Dark, lonely and ruinous - that's how most Bulgarian villages look today. There are no longer flowering gardens, freshly cut fields and the smell of freedom. Only here and there from the broken windows, as if the spirits of those who left not only this village, but also this life seemed to peek through.
However, there are also villages that are fortunate enough to survive under the pressure of depopulation. At least for now. This is the case of Cherni Vit - a village of great spirit and history, nestled under the Balkans, not far from Teteven. In the 70 years, the village, like many others, was about to run out of "its people." He is saved by the simple but revolutionary idea of the teacher Pavel Panchev, who at that time was the director of Georgi Benkovski School. Feeling that the spirit of the Bulgarian was gradually going away and people were fleeing to the big city to look for another home, another job and to pursue other dreams, he decided to bring the children back - to their roots and to revive the Bulgarian tradition. Paul introduced the study of Bulgarian folklore to the 4 class, teaching the children to play, sing and dance the way their ancestors did. This becomes more than a school subject, more than a tradition. Children sing not out of obligation, but because it makes sense of their lives and creates a sense of cohesion. For them, the song is like "good day" and "how are you". Things we often miss saying when we get away.
In a BNT film, the teacher tells the story that he took children from a school to a music festival in Poland years ago, where they were ranked 3 only because the festival was for teenagers and his students were only in 5 class. But this success proves that talent exists, it is only necessary for a person to have the senses to find it and the desire to train and encourage it.
Another very important thing that is not found anywhere else is perhaps the key to maintaining tradition and the village - the link between generations. Today, we rarely speak truly to our children and parents, more often we speak to one another and only listen to our own voice. However, Cherni Vit folklore classes are attended by everyone - children, mothers and grandmothers. In this way, continuity between generations is created, people retain their ability to speak a common language, keep in touch - so necessary for us to understand each other and preserve our history. There are things we can't read anywhere - someone has to tell them for us to tell later. This is how our national memory is preserved over the years, so is the history of one of the flags worn by Benkovski's troop during the April Uprising.
Another hero of the village is 85-year-old Marin Yotov, in whose house until a year and a half ago there was a banner, which perhaps Georgi Benkovski himself held in his hands. Benkovski once commissioned the making of 12 flags, which read "Freedom or Death." Six of these flags were found more than 140 years ago in a hollow on a tree near the village of Marin's ancestors. Shortly before the end of the uprising, the troop passes from there and, contemplating the sad ending, leaves the flags and leaves. We know the number 9 has been stored in the village museum for many years, but for sure, Marin has it in it. Thus it survives over time and is a cause for national pride of the inhabitants of the village. For Marin, it is a shrine to which he has dedicated himself.
Not far away is the "Benkovskaya Cave", in which Benkovski himself hides before being shot by Turks in Kostina area. The uprising was drowned in blood. One of the biggest atrocities happens in Batak, where Ahmed Aga Barutanliya burns the temple of Batak and burns several hundred people, including children. In Perushtitsa, Spas Ginev and Vazov Kocho Chistemensky, who was chanted by Vazov, kill their wives and children, and then themselves, in order not to fall into the hands of the Turks. The Lord sends Ahmed Aga the world's deadliest disease, leprosy. The worms are literally coming out of his skin, just like Herod the Great, who kills all newborn boys in Bethlehem and the areas he controls. But that cannot return the innocent.
In 2011, the sacrifices in Batak were proclaimed by the Holy Synod for Saints, and this seemed to be a small retribution. However, this is not the case for those killed in the April Uprising. But what has changed in the 142 years? What happened to us? How is it possible for those Bulgarians to go to certain death in order to die in the name of Bulgaria, and today we are leaving the country and our own homes? I wonder if if they knew that few of us would remember with gratitude for their sacrifice and use any convenient escape route, they would fight anyway? Do we deserve their cause? But they did not want gratitude, did not think like us, and did not know what was to come.
There are places where God is present. There are places that God loves. Such a place is the village of Cherni Vit, which still preserves its forests and rivers, in which the young blood still flows and the hope that the Bulgarian tradition and history will live forever. Teacher Pavel Panchev looks hopefully. And although in the 90 years his state returned only 150 BGN out of another 100 thousands invested in a bank for agricultural interest, he still believes in the good in people and children who are the future. He has fulfilled his task - he has preserved the school, the village and the tradition. Marin Yotov has managed to keep the flag for decades. So those who come and will come will be able to keep Bulgaria, giving a part of themselves and their love for it. And as Vazov writes:
"Even today the Balkans, as soon as the storm blows,
remembers that stormy day, making noises and forwarding
his fame is as wonderful as an eq
from gulf to gulf and from age to age! "