We often sorrowfully mention that we are a nation of emigrants. But it is not necessarily an ironic phrase - we are literally a nation of emigrants
A nation, whose history, culture and awareness go way beyond our State borders. According to the diplomatic delegations, two million Bulgarian citizens have lived abroad by the year 2011, without including people from the Bulgarian minorities, who do not have passports but do have Bulgarian self-awareness. Forming of these communities, contrary to the prevalent pessimism, did not happen in the last 27 years. Bulgarian communities in some parts of the world are older than the modern Bulgarian state and date back to the beginning of 19th century. Bulgarians were creators of their own history, even when they had not had their own state system yet.
Today it is clearer than ever that history is not geographically limited.
The governments’ history may follow certain geographical outlines but the communities and individuals that make history are mobile and global. Journalists, entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, travellers - they make economic and social history which can influence a lot of nations at the same time.
In this sense, Bulgaria has a remarkable contribution, which is even disproportionate to its own greatness. Lyuben Karavelov has rendered great services to both Bulgarian and Serbian literature and journalism. Evlogi Georgiev and Hristo Georgiev, entrepreneurs and owners of great wealth for their time, had connections with Romania, England, Greece and the Ottoman empire in their trade, banking and donative activities.
Oppressed by totalitarian propaganda for decades and with our peripheral vision covered by the Iron Curtain, we have little knowledge of this organic part of our history. The Bulgarians who ran away abroad were considered traitors and the world they lived and worked in has been stigmatized by default. In our education and popular culture, the stories of such people are absent, with rare exceptions and better-known examples like Christo, Tzvetan Todorov and Sylvie Vartan. But, for example, what do we know today about Teodor Petkov, who was Argentina's Minister of Economy? Have we heard about the work of Perry Vekroff, the Bulgarian writer and director, who shot together with Michael Curtis (the same Curtis, who later on will shoot “Casablanca”) in Hollywood in the 30’s? Do we study about Coronel Sami Rafael, the Bulgarian Jew, founder of the Israeli paratrooper forces, а hero in the Middle East wars in the 40’s and the 50’s and a receiver of an order „for distinguished service?
With the new campaign of “My Bulgarian History” we want to tell the stories of these Bulgarians, who have left a mark on other nations’ history - the people, who have done worthy and remarkable deeds driven by misery, ambition or duty, but for whom we know too little at the moment.
Stitching up their stories back to our national memory should be a priority for us because we need to widen this memory more than ever and not just formally “protect” it. Memory is something alive, not still – a memory which does not grow, diminishes, and history which is not made constantly, disappears from the pages of time.
Translation to English - Plamena Mihajlova