Page 58 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
interlocutors in Svilengrad.
Town memory keeps the traumatic experience of the resettlement of communities
with their own cultural specificities and the expressions of humaneness between those who
are different. I would like to sketch out a life story from the times of re-drawing the political
borders. The drama had a happy end but it is telling of the fate of all groups forced to leave their
birthplaces and it is emblematic of the power of the border.
In the summer of 1913, the six-year old Elenka was abandoned by her father, who
moved to the interior of the country in order to save himself. The girl was found and saved by
local Turks. After the Istanbul agreement (September 1913), when Svilengrad and the district
were once again Bulgarian, the young Turkish family left for Edirne with the army of Enver bey
and settled there. Elenka was renamed Fatie and gradually forgot her mother tongue. In 1920,
Edirne and huge territories from Thrace were handed over to Greece. Many Turks from Edirne
left the town in fear. Some of them moved to Bulgaria. The family who had adopted Elenka
resettled in Nova Zagora. There the girl was discovered by her uncle and given back to her
Bulgarian relatives. At the end of the 1940s, her step brother Mustafa came to look for her in
Svilengrad. The reunion was not confidential; it took place in the presence of a police officer.
Elenka sent presents to the family that had saved her
(For the entire story, see Chonchev
2010)
.
Similar stories about abandoned and lost relatives, divided families, themembers of which
were forced to accept different citizenship and nationality, to express themselves in different
languages, and to interrupt their contacts with their loved ones on the other side of the border
are abundant in the recollections of many migrants.
The younger generations grow up with their grandparents’ stories about the birthplaces
left behind on the other side of the border and with their nostalgia. This is why in Svilengrad they
point out that the issue of national identity is closely related to the familiar memory and feels
painful for many of the descendants.
Later, in the 1970s, when the borders became permeable, the conditions arose to seek out
relatives, to organise family gatherings with relatives on the other side of the border (i.e. Greece
in this case), and to confirm familial stories (cf. Miteva 2012).
Nowadays, the residents of the Haskovo district claim that Edirne is very close to them.
Most of them have been there many times: for shopping and entertainment, or on business.
The connections with institutions and the business contacts started being established at the
beginning of the 1990s. A lot of friendships with Turks were struck at that time. Among the
residents of Haskovo and Svilengrad there are those, who knew Filip Chakarak personally
(the father of the current priest) and who are still in touch with the few old Bulgarian families
remaining in town.
The collapse of the socialist industry and the changes after 1989, the opening of the