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Eleftherotipia newspaper presents the film "Political Emigrants"

18 November 2013 / 14:11:26  

Interview with Maria S. Topalova

Could you tell us under what circumstances had these people left Greece?

During the Civil War in 1946-1949, about 200 thousand Greeks left the country and settled in the former Soviet bloc and about 20-25 thousand went to Bulgaria. Some of them fled because of poverty and hunger, others were persecuted by the authorities for their participation in partisan units but the majority of them were young children whose parents had sent them to Bulgaria to save them from the bullets of war.

What was the situation in Bulgaria at the time?

During this period, it was completely damaged. World War II, in which Bulgaria had taken the side of the losers, had just ended. It had to pay huge reparations. However, it accepted the Greek political emigrants and took care of them within its means. In the film, we have included an original archival material that appears for the first time and that is a document of this part of the history of our two countries. These unique images present how the Greek political emigrants crossed the border, how the Bulgarian Red Cross met them, their placing in camps, their training, their summer vacations.

Why did the political emigrants seek protection in their former occupier Bulgaria?

In 1946, Bulgaria was a communist country and the occupation of Northern Greece was attributed entirely to the former monarchist - fascist regime. The Bulgarian Communist Party, which had been hiding until September 1944, had even collaborated with the Greek Communist Party and they both had taken joint actions against the fascist occupiers. Therefore, the Greek political emigrants had rather joined supporters.

Who are the characters in the film?

The film follows the fortunes of four first-generation political emigrants and of three second- generation, what happened to them when they arrived in Bulgaria, how they managed to arrange their lives there and how Greece met them 30 years later. It also shows how they have retained their devotion to their second country.

I guess their life was not easy.

Some of them were very quickly disappointed with the communist reality; they found out that this was not the ideal for which they had fought and they thus incurred the wrath of the secret service that persecuted them and had even physically destroyed some of them. Those who decided to return to Greece, after they were allowed to do so, became the object of ideological discrimination too. Their followers accused them of being traitors as they had left the communist paradise and their opponents were suspicious and perceived them as agents of communism.

Why should we see this film now?

Both in Bulgaria and Greece there currently are frequent manifestations of hostility and lack of any tolerance for the refugees from Syria, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We should not forget that we should treat the refugees the same way we would like other people to treat our fellow citizens in trouble. Today, if Bulgaria looks 50 years back, it can be proud of the way it treated the Greek political emigrants then. I am not sure that Bulgaria and Greece would be proud 50 more years of the way they are treating today's political refugees.

            Film card:

            "Political Emigrants", 2013, 45 min

            Production: GRReporter

            Script and Director: Maria S. Topalova

            Operator: Boris Pintev, Vassilis Vafidis

            Music: Yuri Stupel

            Editor: Nikos Kakonas

            Postproduction: Studio Theme

Link to the interview: Πρόσφυγες στην κομμουνιστική Βουλγαρία


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