By Stanislav Stratiev, translated from Bulgarian LAAF @2020
And we are turning slowly into Ithaka.
A country to return to.
From Asia, America, Europe.
Australia and Oceania.
A place of birth where you return for two weeks.
But you stay only one.
And with relief you leave.
So that you don’t come back for at least five years.
Each time you return you see more ruin and more folly.
Ithaka is still covered in rubbish.
In words, in declarations, in demagoguery.
In fired cartridge.
Salieri still conducts Motzart.
The bridegrooms of democracy are still reveling and looting.
Penelope - the Bulgarian people - still waits for Ulysses.
Still turns the spinning-wheel.
Yarn is lacking though - she turns from pillar to post.
The herds are eaten.
And the yarn is span far away from Ithaka.
A country to return to, not to live in.
To receive postcards from California and Montreal.
A persistent memory you want to get rid of.
Friends, relatives and a girl who once…
And the whole enveloped in despair…
And the more direct flight-routes ‘Balkan’* inaugurates to all the continents, the longer the road to Ithaka becomes.
The bridegrooms are reveling, time is passing.
And our sons and grandsons are gradually becoming beautiful, intelligent and wealthy Americans, Australians, Canadians.
*The predecessor of Bulgaria Air.
By C.P. Cavafy, translated from Greek Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard @1975
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
With gratitude to Stanislav Stratiev and C.P.Cavafy
And to Panorama (BNT) for the “lyrical deviation” in its show of 25 September.
It so happened that the other day I watched on youtube Bulgarian National Television's political talk-show Panorama of Friday, 25 September. I wanted to hear what Christo Ivanov, the leader of "Yes, Bulgaria" Party, has to say. Despite my initial intentions, having nothing better to do amidst my 14 day London self-isolation, I got carried away - plenty to do with the rather amusing Haraln Alexandrov - and watched the entire program. Surprisingly, the show ended up with the commemoration of 20 years since the death of playrighter Stanislav Stratiev and the quote of a few random verses of his poem Ithaca, which I haven’t read.
Today, on the 11th day of my self-isolation, instead of online job search I googled Stratiev's Ithaca poem and found a striking cover version of Cavafy's original. As I couldn't find a translation of it, I did it myself. Amidst this effort, Islington Council called offering me a job as health-carer, hearing that heavy-lifting is what keeps me away from this occupation, Islington Council reassured me that they will call me with further suitable suggestions like cleaner.
Works by Zhoro Ruzhev, "The last bad boy standing on Sofia's art scene" as he describes himself - I'm not sure why though as all the work is good, are on display in the watter tower of Lozenets, Sofia by +359 Gallery, until 17 October.
The first floor "Dali-Voodo" series display is accompanied by an original soundtrack authored by the artist.
After the episode with the pirate-cab-driver, see below 8 of August entry, it became obvious, that it is a big time for me to present a tiny-winy, a grain of caviar size, sample of Russian&Bro.- with "Bro." being the ex-Soviet republics - rap.
Russian&Brorap is big in Bulgaria. As I don't live in the country on a regular basis I have missed the exact moment it has kicked in.
Гио Пика is my personal favorite. I somewhat have the feeling that their lead has grown up with the Sisters of Mercy's "Black Planet" and now features the word "Чорнь", "Black" in each tune and title. I find a particularly charming playlist that goes like : Black City, Black Aunty, Black Machine Gun etc My absolute favourite though is the Fountain with (the Black) Dolphin.
Other than that for my pirate-taxi-driver kidnap I hold personally responsible Boiko Borisov - if you have been Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Interior between 2001 and 2005; Mayor of Sofia between 2005 and 2009; and a Prime-Minister ever since, in a tiny-winy, a grain of caviar size country like Bulgaria and you have been at rule for the last 20 years - you are personally responsible for absolutely everything that goes around. That's why the tune bellow called "Ипонец ли си ти или криминалец?" also called "Самурай" is for him.
Kaспийски груз is an old classic and absolute favourite of mine. Табор Уходит в Небоis not merely a great tune, but is also the title of a good old film classic, translated into English as "Queen of the Gypsies" . I remember watching it black and white as a child, while it now exists in colour and with English subtitles on youtube as "Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven"; whilst my translation would have been "The Gypsy Camp Goes to Heaven"
7 August 2020, about 2230, a ride with the pirate-cab-driver listening to Russian-French hip-hop (!). I took this video before knowing that the cabby will ask for 30 bgn (13.86 gbp) instead the usual 7 bgn (3.23) and then will abduct me to an unknown direction when I refuse to pay.
While we were still “on good terms” or as the pirate-cabby said “What happened? A minute ago we respected each other!?” after me telling him “If I was a man I would have slapped your neck d*ck!”, instead of giving him 30 bgn.
"It would be good", I thought when I opened my eyes this morning, "It would be good if Bojkov* gave an exhaustive list of his art collection. So that we know. When the feast on it opens".
Random thoughts I often have, but this particular one was a delayed écho of yesterday. Yesterday, when...
An acquaintance had been asking to see me for already a month. As he is a fou furieu I’ve never been too keen to meet him. This from one hand, from other hand he is so weird, really, and makes such weird photo-collages, that I’ve never wanted to cut him off completely. Strange birds should be respected and nourished - stipulates old islamic wisdom Declining the meeting long enough, I eventually gathered courage yesterday. "Today is the day" I told myself and went to meet him at the shady terrace next to the National Ethnology Museum where the menu includes fantastic entries such as “Imported alcohol - 2.50лв”.
I go there and some insignificant ten minutes later, I am shown three photos on a smartphone : "This is a signed Matisse. This is a signed Cézanne. And this is an unsigned Mrkvička. These are certainly originals, but are missing provenance certificates. You should have the necessary connections to sell them in London, don’t you?".
"Bouche bée" as they say in pure Arabic I start investigating the photos. I see three framed paintings. Excitement do I feel while looking at the unsigned Mrkvička only. This particular excitement which is my only guide while looking at art.
"Go on Christie's website; find the suitable category in the menu and email the photos mentioning the sizes and the story behind". I say while thinking "Not only am I not an expert, but I am not even a particular fan of Matisse and Cézanne. What I see though doesn't look like a "typical" neither nor. But then who am I to say? And What do I have to do with this?"
"Don't worry”, my acquaintance continues, “Bojkov wanted to buy these paintings for such and such millions, but my friend didn't want to sell so cheap".
I talk about Christie's experts, about how easy identification and evaluation should be for them and so on. I tell the press-read-stories about Christ the Saviour. Tatati tatata. Then I go. And forget about it. Until this morning when I wake up thinking of Bojkov’s list. I am also thinking "It seems that art confiscated by the Bulgarian police ends up in the same way as the coke confiscated by the Bulgarian police**. At least some of it. Who would’ve thought? Who would’ve thought!"
While people in Sofia protest - the Government searching to delegitimize the protests insinuates that they are inspired by fallen-from-Boiko's-grasse despite paying millions-a-month pot de vin Bojkov - and some Bulgarians in London are demanding the resignation of the Government; I personally would like to demand the resignation of Svetlana Dionisieva, head of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in London.
This for many reasons: One, the woman needs proper psychiatric treatment. Two, ancient communist-undead may hide in West London embassy basements and receive allowances but shouldn't occupy official positions under the patronage of Bulgarian Ministry of Culture. Three, does anybody known what exactly is this woman doing there? Four, have somebody in the “culture” world heard her name at all? According to my close observations most of the activities of the so called Bulgarian Cultural Institute are hocus and exist only as a notion on BCI's website. I have assisted to an exhibition opening visited by three local alcos only. But I can’t say that the Head of BCI was surprised by the low turnout, as she had prepared two bottles of wine only - one white and one read! If something had to be aired and cleaned, I say that should be the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in London. On the top of my head, I can think of at least ten people who will be able to run it better***. In case the Institute was opened only and particularly for Svetlana Dionisieva, and therefore she is irreplaceable; then the Bulgarian Cultural Institute in London should be closed and exist no longer.
Lyrical excursus aside, it might be that the feast on Bojkov’s art collection has already started.
* Vasil Bojkov, aka the Skull, ex-Bulgarian security services informant, a majour criminal and fervent art collector, a Dubai runaway and suspected political agitator, for more see here news.artnet.com
**Less than two months ago some 375 kg of 75% pure cocaine was confiscated by the Bulgarian police; obviously nobody thinks that it has been destroyed.
*** Actually “running it better” is kind of imprecise as hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians speak English, which means that they are already better equipped than Svetlana Dionisieva to run BCI London. As I missed to take a photo with the "Imported alcohol" I can show the little newspapers "agent" from whom I bought today's Capital Magazine
ж., -и разг. mug, phiz, pan, dial;
Mug ,informal A person's face.
British informal A stupid or gullible person.
US informal A hoodlum or thug.
Last week I headed to one of the screenings at Sofia Film Festival. 'Dreissig', written and directed by Simona Kostova. A German film by a Bulgarian writer and director, I thought sounds interesting. Yet, not too convinced by IMDB entry “'Dreissig' (German for 'thirty') portrays 24 hours in the life of five Berlin friends nearing thirty, all more or less suffering from a quarterlife crisis while celebrating the birthday of one of them.” I decided against advertising it to a friend so that I don’t have to listen to sulking and criticism in case the film is not good enough. Sofia Cinema House, once the cinema theatre of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers, is situated behind - when heading from the Centre - the building of the Council of Ministers. Hence, nearby what is lately called The Triangle of Power by Bulgarian media; which is the triangular space formed by the buildings of the Council of Ministers, the Presidency and the “Party House” - once siege of the Bulgarian Communist Party; nowadays out of site rooms and offices for the National Assembly. “Two rabbits with one shot. I will throw an eye at both protests and film” I thought.
Said as done, “the eye throwing” showed that Dreissig or Thirty is one of the best films I’ve seen lately. A film I will remember as a most successful remake of Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin aka Wings of Desire. The film that happens to be one of Simona Kostova’s, and mine, favourite films. The two hour graduation film, shot in eight days and a quasi zero budget (something like five thousand euros was mentioned), staring colleagues is a fine work and a loud slap in the face of the film industry showing how a chef d'oeuvre can still be carried out on the bare arms of pure talent and friendship - the group of friends featured in Dreissig are performing in each others film. I will be looking forward to seeing the other four-five films.
Measuring the importance of a piece of art by the importance of the questions it provokes in me and the profoundness of the sincerity it urges when answering, is an old habit of mine. Thus Dreissig exhumated a sort of continuation of a question I was asking myself while living in France “Does the suffering of the many justify the excellence of the few in the name of the creation of real art?”. To this question I would at times answer positively “Yes, it is worth it. If you need the arms of one million to throw up, up, up in the sky one single soul, so that it might go high, high, high up the sky and with mighty power to create art that will shine over the many as the sun in the daylight, or as the stars in the night sky through decades and centuries across time, so mote it be”. And sometimes while watching the sufferings of the guettards the answer would be “No, it is absolutely, not worth it. It is against the Christian faith, when one has suffered for the salvation of all and not the opposite”.
Thus, after Dreissig I paraphrased this old question to: “Is the creation of a product like Dreissig is worth the annihilation of old cultural layers?”. As for me, this is what EU funding does in Bulgaria - covers old cultural layers with new produce, mostly of dubious value. Not unlike the modern vinyl laminate that covers old wooden floors in many Sofia flats nowadays. And the answer is “No, nothing is worth the burial of old cultural layers”. Furthermore, Dreissig would have existed anyway, with or without EU and its funding; as it is a continuation of an older, bigger tradition of culture and art loving. Otherwise, the optimist that I am is now expecting the appearance of sub and contracultural currents in the EU because of the oppressive and restrictive principals on which art projects are funded. One of the most astonishing things during this trip to Bulgaria were the number of times I’ve heard friends saying things like “I am sorry, I can’t do this as I am working with EU funding”; “I can’t be seen there, as I am working with EU money”. And many more “I can’t say, go, write” etc to replace the first part of the sentence while keeping the last. I guess as many times as my mother was hearing the same sentence in communist times. With the only difference that at the time compliance was traded against a regular salary and central heating while now EU funding is sporading and arbitrary. Scarce and random as rain, EU funding cannot replace a proper irrigation system. But this is all the funding Bulgarian culture has now. This and Soviet-Gazprom money for the construction of false, national-discordia monuments.
Just as in Der Himmel über Berlin the Angel falls in love with a human being and desires to live a life incarnated in a human body; thus in Dreissig Simona Kostova’s angelically empathetic eye follows and inhabits her five friends from morning to morning. The camera tirelessly caresses their, at times made up, at times bare, German, Turkish, French and Iranian faces all through a day and a night out in Berlin.
“This is the most art film ever, without being… you know “arty” at all”, I tried to explain to a friend. “Was there a plot?”, he asked. “There must have been a plot, as I watched the film alert all through, but I can’t say what it was”, was my answer.
With or without a plot, Dressing helped me realize one thing about the protests running in Bulgaria already ten days. I am not sure about the kiss, but the protests are certainly about the faces.
The people protesting are saying that they are fed up with the lies, the corruption, EU funds syphoning etc. But what I see clearly now is that they are simply scared and disgusted by the ugliness of the faces in the current government. No previous government had this amount of ugly, thuggish faces as the current one.
Take the face of The General Prosecutor Geshev*, it looks like the face of a golem out of Pratchet’s Discworld novel. Yes, his clay face does have a nose, a mouth and two eyes. He also wears a cap, so that his head doesn’t open and the scripts that it contains doesn’t fall out. He also sounds like,... well, like a golem reading from a script scrolled in his head. And on the script is written “We have the full support of the government of the United States**. They have called us and backed us in our policy: “None is above the law” they said”. In each interview General Prosecutor Geshev reads this script at least twice. “Ok”, I would say, “You may have the full support of the government of the US, but this is because they don’t have to look at your face, in particular, and this government’s faces in general day in day out”. Your face is thuggy. Your face is scary. And so is your cap. It’s the same as Todor Zhivkov’s cap. We thought we left those in the past. But your cap reminds us of Todor Zhivkov whenever we see it. It reminds us also that Boiko Borisov, your boss, was Todor Zhivkov’s driver as well. We want to forget it, but we are continuously reminded of it. Yes, your cap reminds us that Bulgaria’s Prime Minister was the ex-ruler’s driver, turned national drug dealer while Minister of Interior, turned PM. It’s all coded in your cap!”
Take the face of the Chief Secretary of Interior Ivaylo Stefanov, he looks like Humpty Dumpty par excellence. His face reminds me of my teenage years when laying in each others’ laps we were doing “Imagine if your chin was your front and your front was your chin” exercise. Yes, Stefanov’s face looks literally inverted upside down. And no wonder, he is at the head of the dumpiest police in the world. The police that get displaced from one town to another to suppress protests without any update and knowledge of the actors of the protest or anything in general. The Like-in-Communist-Times-beating-police. The police that doesn’t talk to people. The police that DOES NOT SERVE! Humpty Dumpty, who would like to see your face? I give you one guess.
Boiko Love Child Borisov’s face? - Love Child is BB’s new nickname since I realized that he is the illegitimate, troubled fruit of the forbidden passion between Mother Angela and Father Vladimir - All the long lasting relationships with all the sophisticated downtown girls in the world won’t be enough to level LoveChildBB’s basic thuggy mug to the necessary worldliness of a decent Head of Government’s face. LoveChiledBB is also of the golem family. The script scrolled in his head is not very diverse either. Point one, the one written in capital letters there, is the Build Build Build point - to be not confused with EasterRabitJohnson - LoveChild is building highways. So while LoveChild bangs at all times about the highways he had build; the number of incidents on these same highways is growing year after year because of…. Yes, syphoning of the dedicated funds. Thus, when I was in Melnik, while the town was cut from the world for road repair, the local narrative was that the road was stripped from its old asphalt (?); the old asphalt was taken to the local factory where it was mixed again as new and reused as new for the road repair. According to this modern legend, in this way some ten out of the fourteen million euros went “privatized” - missing into private bank accounts. So yes, build build build, roads roads roads at least Easter Bunny Johnson is getting slimmer, younger and better looking day after day.
Etc etc etc no wonder people are worried that the COVID-unleashed EU funds will now enter the pows belonging to these scary, ugly faces. It is just a very nasty, overtly thuggish cast. And while the current Bulgarian government is probably not the worst government in the world, it is the top unattractive government in the EU for sure. A dramatically fallen attempt to cast decent, nice faces. If I was an angel, I wouldn’t be descending to contemplate the faces of this lot.
Cast is of extreme importance. Ask Simona Kostova.
* While the Prosecution, just as other institutions, should be an independent institution in Bulgaria it is somehow mysteriously related to the government.
** Another American institution that should pay close attention to Bulgaria is Hollywood. A moderately talented author could write three to five scripts out of a single Weekend newspaper edition; or between five to ten scripts out of a single Capital magazine issue. And a script per a cab-ride - the other day a cab drive expressed the opinion the LoveChiledBB can’t step down as “he will be killed in the frame of a year” and listed the names of four business-thugs - not sure how else to call them - that would be chasing him once he steps off duty. The cab-driver’s scenario left me speechless - such a dark idea hadn’t occurred to my mind. I, the natural born eccentric-thoughts-generator, was unable to counter him inventing a more inefable plot. How come? It must be life in the UK and all this positive thinking….
PS Having said all that it needs to be added: I perceive the destabilisation of any EU in particular and Western country in general at the present moment as Moscow & Evil forces inspired.
Ennio Morricone tribute, Borisova градинка
In Bulgaria there are;
Tons of good art with zero audience to contemplate it. In Bulgaria everybody is an artist and none an audience. The show rooms of Shipka 6, Union of Bulharian Artists Central, are as empty as always. In this depopulated country audience is scarce.
Russian and Russian-speaking films - Sofia Film Fest is infested.
Russian businesses and Russian business interests are abundant. A rough list of Russian business interests in Bulgaria is to be found below, in Bulgarian. This list does not include small illegal businesses - such as say Maxim Taxi, the Russian version of Uber - operating on the territory of the country.
Hence it is difficult to notice that Bulgaria did, eventually, entered "Schengen zone's waiting room".
Защо българската полиция е най-тъпата полиция от всички полиции на света?
А) В случай, че петима полицаи хващат и пребиват двама младежи под колоните на Минестерски съвет под : 1. обективите на многобройни камери за наблюдение 2. очите и смартфоните на хиляди протестиращи 3. камерите на всички национални и локални медии - мислейки си, че може да им се размине.... значи са най-простите полицаи на света.
Б) В случай, че петимата полицаи все пак не са толкова прости, че да мислят, че може да им се размине пребиването на двама младежи пред обективите на множество камери за наблюдение, очите и смартфоните на хиляди протестиращи и камерите на всички национални и локални медии; то значи някой е успял да ги заблуди, че ускоряването на някои процеси, чрез провокация от тип "Пребиване на двама младежи пред очите и обективите на всевъзможни свидетели" е смислено действие в името на по-висши цел от тип "Най-после да дойдат нашите" и си заслужава да бъде направино за да бъде получена някаква жалка сума... то значи са най-простите полицаи на света.
Дали по врат или по шия факт е: Българската полиция е най-тъпата и продажна полиция на всички земни кълбета.
Каквото правителството - тъпо и меркантилно - такава и полицията.
Минстърът на вътрешните работи незабавна оставка.
Пържени филийки, eggy bread aka pain perdu with wild blueberries jam and white cows cheese - a Bulgarians breakfast classics. I had this exquisite breakfast in Melnik, a town renowned for its history, architecture, wine, surrounding natural phenomenon and many other things easily to be googled.
Yet, what remains unnarrated by people, nor mentioned by search engines are Melnik's plane trees. Melnik's platanus orientalis are several and their ages vary from "more than 800 year-old" as reads the plaque at the oldest, through 500-600 to some merely 200-300 year-old. The coolness they exhale amidst Southern Bulgaria's scorching heat is ineffable.
Under such a magnificent 600 year-old fellow I had my Breakfast today while "الله اكبر", "Jesus is here" and other ecstatic winged nonsense were ringing into my otherwise breakfast-emptied mind.
2 юли, към 2200 часа, откриване на Сингълс
The Astronauts' Alley, Lovech, late afternoon
Художник на свободна практика❣
Set in a beautiful mountainous landscape BSR strickes also as a musical festival initiated by DJs ❣ and unlike so many others by drug dealers And I absolutely loved it for that. Intention matters after all. Forget the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
"Bulgaria dealt successfully with the migration crisis. We receive letters from colleagues how we dealt with the Coronavirus //What letters? congratulatory or letters in which other PMs ask Boiko details on his successful dealing with the COVID crisis?//. Today, we spoke with Charles Michel Bulgaria to receive probably the biggest (amount of) money //in the EU?// during the coming months. Bulgaria did two impossible //in what sense?// projects - Balkan Stream and the interconnector with Greece. The bank union is the warrant that banks won't be led into failure. And what do we get (in return)? Kompromats, manipulations. In KGB manuals it is written, when you create a Kompromat it should disgust who watches it about oneself //don't ask me. And as I, unlike others, presumably Boiko included, haven't read KGB manuals, I wouldn't know what exactly PM means//. How could they take a photo of me in my bedroom and then delete it? With this //which of the two?// they show that it is a set up. I will leave the Prosecution to investigate it. All we needed was for a small boy to be ( photoshped laying ) next to me //here PM hints that as the photo includes photoshoped guns, money and gold bars - an obvious set up; it could've well included a photoshoped child so that the PM gets accused in paedophilia// and I would have jumped out of here straight //no idea where was the statement made - at a swimming pool jumping tower? Next to the jumping castle in a KGB themed amusement park? At the roof of a very tall building //" Today's Weekend newspaper
Asked, on BNT's tvshow Panorama yesterday, about the impact of PM's naked photo, anthropologist Haralan Alexandrov suggested that the photos didn't affect negatively PM Borisov's popularity. "Borisov's naked body, defenceless in his sleep, awakened the motherly instinct in Bulgarian women" - I am quoting Haralan by memory - "Bulgarian women felt compelled to cover the Naked Body of Power with a blanket" the anthropologist said, incinuating that whenever Bulgarian women see a naked body they treat is as a Teddy bear and want to cover it cosily and put it to sleep.
Here I would like to correct Haralan, who evidently hadn't thoroughly researched the matter with his female entourage, and let him know that : Seeing a naked body, the Bulgarian woman would wish to cover it, only if she recognized it as the one of the village idiot; had she recognized it as the Naked Body of Power, she would have done something else with it. ^^
Other than that, the PM's analysis of the situation and more particularly his desire to jump, of a presumably high place, reminds me of an old statement of his "I will topple myself but for real" on nobodyrememberswhatoccasion some ten years ago.
Hence, with his persistent suicidal tendencies Bulgaria's longterm PM needs an urgent iCope referral.... take away the blankets and the dildos.
Drawing at Etud Art Gallery ul. "Tsanko Tserkovski" 34, 1164 g.k. Lozenets, Sofia
How good is a morning when it starts with a strange, naked man; yet without hangover nor remorse!
The benefit of a tiny capital like Sofia is that one can do an activity in the morning, another in the afternoon and still end up finely bandaged before dinner.
At Sekibaku Shibari Dojo Centre Sofia one gets an exciting and invigorating, while still puritanly dressed, bandaging experience in broad day light.
^^^^^ my brows lifted many times.
Back in Sofia.
The weather has been so bad in Sofia ever since my return, that en lieu of an update I suggest watching a film.
Whether wise, as I said in the distant 2018 when at the LuciFairian Games in Sofia the weather was remarkably English: "Bulgarian weather in England. English weather in Bulgaria. The world is so upside down that the only sign missing to mark the end of the world is for a c*ck to write on a wall CHALK”
It is not clear where and when the War of the Monuments exactly began. This Russiet (Soviet+Russia) hybrid war techniques might have begun in Macedonia with Skopie 2014* - the project consisting of the construction of over forty, not less!, monuments in only one city - or somewhere/somewhen else. But the story could well start here, as every story has to start somewhere.
In 2010-2014 Somebody - guess who - needed to oppose Macedonia to its closest natural allies, both EU members, Bulgaria (Bulgarian nationality is open to all Macedonians; many get BG a passport with its advantages - healthcare and free EU travel/work♤) and Greece. The aim was obviously to delay the country's accession into NATO** and EU negotiations***. Nationalistic Macedonian sentiment needed to be encouraged by ballsy opposition to important strategic allies. A spectacular way for this to be achieved was by ornating Skopie, Macedonia's capital, with rows of monuments of Bulgarian kings and Greek heroes and call them "Our, Macedonian kings and heroes".
Fortunately, Russiet strategies never fully work when Bulgaria is involved. Bulgaria might be poor, but is also ancient, wise and generous. How did the Bulgarians respond to Skopie 2014? Bulgarians read about the new Macedonian "Disneyland" in the press, got into cars and coaches, crossed the border, walked about Skopie, marvelled at the impressive sculptures of Greek heroes and statues of Bulgarian kings, chuckled with their tongues, eat a македонска скара - the renowned Macedonian barbeque, laughed out the matter over една ракия - the same as the Bulgarian rakia, crossed back the border and told all their friends that they must go and see. "It's superb", they said "It is very well done, even though somewhat kitschy. The barbeque, the Shopska salata and rakia are also great. Go and see". And that was that.****
A quick reminder : the Soviets tried their best to involve Bulgaria in the ethnic wars of the Balkans in the 90s; this by planting the clock-ethnic-bomb called "The Rainessaince Process" - the forceful renaming of the Muslim and Turkish minorities and their displacement mid 80s. This foul attempt failed because of the wisdom and natural peace-loving of all ethnic groups involved.
Passing from Macedonia and its Skopie 2014 Project to neighbouring Bulgaria: national self-determination isn't a problem for the Bulgarians; the ethnic issue can't be toyed with - dear poor minorities simply left the country. What is left to fiddle with by the Soviets is the non-resolute issue with the communist era inheritance. Because the process of revision of the damage done by the Bulgarian communists and seeking responsibility and rewriting the Soviet invented history hadn't been done - now this is the crack to press on and the national disaccord to play with.
And Russiets do precisely this - obviously taking advantage of the fact that Core EU has stuck its nose up its own a*se - both shaking its index finger at Bulgaria and using it as a black case - rides the communist vs anti-communist controversy and funds monuments. More and more monuments.
I am not sure when the first of the new-Soviet-wave monuments was constructed. It might be the one in 2015. It is not sure even which of the monuments was the last…. Let's say that one of the last monuments was erected last year in Burgas, Bulgaria's second port on the Black sea. But before retelling the ridiculously funny anecdote about this latest red-Lukoil monument, I would like to make a second reminder : In 1944 Russia declares war to Bulgaria just when the new, democratically elected Bulgarian government declares neutrality to Russia and the end of the country's affiliation with Germany.
The anecdote of the Soviet soldiers dead from alcohol poisoning turns more than 75 years in Burgas. Despite small contradictions in the versions, the essence of the story is the following: 44 Soviet soldiers died not during the occupation of the non-resisting town but after it... of alcohol poisoning. The story is further more embarrassing because those 44 methyl alcohol poisoned Soviets are the quasi totality of Soviet soldiers dead in the process of "fighting fascism on Bulgarian soil".
The story has been so diamond-sharp engraved in Burgas' people's memory that during the whole 45 years communist rule the mark of the place has been a simple stone with the inscription : "Here are buried the Soviet soldiers deceased in Burgas town". One more time "Here are buried the Soviet soldiers deceased in Burgas town".
Obviously, while the witnesses were still alive no one dared to talk about brave death, anti-fascist heroism ou quoi que ce soit. Thus, on a December night last year - to avoid complications - a three-stone monument was erected only a few feet away from the old stone. The largest of the three new stones reads "Eternal Glory to the liberators" ^^ on pink marble ^^ . While on the two black stones on both sides are engraved the names of 42 (not sure why 42 and not 44 - now I do regret not having couned the names on the stone) soldiers.
In total the Soviet soldiers that had been treated for methyl alcohol poisoning had been 192, 6 of which got blind. These are the facts. According to one version of the anekdot the methyl alcohol container was stolen from a warehouse, while the guardian of the werehouse was shot while trying to warn the thieves that this alcohol is not good for drinking. According to another version, when the container of the methyl alcohol was found by the Russian soldiers, a Bulgarian doctor was summoned and asked to drink from it; the doctor refused, and was sent with a sample to check the content, but the soldiers drank from the alcohol before the result got back.
Either way, now the burial place of the soldiers is ornate by two, rather different memorial signs. While the modern myth running in town is that Lukoil heads, the ones who erected the new monument, are the offspring of those same Russian Soldiers. One wonders when did the soldiers have the time to reproduce - were they busy drinking or breeding?
One thing remains certain - the war of the monuments is a dirty hybrid war. It maintains national disaccord. Hence let’s leave the dead to deal with their own business - I am sure there is no less to do in the Otherworld than in this one; and concentrate on the living.
More on the War of the Monuments in Bulgaria coming soon.
An outdated, yet relevant and funny video to watch, obviously with a critical eye, is 'Understanding modern political scenario' a lecture by Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov aka Tomas David Schuman, here
* Skopje 2014 (Macedonian: Скопје 2014) was a project financed by the Macedonian government of the then-ruling nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE, with the official purpose of giving the capital Skopje a more classical appeal. The project, officially announced in 2010, consisted mainly of the construction of colleges, museums and government buildings, as well as the erection of monuments depicting historical figures from the region of Macedonia. Around 20 buildings and over 40 monuments were to be constructed as part of the project.The project was seen as politically controversial in its nature and as a nation-building endeavour, as it tried to further impose the narrative of Macedonian history, promoting a Macedonian identity with unbroken continuity from antiquity over the Middle Ages to the modern times. Skopje 2014 has also generated controversy for its cost, for which estimates range from 80 to 500 million euros.The Skopje 2014 project encompassed the construction, from 2010 to 2014, of 136 structures built at a cost of more than US$700 million. (wiki) ♤ During the last few years thousands of citizens of North Macedonia have applied for Bulgarian citizenship (amongst them North Macedonia's former PM Ljubco Georgievski), with 42,372 having already received Bulgarian passports. In order to obtain the passport, the citizens of North Macedonia who apply for Bulgarian citizenship must prove that they have a Bulgarian origin and a Bulgarian national consciousness. Between January 1 to November 18, 2011, the Bulgarian council for citizenship considered 22,241 applications for citizenship, of which 13,607 were approve (wiki)
** Distracted by the COVID we didn't pay enough attention : North Macedonia is a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). ... The accession protocol entered into force on 19 March 2020, allowing North Macedonia to deposit its instrument of accession and thereby become a member state of NATO on 27 March 2020. CONGRATULATIONS! To Macedonia and to all.
***The EU gave its formal approval to begin accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania in March 2020. (wiki)
****Bulgaria was the first country to recognise the Republic of Macedonia on 1 January 1992. (wiki)
^^ My brows lifted twice
PS. While writing the story I am thinking: Could it be that Lukoil is right - and the citizens of Burgas have shown the only, be it unarmed and a la Medici, resistance to the Soviet Army? See the War of the Monuments can bring only uncertainties and speculations.
Burgas Town Beach, 13 June about 0900
Donka in Action, Burgas Town Beach, 10 June about midday.
Къде го чукаш, къде се пукa...could roughly be translated You knock here, it cracks there. Which is what happens ever so often with my writings.
And here I am again: After spending time and sweat trying to explain what a drainage of national resource is NHS UK, with what felt like no avail; yesterday, when opening Bulgarian '24Hours' or 24Chasa newspaper I read the title "Bulgaria's National Health Service represents a major national security threat". What takes my breath away is that whatever I've been thinking about the problems of NHS UK and possible solution, I have been thinking of the economic, social, political, moral and ethical aspects of the matter - but it haden't occur to me that in fact it is a matter of national security.
It strikes me also is that despite the obvious differences between NHS UK, and NHS BG it seems that the problems at both sides of the European continent can be roughly articulated in the same way. '24Hours' article is a brief of Bulgaria's State Agency for National Security (SANS) 2019 report - which I haven't read - but my brief of the newspaper's brief is the following:
"An increase of the medical tourism because of the lack of trust in the NHS BG //at the receiving end of which is NHS UK//
...which results in organ trafficking //often in the UK, NHS or private and often by tue mediation of third nationality parties//
Various siphoning schemes //endless if you asked me! Obviously in both MHSs//
....Medication trafficking, import, export and transit.
....the increasing number of non vaccinated children combined with the migration from over the world.....
....lack of medical professionals...."
Bta's brief of the same article here:
"24 Chassa: In a report on its activity in 2019, the State Agency for National Security (SANS) warns the Government and the National Assembly that the ever-increasing number of Bulgarians refusing to get vaccinated, the lack of doctors and the healthcare system that is overall not working, are among the biggest threats to national security. The SANS report's public part pays almost as much attention to this threat to national security as it does to international terrorism, and much more attention than it does to the threat from Russia. Due to the poor quality of hospital care and the distrust in the system, ever more Bulgarians resort to medical tourism, organ smuggling schemes are developing, and the deficit of medicines in Bulgaria leads to illegal import through online platforms and 'suitcase traders', the SANS warns."