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New film presents the assimilation of Bulgarians in northern Greece

02 December 2015 / 17:12:29  GRReporter
3550 reads

Ivan Petkov

The documentary by journalists Maxim Karadzhov and Tsvetan Tomchev is bringing us back to the civil war in Greece (1946-1949) and the fate of the Aegean Bulgarians and political migrants. The premiere of "Born in the air" was of great interest and took place in an overcrowded hall. The film is based on the dramatic fate of popular Bulgarian folk singer Lyubka Rondova, who was born in the village of Shestevo, Kastoria, which today is located in Greece.

The idea of ​​the film is part of a larger project that aims to present in historical terms the Bulgarian communities abroad. According to the film authors, 25 years after the end of the totalitarian regime in Bulgaria and the introduction of free speech, no one has dared to at least mention the theme of the Aegean Bulgarians. This defines the difficult fate of the film that premiered nearly 10 years after the shooting.

The character of singer Lyubka Rondova is presenting the fate of about 28,000 children who left their homes, while fleeing the horrors of civil war. The children were scattered throughout the countries of the socialist bloc at the time.

60 years later Lyubka Rondova is returning to her home village to see her home ruined and to find her relatives and the neighbourhood children, with whom she once left her homeland. The touching personal story is showing how Bulgarian songs unite and awaken the memories of people who have been separated for decades. Especially touching is the moment when her 92-year-old aunt, who initially claimed that she had already forgotten the lyrics, is starting to sing with her niece. People are not telling their stories but are singing them, say the authors. The origin of the film title is interesting too. One of the characters is saying that when his birthplace had to be recorded, the people in the new place where he was sent as a child simply wrote down that he was from Greece. As if he was born out of the air, having no family or roots, nor a home place where he was born.

The personal story is presented against the background of historical events. According to the authors, the reasons for the fate of the Aegean Bulgarians were rooted in the 19th century and Russia's desire to have an outlet on the Aegean Sea. After World War II, Stalin together with Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito started to make plans on how to materialize the long-held dream of access to the Aegean. Part of this plan was the Macedonization of the Aegean Bulgarians. The film contains footage from the burning of partisan villages with napalm, as part of the Truman doctrine for "containment of communism". The ruined church in the village of Shestevo is compared with the church in the town of Batak, as a symbol of the suffering of the Bulgarians. The fate of the Balkans, torn and redistributed between the great powers.

According to the filmmakers, after the civil war, the replacing of names and tombstones was carried out in the villages and cities with predominantly Bulgarian population, the Bulgarian language was prohibited, including its teaching at school. One of the film characters compared the assimilation of the Bulgarian population with the revival process in Bulgaria, which forcibly changed the names of the Bulgarian Muslims. The film raises the issue of the right of every person to determine his or her own belonging to one ethnic group or another.

Photo: Diana Yosifova

After the film show, Maxim Karadzhov and Tsvetan Tomchev took the floor and shared that the film aims at remembering history, not at inflaming nationalist conflicts on the basis of territorial claims. Tsvetan Tomchev said that for him, the main message is the Bulgarian goodness that he has found in the film characters. Events belong to the past, Bulgarians can travel at present and become familiar with history, and heirs can visit the birthplaces of their ancestors.

Tags: Born in the airDocumentaryAegean BulgariansAssimilation
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