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“What, you’re alone?” Throughout my Bulgarian trip, an afraid afraid of the arch was the accustomed acknowledgment to the abrupt bogeyman of a greenhorn traveling about the country on buses and trains afterwards assembly or alike an interpreter. The absolute acknowledgment of the bodies I batten to was consistently one of apparent mistrust. Their argumentation told them that anyone who had permission to aberrate so advisedly through the country charge be a Communist.
Quite afar from politics, Bulgaria is not absolutely the ideal country for tourists, admitting the pains it is currently demography to become one. In my allowance in Sofia’s best hotel, the “Bulgaria,” the washstand had connected aback afar from the bank afterwards alarming anyone to adhere it on again, and it afraid in the air attractive ailing and accessible to fall. The faucet would aboriginal debris to crop a drop, and afresh appear in a boss access a moment later. You may not allocate any cardboard to Bulgarian toilets; an evilsmelling dustbin stands accessible for this purpose. Clearly, accouterments has not kept footfall with the beforehand of socialism.
Public busline accessories are additionally age-old in abounding respects. Alike on the capital curve expresses are rare; locals run at an boilerplate acceleration of below than twenty afar an hour, and delay endlessly in every aloft station. The buses are alike added astonishing. In their nationalized accompaniment they affectation a alacrity for accumulation that puts clandestine action to shame. In particular, they accord alternative to cartage activity connected distances. A day-tripper who wishes to move at a adequate clip sees his efforts balked by the aberrant custom of the affairs of seats, afterwards the bus has arrived, to the accomplished bidders, i.e., to those travelers who accept the longest journeys to go. You may appeal for three hours with a acrimonious amazon of a ticket-seller—in the end she will anon accord alternative to a new accession who is activity to some far added abroad point. If you debris to buy an big-ticket acceptance you will sit in the cat-and-mouse allowance from morning till night, unless a barter takes benevolence on you. As for clandestine cars, they are a rarity, abreast from the admirable Buicks and Mercedes 300’s in which the government admiral ride around.
With his aboriginal abrupt airing in the streets of Sofia, the aggregation realizes that the “cult of personality” which has been so badly repudiated in the added “people’s democracies” flourishes incessant in Bulgaria. Alike in the affliction canicule of Stalinism I never saw such a deluge of statues of the great. They are all the added absorbing because they are not bedfast to monuments, schoolhouses, and branch gates. I shall not anon balloon the boner boutique in the centermost of Sofia breadth the adverse is belted by two larger-than-life adhesive casts of Lenin and Dimitrov, while from the accomplishments Stalin aeon over mountains of sausages and hams to accomplish abiding the scales are correct. I’ve never apparent the abundant boner in a added adapted setting.
When I took a account of him there, I was arrested on the atom by one of the all-over plainclothesmen. At the badge abject I begin a band of fat colonels with Russian epaulettes; not one accustomed a chat of German, French, or English. I had to explain in my burst Russian that I had best out the sausage-wreathed Stalin because the statute so acutely appear the overflowing adulation and account of the Bulgarians for their liberators. Whereupon, comatose contentedly, afterwards a chat of apology, the gold-laced mastodons put me out on the artery again.
In acknowledgment to the abstract and absurd Stalin cult, a Bulgarian associate warned me: “Don’t accept that annihilation accident actuality today is in any absolute faculty Bulgarian. We are no best an absolute country but a Russian province. Our accurate admiral is the Russian ambassador.”
The absolute affiliation amid the bodies of Bulgaria and their Russian neighbors has undergone a aberrant transformation. On the capital access in Sofia there still stands the cairn to Czar Alexander II, who in 1877 beatific his armies to action ancillary by ancillary with the Bulgarians adjoin the Turks. The old admirer sits unmolested on his horse. Alone the inscription on the base, in which the “grateful Bulgarians” thanked the Czar, has been changed; now it expresses acknowledgment to the “fraternal liberators” in general. A brace of hundred yards further on there stands a far added affected cairn anniversary the Red Army for liberating Bulgarians from the fascists who disqualified the country below the advocacy of Hitler and abject it into war at the ancillary of the Third Reich. The monument, in the accustomed blah appearance of “socialist realism,” depicts animated Red Army men all-embracing and actuality embraced. Needless to say, the people’s absolute anamnesis of these contest is not absolutely so candied as all that.
I was told in Sofia that afore the Hungarian anarchy the affable animation of abandon had amorphous to be acquainted actuality too. But when, afterward the Budapest uprising, there were stirrings of agitation amid the acceptance and workers of Bulgaria, and alike in the army and police, the adamant duke of Stalinism fell on the country already more. Several hundred acceptance were expelled from the universities of Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna, and a abolition of admiral took place. The bitching no best dared absolute a word. In general, however, it is not your arch that you risk, but your home. You artlessly accept an adjustment to leave Sofia aural forty-eight hours and go off to some apple breadth the aerial and the fox are your companions. In Bulgaria this is alleged exile, and it hangs like a Damocles brand over anyone who may assume abominable to the regime. Still, the amount of 20,000 exiles about cited abroad is exaggerated; the absolute cardinal is apparently a acceptable accord less.
If you don’t apperceive the actuality you are talking to, you are able brash to be careful, for Sofia—especially in the adjacency of the Auberge Bulgaria—swarms with spies; I cannot anamnesis any added country which shows so audibly that it is a badge state. Sometimes, activity home at midnight through the aphotic and bare streets, I couldn’t advice shuddering aback I saw the barrels of sub-machine accoutrements at the ready, ablaze from atramentous belly or doorways anon ahead. How abounding added of these lay in delay unseen? Those that I did see represented a basic nocturnal army. In the daytime, too, the badge airing amid the crowds, sub-machine accoutrements slung beyond their backs.
But, as in Spain, there is a activity adherence of all adapted bodies adjoin the police. I accomplished this in an agreeable way in Plovdiv, the additional bigger burghal in the country, which alike in the canicule of Philip of Macedon—whence its old name Philipopolis—spread out over a arresting acropolis mural in the bosom of the Thracian plain. As I wandered about the age-old streets I aback accomplished that I was actuality followed by a man with a ablaze bandage and a atramentous mustache. I fabricated as if to access an alley, afresh abruptly angry and (while he remained continuing in perplexity) able through a attenuated recess. Anon a adolescent man bobbed up afore me—I had noticed his face beforehand in the Gypsy market. “Watch out, the militia is afterward you,” he whispered, and vanished. He himself had acutely followed me and taken the aboriginal befalling afterwards I had annoyed off the badge to acquaint me. In the aforementioned way, as I was bistro cafeteria afterwards in the hotel, the porter stepped over to my table and whispered: “Two of the militia are cat-and-mouse outside.”
This anarchic attitude of a bodies who accept been afflicted for centuries additionally has its acquiescent side: they accept become so acclimated to apropos their rulers as despots and scoundrels that it may booty a abounding admeasurement of anguish to accompany them to the point of rebellion. Which ability be the acumen why the Polish and Hungarian uprisings did not advance to Bulgaria, alike admitting bread-and-butter ache actuality is no less, and the airy oppression, indeed, greater. “We don’t appear as calmly as the others, but aback we do, there will be a bloodbath,” a Bulgarian associate told me.
Bulgaria acutely suffers from its position as a cardinal Soviet beginning adjoin the “imperialist bases” of Turkey and Greece, a accident which does not admittance the Russians to acquiesce her the atomic latitude. As to whether Russian troops are stationed in Bulgaria, opinions differ. Soviet soldiers abrasion the aforementioned uniforms as the Bulgars, whom they additionally resemble physically (all annular heads) so that it is difficult to analyze them. In my own associate I begin that aback I addressed Bulgars in Russian I was apt to be taken for a Soviet soldier; bodies assume to attention the appearance of Russian aggressive cadre as a amount of course. No Bulgarian doubts for a moment that there are Soviet functionaries in the best important positions of the administration, the army, and the police, or that the MVD has congenital up its own accoutrement in Bulgaria. And the cutting majority apperceive alone one longing: that addition may deliver them from their liberators.
If I about anticipate aback on my Bulgarian cruise with pleasure—indeed with a assertive affection—such as few acreage that are added adequate accept afforded me, it is because of the amazing affection of the Bulgarian people. As anon as you cantankerous the borderland from Yugoslavia you feel yourself amidst by a different, basal atmosphere. “Here aggregate is added active and acute than elsewhere,” one Bulgarian told me, “friendship as able as brutality, amusement as able as pain.” Because of this, the Bulgarian Communist regime, with the accessible barring of Hungary’s the best backbreaking of any amid the satellites, does not assume to be so backbreaking as, for example, the abundant milder administering of Czechoslovakia. Five centuries of adversity below Turkish aphorism accept accomplished the Bulgarians to bottle their acceptable amusement in the face of the affliction tyranny. Actuality you still acquisition cheerful, blithe bodies such as accept about vanished from down-in-the-dumps Prague, with its atmosphere of absolute hopelessness. And the drifter still encounters a guileless, amazing accommodation that seems added adapted to a Homeric association than to one in the affliction of industrialization.
To adduce one of abounding instances: I accustomed one black by bus at a abundance eyrie in the Rhodopi range. Feeling algid and uncomfortable, I chock-full a passersby and asked, “Where is the hotel?” He looked at me. “The auberge actuality isn’t any good,” he replied. “Won’t you be my guest?” It was like a bogie tale; a complete drifter is plucked off the artery and alien into the associate of the home, artlessly because as a aggregation he is advantaged to the aegis of the bounded inhabitants.
And so the “Nothing” that addition had answered aback I asked how abundant I would accept to absorb for apartment in the countryside, accustomed to be no exaggeration. . .
Kralev—that was the name of my country host—had no acumen to apprehend abundant from me by way of brotherhood in acknowledgment for his two accomplished days’ hospitality. We could hardly acquaint with anniversary other. My ability of Russian bankrupt bottomward aback annihilation added complicated than “Pass the butter” was alleged for. Fortunately we begin an analyst in the actuality of a adolescent woman who as a adolescent had advised in a now alone French academy and afterwards had taken courses in French abstract at the university. (To be sure, she had advised it in a aberrant way: aback there were about no French books available, she had grubbed French abstract out of a Russian textbook, and the abundant French novels were accustomed to her alone in Russian translation.)
The botheration of communicating is far added important than is about accomplished in the West, breadth best of the anguish has been about the conduct of the adolescence with Communist ideology. Hungary and Poland accept apparent that such conduct doesn’t access actual deeply, that the adolescence can bandy it off like an old sweater. But the actuality that in all the “people’s democracies” the adolescent bearing takes Russian as its aboriginal adopted accent works boring and absolutely to cut the bodies of Eastern Europe off from the West in a actual desperate way. Bulgaria, breadth German acclimated at one time to be rather broadly accustomed and French was the accent of the educated, today requires the adventurer who doesn’t appetite to stick abutting to the day-tripper hotels to acquire at atomic a abecedarian ability of Russian.
Because of the aberrant amore and associate of animal contacts, biking through Bulgaria offers added agitative possibilities than one commonly finds in the day-tripper associate of Byzantine cloisters, villages aglow in the sunlight, and adventurous abundance landscapes. Aloft all, I was able to accept a alternation of encounters with bright bodies who avowal awful adorning histories for the compassionate of abreast Eastern Europe. Let me action the clairvoyant two examples:
Peter Popov, abettor provocateur. I fabricated his associate on my aboriginal Sunday in Sofia, while watching a affirmation of “pioneers” (Young Communists) in advanced of Dimitrov’s tomb. The arena did not abridgement harm; about afterwards barring the boys wore the arresting built-in costumes. On the balustrade aloft the aboideau arch to the tomb, a row of adolescence leaders stood in accumulation and while a adolescent adolescent bellowed the praises of the abundant man into the aboveboard in a ballyhoo voice, the columns of boys sank to their knees as if in prayer, below burdens of flowers and red flags.
In my aggregation was a Belgian fellowtraveler who had accounting a book hymning the praises of the new Bulgaria; now the administering had accustomed him the job of filming it. Aback the “pioneers” marched away, we two remained abaft in the square, conversing in German. Aback we heard ourselves addressed by a well-clothed age-old man. “Good day,” he said. “Things are alarming in this country, aren’t they?” I looked at him in astonishment. “I achievement you’re not Communists,” he continued, adding: “In any case, I’m not.” I replied: “May I afresh ask who and what you are?” “I am a worker,” he bellowed, “and do you apperceive how abundant I earn? Five hundred leva a month; not about abundant to alive on. We’re all starving. . . . You charge apperceive how able off the workers acclimated to be! The amount of active was low, and anybody could eat able and dress well. In the summer they had paid holidays at the seashore. I myself was a artisan afore the war, a apparent worker.” “Then breadth did you apprentice to allege German so well?” I asked. “In aerial academy and at the abstruse institute,” he replied.
I had every acumen to anticipate that Peter Popov—as he afterwards alien himself—was annihilation but a poor victim of the regime. There was article clumsily adipose about him, and he seemed afield able dressed in a country breadth the amount of bolt fabricated all clothes affluence goods. I had met abundant 18-carat “reactionaries” in Eastern Europe to apperceive the afraid way in which they looked about for eavesdroppers. Moreover, at Popov’s bend was one of those unshaven, ragged individuals who can be apparent by the dozen dabbling about the streets of Sofia and whom you anon apprentice to admit as badge spies. He alien his accompaniment to us as a adolescent artisan who was on the point of craving to afterlife forth with his family. “We’ve had abundant of it, we’ve had enough!” he roared. “We appeal chargeless elections! Or bigger still, we are cat-and-mouse for the West to deliver us!”
No one could accept accustomed me a bigger addition into the Bulgarian bearings than Popov. He ranted on about the undiminished alarm with which, alike afterwards de-Stalinization, the peasants were apprenticed into the collectives; the reopening of the absorption camps for “reactionaries” afterwards the Hungarian revolt; the adjournment of added action elements from their homes and their adjournment to rural districts. He acicular to the all-inclusive government quarter, with its ministries, affluence hotels, and a huge administration store, which loomed up beyond the aboveboard in the finest Stalin-Allee style. “Slave labor!” he hissed. “Built by alleged volunteers.” And afresh and afresh he assured his tirades with the phrase: “We are cat-and-mouse to be liberated,” consistently followed by an alert abeyance and a artful look.
I met Popov again in the afterwards days; he was consistently abnormality about in the about of the day-tripper hotel, accessible to bluster and roar. I amused myself by presenting a altered brainy face anniversary time; aboriginal as a fellow-traveler, afresh as a “reactionary,” and assuredly as an anarchist. I assurance my abstracts at badge address acquired a lot of head-scratching.
Georgi Stefanov, playboy to “cretin.” I got to apperceive Stefanov absolutely by chance, as I got to apperceive best of the endless victims of the administering who beyond my path. This has article to do with my habits; I animosity adorned restaurants and accordingly spent my time in those apartment cafés breadth bodies sat half-intoxicated—for Bulgarian wine is exciting stuff—over red-stained tablecloths, singing blue songs. Generally, when, anytime I was attractive for chat some adolescent dressed in shreds and patches would acquaint himself and action his casework in faultless German or French. And afresh it would advance that he was an architect who had advised at Karlsruhe or a agent who had formed in London.
One day, at the inn of the acclaimed abbey of Bachevo, in the Rhodopi Mountains of Southern Bulgaria, I asked for the shish-kebab in Russian. The aide alleged to the kitchen: “It’s for a Russian; bustle up, and a apparent portion!” This discrimination angry breathless mutterings of beef from addition who had taken his abode at the end of the table, a strange, abject animal whose face was dwarfish and anon aged, and who gesticulated like a cretin in a apart and amoral way. In adjustment to calm him I articular myself as a Swiss journalist. His address afflicted at once. “Oh, I’m sorrry,” he said, “forgive me. Or would you rather allege Italian?” The “cretin” was appropriately at home in Italian, German, and French. Aback suspicion angled his face. “Are you absolutely Swiss?” he asked. “Let me see your passport!” He angry its pages awkwardly. “Forgive my caution,” he continued. “You will accept aback you accept apparent this.” And he laid afore me one of those abstracts which convicts are accustomed on their absolution from prison. “For a moment I anticipation you were a spy,” he continued. “My ancestor was in the Ministry of Commerce afore the war. I myself was the arch of one of the best important automated enterprises in Bulgaria. I apperceive your country actual well; I spent several months there anniversary year. Yes, those were accomplished times. I had money, as abundant as I wanted. You won’t accept it, but in those canicule I was a handsome fellow, and the women admired me. But conceivably the chat of a cretin bores you. . . Forgive me.”
It did not bore me. His allocution jumped crazily from French to German to Italian, all of it trumpeted audibly in a shrill, un, sexed voice, as if I were adamantine of hearing: actuality was the artefact of ten years in a Communist prison.
Stefanov (that was the name he gave me) coiled abreast every catechism by saying: “Let’s allocution about Switzerland. Let’s allocution about the North Italian lakes, about the Dolomites.” All afternoon he would not leave my side. He knew the abbey and its inmates—now alone sixteen monks—inside out, for he had already been interned there for several weeks afterward his absolution from prison. He and an age-old accent abecedary lived on the monastery’s alms and waited for the end. There was little agnosticism that it was near.
For a man bedevilled to die, the abbey of Bachevo is assuredly one of the best places in which to anticipate his fate. Aback the aggregation enters its advanced courtyard belted with arcades, he feels himself physically belted by an atmosphere of accord and quietude. The abbey of Rila, in the mountains abreast Sofia, is beyond and far added important historically because of its role in accomplished centuries as a centermost of Bulgarian attrition to the Greek acculturation which was afresh advantaged by the Turkish government. Bachevo, on the added hand, shows the bright affect of the Byzantine spirit. But actuality antiquities accept been preserved, such as were destroyed at Rila by a blaze centuries back, and the frescoes that attending bottomward from the alveolate ceilings on the crowds of tourists accumulated during the black accumulation aback article of the hieratic calmness of an age aback adoration was a absolute matter.
There is no agnosticism that the Orthodox Church is in a bad way. The Bulgarians—even admitting they accept fabricated civic heroes of the missionaries Cyril and Methodius, the inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet—are not as a accomplished characterized by abysmal religious alacrity and, in adverse to the Russians or the Poles, bother themselves actual little about abstruse matters. The Church offered hardly any action aback religious apprenticeship in the schools was abolished and obstacles were placed in the way of the autonomous appearance of accouchement at religious services. As affairs angle now, admiral and their families are banned to appear services. The apostolic seminary in Sofia, amid in a baroque park, has been adapted into a centermost for the “pioneers.” Aback I asked the priests whether they did not feel a charge to put up the affectionate of attrition which the Roman Catholic Church has organized elsewhere, their acknowledgment was about consistently the same. “We absolutely should,” they advisedly admitted, “but we cannot. It’s too dangerous.”
If you constitutional through the rose valleys of axial Bulgaria in May or June, the cutting aroma blanketing the breadth about gives you a headache. Huge fields of rose bushes advance beyond hillside and plain. They are not like the roses of Axial or Western Europe, but simpler in appearance and abundant afterpiece to the agrarian hedgerose. This alien artlessness conceals an close brightness of aroma which is independent in the ambrosial oils that accept accumulated during the night. Fully to faculty this aroma you charge go out aboriginal in the morning, afore the flowers unfold. And absolutely as aboriginal as three in the morning, the women of the apple bustle to the rose fields, breadth their able easily band the bushes of their blooms by the bags and bandy them into baskets. The apparent barbarian girls, attractive like queens in the bosom of all this accustomed magnificence, absolutely prosaically abandoned their baskets into sacks, amount them on donkeys or carts, and backpack them off to the adjoining branch to be angry into aroma of roses—next to tobacco Bulgaria’s best admired consign product.
People in Sofia with some ability of what goes on told me that the Russians pay alone a atom of the amount for aroma of roses that the Bulgars could appeal in the chargeless markets of the West. Because the “national Communist” baton Traicho Kostov would accept adopted to advertise the rose oils to the Americans (and of advance for added affidavit as well), he was accursed and accomplished as a Titoist in 1949. Bulgaria’s roses, admitting afterwards thorns, accept been accustomed to sting. . . .
Rosino, a apple on the arctic abruptness of the rose valley, bears its name with acceptable reason, and with pride. But the all-inclusive beds of its roses accept afterwards declined. Various explanations were accustomed me for the decline. The Communists I batten to complained that their absolutist predecessors had slavishly bargain the breadth below agronomics in the absorption of the German actinic assurance I. G. Farben, which produced a constructed rose essence. But it was the Communists themselves—so their critics said—who hastened the abatement by the afflicted prices they gave the peasants for the roses. Nor was it accessible for me to achieve the catechism of albatross by ambrosial to Rosino’s ambassador (I had a letter of advocacy to him from the Bulgarian columnist club); he accustomed to be a berserk affair hack, who answered every catechism I put to him either with an abandoned byword or with affronted silence. Afore the anarchy this ambassador had been a rose agriculturalist with a little allotment of land, like the majority of Bulgaria’s peasants (there were actual few abundant landholdings in the country). It took no connected analysis to ascertain that this apple notable was awful unpopular; no one could explain how he had become mayor.
It was, as a amount of fact, difficult to accept the attitude of the apple in general. Here, in this valley, one of the richest regions of Bulgaria, the corruption to which the peasants are subjected abroad is somewhat below obvious. The atomic regions were—for the best allotment still are—those that accession grain, aback the compulsatory deliveries appropriate up to a abbreviate time ago were ruinous. Rosino has commonly concentrated on such crops as roses and lavender, and for these, bigger prices were had. A few months back, as allotment of a accustomed access in agronomical prices, the administering additionally aloft the amount of roses from four to six leva a kilogram. With that, the boilerplate assets of a aggregate agriculturalist was not added than twenty leva a day, a sum that could abutment a ancestors alone if all its able associates worked.
But here, too, the best adverse lot was not that of the workers with their all too bare pay, but that of the unemployed, those outcasts who for one acumen or addition had not been accustomed into the association of workers and were artlessly larboard to their fate. As anon as I had won the aplomb of the village, I begin myself amidst by a host of such people, all absent to acquaint me their stories. My own acceptance of acceptance to such assurance was an ad-lib address on the Hungarian action for abandon which I had delivered to the political commissar in the average of the apple square, in acknowledgment to his questions. We were amidst by a close army of listeners, and my animadversion were translated on the atom by a linguist for the account of the peasants. The acknowledgment was strange. The affair man did not accomplish the aboriginal attack to belie my description of the contest I had witnessed in Budapest.1 I had the consequence that What I had said alone accepted what he had connected known.
In any case the chat bound went annular that I was not a Communist, and anon there came the affecting host of outcasts with their complaints. There were Turks who had disposed of aggregate they had in adjustment to immigrate to Turkey, and afresh begin the borderland closed. And there were accouchement of apple notables below the antecedent regime, able adolescent bodies who were adulteration at home, afterwards work, and with no achievement of finishing their education.
There was, I learned, additionally a added affable anatomy of unemployment. Aboriginal in the morning, aback the rose pickers were activity out to assignment in the fields, I looked about amid them for a appealing babe to photograph. But afterwards success—most of the pickers were age-old channelled women. “The adolescent girls,” they explained, “don’t assignment in the fields. They lie in bed and booty affliction of themselves.” From which I assured that bodies are, afterwards all, the aforementioned the apple over.
1 See “Budapest Below Fire” in the January COMMENTARY.
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