Page 56 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
meant to designate the Bulgarian space symbolically.
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As for most of the participants this was
the second or the third trip, they had already made friends in the Turkish villages, whom they
wanted to find, and exchange photos, gifts, and news with. The observations show that the trips
to the birthplaces of the forefathers are perceived as pilgrimage, an overdue realisation of the
refugees’ hopes to go back to their birthplaces, “following familial legacy” (for more details, see
Rashkova 2012).
The trip back towhere our forefathers came from is attractivewith its emotions, discoveries
and encounters with the unexpected. Even though their thinking is framed by the past, the border
is being crossed and redefined. The contacts with the locals, resettlers themselves, the shared
traumatic experience, the shared feelings with reference to the birthplaces, the willingness to
help and show the visitors material traces of the Bulgarians who had lived there, all these make
it easier to do away with the interior borders, held by the idea of the conquerors, of those who
appropriated the property of the forefathers. The amiable welcome, the exchange of gifts, the
food they share and the hospitality of the locals become the foundation for the re-evaluation of
stereotypes and negative images of Turks and contemporary Turkey.
Utilising the border
As Castells points out, nowadays the space of places is dominated by the space of flows,
which reinforces the role of the border, across which the circulation of goods, capital and people
takes place (Castells 2004: 391). Before 1989 the border is a space to be defended and guarded;
with the beginning of the process of Euro-integration, it is not only a place for control of territory
but also a place to earn one’s living. The border is “privatised” (cf. Dichev 2009: 50-54), it is
converted into capital. It became more attractive with the opportunity to utilise the different
regimes on both sides in order to control the flow. Business found the niche and gained control
over the differences in the economic spaces by means of well organised trafficking. The border
gave people a chance to gain capital in no time at all, to acquire economic or political power,
which affected the border towns.
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The border town was no longer an ‘end’; it had become a
‘beginning’.
The border checkpoint is represented as the largest industry that provided a living for
Svilengrad, Lubimets, and Harmanly on this side of the border, and Edirne, on the other side.
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The
locals define Svilengrad as a town of three states and a gate-way to Europe. Life in proximity to
35 E.g. planting a walnut tree, or placing a stone at the construction of a Bulgarian school at an old well in
Bulgarkyoy. The photographic evidence and some comments of our interlocutors were represented at the
SHARED
THRACE
exhibition.
36 I would like to mention Fuat Guven’s name in this connection, a Turk from Bulgaria, who resettled in Turkey
and made his money by making the best of the border regimes in the 1990s; he thus acquired an influence in the
Haskovo region and turned into a ‘benefactor’ of Svilengrad. One of the last donations he has made is a considerable
sum of money, sufficient to restore the church in the Gerban residential area.
37 It is important to point out that trafficking dominated both sides of the border. Different examples are
available. The schools in Edirne were supported in winter by the naphtha confiscated at the border. Our tradesmen
supplied the Turks from Bulgaria, who had settled in Turkey, with alcohol and foodstuffs they were used to in Bulgaria.
The casinos in Svilengrad were systematically advertised in Turkish towns. The border could be defined as a funnel, at
the bottom of which “all sorts of merchandise and rubbish gathered” (cf. Dichev 2009: 55–56).