s day and Easter in Edirne is a case in point when it comes to
introducing heritage, creating new practices of recollecting, of connections with the place
through a festive experience. It is also the foundation to share the holiday with others, a possibility
for various groups of visitors to communicate with each other, to get a sense of a foreign culture
and enrich one’s cultural experience. The festive event includes the Bulgarian visitors, turns them
into hosts, who share with the local Muslims the food traditional of Easter or St George’s day as a
sign of good neighbourly relations. Here is an example of the emotional attachment that is being
created. Among the visitors for Easter, there were two women from Sliven, who pointed out that
they took up the trip because of the midnight service: “We were here two years ago and we really
liked it: cosy, amiable, intimate, no crowd, and the priest was so welcoming. You feel at home. You
can really sense the Resurrection.”