Page 57 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
three borders predetermines the high standard of life, the contrasts and the considerable social
stratification. The unusually high prices, due to the visiting Greek and Turkish customers, force
the locals to buy their groceries in Edirne. Everywhere in town: shops, solicitors’ offices, surgeries
and dental offices, services have sign boards in Greek to accommodate the Greek tourists. You
can try Turkish cuisine specialties in the
Istanbul
restaurant owned by Turks from Edirne. The
casinos attract the foreigners, who want to try their luck. Thus, the border and the possibility
to cross it determine the economic specificities and style of life (life at the border), while locals
coexist with difference and manage to make the most of it.
The Euroregion Thrace idea – overcoming the border?
Once again on heritage and inheritance
Thrace is one of the numerous examples of the fact that political borders do not coincide
with the outline of symbolic territories by means of which the historical experience of the
communities in a transborder region can be processed. The possibilities for research on the
other side of the border point to the shared knowledge of the region (nature, economy before
the drawing of political borders, similar styles of life, types of labour, connectedness with time,
shared cultural heritage, or mobility from the mountains to the plains and the Aegean sea coast
(Bokova 2012).
Due to the specifics of the population around the border (cf. Uzunova 2012), the links with
today’s Western and Eastern Thrace are inherited from the past. As the Bulgarian-Turkish border
is under discussion, I shall use examples from Eastern Thrace. Quite a few of the construction
workers of today’s Svilengrad have been educated in Edirne, Lozengrad, Bursa, or Istanbul. Up
to 1912, the Edirne high school is the educational institution in the Svilengrad district. Often,
educated Bulgarians from the town or the district were appointed teachers in the Bulgarian
school there. This was the case with P. Stanchov, the teacher who gave the town its current name
(the old one was Mustafa Pasha), and who was moved to the school in Edirne in 1875 to teach
there. It is considered that the
Dr Petar Beron
high school in Svilengrad carries over the legacy
of the Edirne high school of the same name. In 1922, the entire equipment of the classrooms
and offices, and the school library, were moved here. The first headmaster was St. Razboinikov,
another graduate of the Edirne high school.
In the memories of the residents of Svilengrad, Edirne from the times before the Balkan
wars is a big market centre. The proximity between the two towns is expressed by the phrase,
Edirne is “within hearing distance” from Svilengrad.
38
The events related to the reinforcement of the national borders at the beginning of the
twentieth century, interrupted industrial and cultural links, separated families, or scattered
relatives around the world like “the beads of a necklace torn apart,” in the phrase of one of our
38 In Bulgarian, the phrase goes “at a door’s distance”. This perception is from the discourse of today’s residents
of the town and is telling of the way they perceive the border: a wall, which can be overcome and turned into a road.