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
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.
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)
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?
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?