The story of Maestro Alipi Naidenov - conductor, musician, teacher and mentor to hundreds of young Bulgarians, who crossed the Iron Curtain to follow their passion for music in Italy.
Alipi chaired the Conductor Courses at the Sienna Music Academy for over three decades.
Now in his 80s, he recalls a life lived in the shadow of a Communist dictatorship with its ever present 'secret' agents, yet always absorbed by the beauty of music, and his love for Italy.
The story of Alipi Naidenov - conductor, musician, teacher and mentor to hundreds of young Bulgarians, who crossed the Iron Curtain to follow their passion for music in Italy.
Alipi chaired for decades the Conductor Courses at the Siena Music Academy. Now in his 80s, he recalls a life lived in the shadow of a Communist dictatorship with its ever-present 'secret' agents.
Coming up soon on MyCentury
James Crouchman travelled mainly on foot across Bulgaria's North West - the mountainous lands between the Danube and the border with Serbia, today the Bulgarian province of Montana. He explored and documented on film an area full of history, where dialects overlap and once gold and silver miners came from as far as Saxony, brought in by the Ottoman Turks.
James: I met Asparuh from Glavanovtsi village. He gave me apples and told me he disliked Churchill. He was five during the worst bombing of WWII, but still remembers Allied planes flying overhead to target the oil fields in Romania just across the Danube, before returning and unloading their unused bombs on this part of Bulgaria. He told me about the sound the explosions made, echoing for miles around.
From Glavanovtsi I walked nearly 100km over four days to Belogradchik, crossing mountains and taking detours to villages on the way. People would often stop me and give me food or drink. In Protopopintsi village, two old ladies invited me in to their garden and gave me 'compot', not the British sort but fresh fruit juice from figs and peaches. It's a fascinating area, one that deserves to be spoken about more than just in terms of GDP and employment figures.
Photography © James Crouchman
A piece of visual history - the first photo album of the Bulgarian capital after the Communist takeover in 1944.
Most of the over 100 photographs were taken by Architect Nikolay Popov and Pencho Balkanski, both established internationally in the 1930, with exhibitions in Vienna and Belgrade.
(more to come)
Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria's undisputed leader for 35 years, playing host to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in a hunting lodge in Bulgaria. Early 1970s.
It is a unique photo - events like this were never reported, and usually no records were kept. The service personnel were sworn to secrecy, hence the facial expressions of some in the background!
The top Communist nomenklatura were often keen hunters. Some argue this was an attempt to emulate the old ruling classes they toppled, and in many cases managed to abolish, or 'liquidate' in their own terms.
"When I first moved to Sofia, I knew hardly anyone, and spent most of my free days wandering the streets around ulitsa Pirotska, taking photos and drinking coffee in 'Halite'.
One of the first people I got to know was a fellow English photographer, a 50-something divorcee working for a financial institution in Sofia. In emails he referred to the city as 'So Fear' and the name stuck. It became some kind of title to our photography of our Sofia. For a year I lived in a flat with paper-thin double glazing next to a busy junction on Dondukov, so the sound of So Fear for me has always been a trolley bus pulling away from traffic lights, perhaps why I take so many pictures of public transport. "
Photography © James Crouchman
In the Kremlin, 1980s
Kostadin Chakarov (on the right of this image) was an advisor and personal assistant to Todor Zhivkov, who ruled Bulgaria between 1954-1989. He remembers the rituals of that time and the legacy of the 9 September 1944, the day of the Communist takeover in Bulgaria.
What are your memories of the 9 September before 1989?
Споделете вашите спомени.
48 years ago, at dawn on 21 August 1968, the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (except Romania) crossed the borders of Czechoslovakia and toppled the government of Alexander Dubček. His attempts to reform the Communist regime and aspirations of a Socialism with a human face inevitably put Prague on a collision course with Moscow. The orders from Moscow were brief - the status quo had to be preserved at any cost, the Prague Spring was doomed and the tanks rolled in.
Do you remember the Prague Spring?
Five nations sent their troops, including Bulgaria. Most of the Bulgarian soldiers went via the Soviet Union, where they were briefed. Only a few of them knew the exact destination, though they were all told that their mission was to stop a counter-revolution and prevent a West German invasion. The Bulgarian soldiers stayed in Czechoslovakia till October.
Навършват се 45 години от най-мащабната операция на български войски след Втората световна война, при това не на учение, а инструктирани за бойни действия. Призори на 21 август 1968 г. войските на страните от Варшавския договор (без Румъния) навлизат в Чехословакия. Това е краят на Пражката пролет и на опитите на тогавашния водач на Чехословакия Александър Дубчек за реформи и 'социализъм с човешко лице'.
Бяхте ли с набори 1948-1949 в Чехословакия през лятото на 1968? Знаете ли нещо от вашите родители за тези събития?
A piece of visual history – Bulgaria's leader Todor Zhivkov lays a 'time capsule' in the foundations of a Communist monument in the Bulgarian mountains.
From the original booklet for the opening of the Buzludja Memorial Complex, summer of 1981 .
As Communist Bulgaria entered the last decade of the 20th century, it prepared to celebrate the 1300th anniversary of Bulgarian statehood with suitable pomp.
One of the highlights of the celebration was the opening of a giant complex in the mountainous area of Buzludja – it was here that the foundations of Bulgarian socialism had been laid in a humble meeting back in 1891. It was later to be transformed into Lenin's model of Communism.
Buzludja was a feat of mountain engineering. The construction which included soldiers and unpaid workers, even helicopters, lasted 7 years, costing the Bulgarian state a staggering amount of money.
After the collapse of Communism in 1989 the memorial complex was abandoned, and left unmaintained. It's now partly derelict, but is still of huge importance to the successor to the Communist party, which often brings its followers to this isolated corner for morale-boosting gatherings.
Soon after the introduction of martial law in Poland in December 1981 the new military leader General Jaruzelski received a warm welcome in Sofia from Bulgaria's leader Todor Zhivkov and his entourage.
Chairing a military council after the takeover, and consolidating all powers of Communist Poland, Wojciech Jaruzelski intended to crush the Solidarity trade union. For ordinary Eastern Europeans military rule in Poland was presented as a necessary measure to 'protect Socialism' across the block.
With permanently damaged eyesight from his time in the Siberian Gulag (1940-42), Jaruzelski was forced to wear sunglasses most of the time, and they became his trademark.
Alongside Mikhail Gorbachev and East Germany's Egon Krenz, Wojciech Jaruzelski was the last surviving leader of a Warsaw Pact Communist state. He died on 25 May 2014 in Warsaw.
Are you in this film? Do you remember that visit?
What's your memory of Poland's martial law?
We'd love to hear from you.
Скоро след въвеждането на военно положение в Полша през декември 1981 новият ръководител генерал Войчех Ярузелски пристига в София.
Поемайки изцяло контрол над Полша целта на Ярузелски е да унищожи независимия профсъюз Солидарност, изпраща в затвора лидера му Лех Валенса. Властите в Източна Европа представят военното положение в Полша като 'наложителна мярка за защита на социализма'.
Поради увреденото си в сибирския Гулаг зрение (1940-42) Ярузелски е принуден почти постоянно да носи слънчеви очила, които стават негова запазена марка.
Заедно с Михаил Горбачов и Егон Кренц, Войчех Ярузелски беше един от тримата останали живи бивши ръководители на комунистическа страна от Варшавския договор.Той почина на 25 май 2014 във Варшава.
Бяхте ли там през 1982? Спомня ли си някои от семейството Ви това посещение?
Какво знаете за военното положение в Полша 1981-1989?
Ще се радваме, ако споделите тези спомени.