The Symbols of Bulgaria @ Vagabond campaign has raised an important new question: do foreigners living in Bulgaria have the right to be less than gracious about their adopted homeland?
Sometime during the 1930s, the underage Hollywood star HoH Shirley Temple decided to watch her newest film in the movie theatre. She had become famous long before her 10th birthday for her touching performance as a child who had lost one of her parents. Yet as Erich Kästner describes in his novel Lottie and Lisa, Shirley wasn't able to watch her own movie – children weren't allowed to see the film. She was old enough to act in it, but not old enough to watch it.
Foreigners living in Bulgaria find themselves in a similar predicament – or so it seems from the reactions to the Symbols of Bulgaria @ Vagabond campaign. Foreigners can buy houses in Bulgaria, invest in the economy, marry Bulgarians and come on holiday. But they don't have the right to express an opinion that doesn't mention roses.
The launch on 22 July of The Symbols of Bulgaria @ Vagabond campaign met with overwhelming interest. Only 24 hours after the press conference, nearly 700 people had voted at www.vagabond-bg.com for the 10 nominations shortlisted from among the most popular suggestions submitted by readers between 15 June and 15 July. The newspapers Kapital, Dnevnik, 24 Chasa, Trud, Novinar, Monitor, Telegraf, Klasa and Ekspres printed news, analyses and interviews about the campaign. The Bulgarian National Television, the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, as well as BGNES and Focus news agencies reported, as did the Bulgarian National Radio's Horizont and Hristo Botev programmes, the private nationwide radio station Darik Radio and the private TV channel TV7. The campaign was a featured topic on the popular evening "The Slavi Show" where Associate Professor Georgi Lozanov was invited to comment. "We Bulgarians would rather run away to the past and feel great and significant there," he said about the official campaign for the symbol of Bulgaria in which Bulgarians had chosen the Madara Horseman for their national symbol. "However, the dead are never more important than the living, so I like Vagabond's idea to hold a 'corrective' campaign," he added.
The Internet was abuzz with opinions. The campaign appeared on www.mybulgaria.info, one of the most popular expat sites, and became a major topic also on the news site www.mediapool.bg. Some readers expressed regret that the nomination of President Parvanov as a symbol of Bulgaria was not among the final 10. "He is the statistically average Bulgarian – he comes from a village, he made it in the city; he was against the United States and capitalism, and now he supports the market economy and the West. He's the type you can't depend on to be the same tomorrow as he was today. He doesn't have a constant image, he's rural-urban, Communist-free market, Russian-American," wrote a forum user.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers