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3.2 The Case of Tsarevo
The town, the sea and the mountain as spaces of migration
For a long time now Tsarevo has been included in the national space of Bulgaria and is
not considered a separate territory of the settlers from Thrace. The town is one of the centres of
Strandzha. While researching the cultural cooperation and influence, as well as the social networks
shaped up as a result of the migration waves, we could offer the hypothesis that the local mental
topography does not match the national mental topography because it is being constructed by
the various layers of what is considered local heritage, which would be defined in different ways
on a local and on a national level.
Although traditionally both Tsarevo and Ahtopol are considered urban centres, after
the departure of the Greeks and the Turks the new settlers turned their backs to the sea and
the mountain became their cultural centre, in its entirety and in its dividedness: the Bulgarian
Strandzha and the Turkish Yıldız Dağları or Istranca Dağları. This is one of the ‘contradictions’ that
come up when we attempt to research the town as a sea town and regardless of its relatedness
to the border, the mountain, and the surrounding villages: Kosti, Bulgari, Brodilovo, etc. The sea
is the ‘inherited’ nature that refugees ‘came across’ when they moved away from their birthplaces
but they did not possess the cultural capital of the population from the seaside and were unable
to conquer and utilise the inheritance. Hence, in the traumatised narratives of settlers in these
regions, the recollections of leaving behind the ‘good life’ and the property on the other side of
the Bulgarian-Turkish border go hand in hand with the difficulties in appropriating the new space.
With reference to Kiten, the narrative of accommodating the first fourteen families in the so called
‘Charon houses’
is constructed around the difficult years of adaptation to the climate, themalaria,
the mosquitoes from the swamps around, and the infertile soil of the lands they were given by the
state as compensation.
The idea was, they [the Bulgarian refugees from Turkish Strandzha – M.Z.’s note] were
hoping that they were coming here for a short while in order to wait for things to get better in
their hometowns and villages and then go back there... Unfortunately, as we all know, this was
not what happened. Those 14 houses with gardens of 1,500 sq.m. were along the Strandzha
street in town. Someone had to come but no one wanted to. It was a rather unattractive place,
with mosquitoes, malaria, no running water, quite a risk... Anyway, fourteen families, that is
fourteen people and their relatives, took the risk and settled here. This is where their names
are recorded. They are mostly from the Edirne region. They arrived, came into property of the
houses and lands assigned to them, and they stayed
(from an interview with P.M.).
41 The ‘Charon house’ is a type of module house; those were constructed in order to accommodate the refugees
from Macedonia and Aegean Thrace and were financed by a refugee loan that Bulgaria received from the League of
Nations. The houses were named after the French banker René Charon, who was made responsible for the refugees in
42 The narratives of settling in Kiten were recorded in 2009. This text puts forward a summarised version offered
by P.M., a historian, at that time a curator of the town museum, in which the most contemporary history of the
settlement re-founded by the refugees held a special place. The collection also had visual materials from that period,
while the historical narrative was authored by P.M., who had carried out her own research on the topic.