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
Sofia, 'The Grand Boulevard', 1907. By the British writer Harry de Windt.
In his book 'Through Savage Europe', a journey from the Adriatic Sea to the Caucasus, De Windt writes: '...This quaint mixture of the latest European fashions and Oriental costumes are the first things which strike the stranger on arrival in Sofia. But he soon discovers that this is a land of contradictions.
For instance, the man who drove us to our hotel from the station was an essentially modern Bulgar who, as far as dress was concerned, would have walked unnoticed up Regent Street, and who was as loquacious and full of information as a Maltese guide. Indeed he was up-to-date on every subject, from the newest style of motor-car to Mr. Chamberlain's fancy in orchids.
And yet his wiry little pair of ponies were adorned with necklets of blue beads as amulets against the (Turkish) "Evil Eye," any allusion to which was strongly resented by their driver…'
Atidje's story takes you back to 1973, when her family was caught up in dramatic events that no one could have dreamt would occur in the quiet, mountainous village of Kornitsa, on Bulgaria's Greek border.
The entire Muslim community stood up against the Communist government, demanded their rights, and cut the village off from the rest of the country, camping out for months in the main square. Atidje's husband was the leader of the rebellion. When the crackdown came, she paid her price.
Four decades later she still remembers vividly what happened that night, the deportation with her children, and her missing husband, who was sent to prison. Both of them now live in Turkey.
Amateur filming by western tourists in Communist Bulgaria was relatively rare, compared to its neighbours in the same period. Here is some footage, shot by a group of British youths, who travelled from the Bosphorus to Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. They even filmed in the strictly prohibited border zone on the Bulgarian side!
Converted from Kodachrome Super 8 mm film
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)
Nikola Mihov was a prominent Bulgarian army commander at the turn of the XX century. A career officer who managed to stay clear of politics in the turbulent 1930s, he ran the country's Military Academy till 1941. In 1942 he became a defence minister in Bulgaria's Nazi-allied government. In the summer of 1943 General Mihov was appointed as one of the three regents to the boy King Simeon after the death of his father King Boris.
Just over a year later, after the Communist takeover of Bulgaria, Nikola Mihov's fate took a dramatic turn – he was arrested, taken to the Soviet Union for questioning, then returned, put on show trial in Sofia and executed together with 96 other statesmen and prominent Bulgarians. They were all shot and buried in a mass grave on 1-2 February 1945.
Lyudmila Doytchinova was Nikola Mihov's niece. She remembered vividly the day her uncle vanished.
Filmed in Sofia, 2008
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?
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