Page 55 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
the Bulgarian national calendar (3
rd
March, for example). Students from the Thracian University
frequent the churches too; they talk to the priest, borrow Bulgarian books, and generally pay
respect to the foreign culture. Students and lecturers are often father Alexander’s guests for the
important Christian holidays. The visits of schoolchildren are documented too: their objective is
to learn more about the culture and cult places of Christianity. For all these groups of residents
of Edirne, the churches represent cultural space; they are denoted as Bulgarian and they promise
knowledge, socialising and sharing a festive experience.
For the vendors, the Bulgarian churches are locations providing them with a living. For
the important Christian holidays they arrange their stalls, besieging the street to the church, and
unfalteringly offer to the numerous tourists nuts, sweets, souvenirs, etc. In the last year or so, the
vendors are permanently around the
Saints Konstantin and Elena
church. The proximity of the
whole-sale market, where inexpensive goods can be purchased, makes the church frequented
by all Bulgarian tourists and thus, the place is suitable to offer local trademarks.
For other groups of residents these sites are like landscapes, something fluid, changeable,
and traceable because of the media interest in the events taking place there, it is passive
knowledge that has no impact on their everyday lives.
The Bulgarian traces in Edirne are the foundation to construct new practices of recalling
and narrating. The contacts with the ‘others’ on the other side of the border, whom they get
to know, are the possibility to transform the dividing recollections into forms of mutual
acknowledgement.
***
Another example of the symbolic reconstruction of territories is provided by the
expeditions to the birthplaces of the refugees
. The ‘permeability’ of the border and the active
commitment of theThracian societies are the reason formany tourist excursions to the birthplaces
of the forefathers. Natalia Rashkova and I incorporated participant observation into our research
by joining four organised trips“back to where our forefathers came from.”The first and the second
expedition were organised by a descendant of Bulgarians from Bulgarkyoy (today’s Yenimuhacir)
and included en-route places in Western Thrace with a focus on the places of origin in Eastern
Thrace: around Keşan, Uzunköprü and Edirne. The third excursion was initiated by the Thracian
society in Haskovo, and the fourth one by the Sofia society. The trips “back to our roots” in the
first and second expedition followed a similar scheme in the different places: meeting the local
authorities and offering gifts of symbolic value, sharing knowledge about the birthplaces of the
forefathers and their lives prior to 1913, discussing the village and its current population, seeking
out the old houses, the remains of Bulgarian schools, churches, and graveyards, taking away
evidence (soil, a pebble, a roof tile, a tree branch, water, or photographs), contacting the locals,
or performing rituals in honour of those who lost their lives; the ritual activities aim at joining the
‘threads’ of the historical narrative and ‘restoring’ the memory of the Bulgarian presence, they are