The one hundred and seventieth anniversary of the birth of the patriarch of Bulgarian literature provoked in me, the woman from Pernik, the desire to dwell on that moment in the life and work of Vazov, which the artist himself defines as a period of great importance for his development. To this day, however, there is no memorial plaque, bas-relief or any sign of his stay in the mining town.


The memory of classics of Bulgarian literature he has disappeared without a trace from the historical memory of the people of Pernik, probably lost in an abandoned mining mine. And the young artist breathed the air of the then village of Pernik, walked the cobbled streets, discovered the beauty of the girls, sighed at them, wrote poems. He climbed the fortress named after Krakra Pernishki - Bulgarian nobleman and military leader, who defended our land with dignity from the attacks of the Byzantine Emperor Basil II the Bulgarian Slayer.


On the recommendation of the famous Revival awakener Hristo G. Danov, Ivan Vazov started working as terjuman (translator) from Turkish to French of the General Manager of the newly built railway line Sofia - Kyustendil, Hafez Pasha. In the autumn of 1873 the young poet arrived in Pernik and settled in the house of the chorbadji Stoyo, located at the foot of the Krakra fortress. In the home of the wealthy man from Pernik, Vazov was impressed by the coziness and intimate atmosphere in this patriarchal family and remained there until the end of his stay - the spring of 1875.

the railway in Pernik

The construction of the railway attracted to the poor village specialists of different nationalities: Italians, Croats, Belgians, Germans, French, English. The colorful Grao dialect is mixed with various European languages, life is in full swing, and the spirit of Krakra hovers in the air. It took little of the poetic imagination to rush into the whirlwind of battle, deceived by the sound of swords, and in 1874 to give birth to the poem "Samuel or Pernik's Dreams."

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The poet-translator befriended the engineer Julien and the family of the Belgian Bosch. He has the opportunity to improve his French language, as well as to expand the horizons of his knowledge on French literature. Creatively, his stay in Pernik is important because this is where the idea for the poem "Traiko and Riza" was born, and other poems were written. The poem "Traiko and Riza" was published in the collection of poems "Gusla" in 1881. It is written on a real case. Riza was a country beauty, with whom the poet met in the evening at the spring and on holidays - at the dance. Two more people fought for her heart - Traiko, a rich peasant from the village of Batanovtsi, and Mustafa, the son of a Polish Turk. Smelling that the Turk would kidnap his girlfriend, Traiko grabbed Riza and went home. On the way, Mustafa caught up with him and a stick fight broke out between the two men. Traiko won, and the Turk returned with a broken neck. 


The twenty-three-year-old poet wrote in Pernik the two love poems "Susana" and "Louisa". In front of Prof. Ivan Shishmanov he shared that he was courting a peasant woman named Susana. Ivan Yordanov in his book "Pernik Pages" (published in 2019) gives information about a woman of the same name, who was from the family of the chorbadji Stoyo, in whose house the poet lived. The second poem, Louisa, is about a Polish woman with whom Vazov was friends in Bucharest.

The creative history of the poem "Samuel or dreams of Pernik" is interesting. When Vazov was in Berkovitsa, together with the work "Na Kom" he sent the poem to Plovdiv for publication in the newspaper "Maritsa", issue 3 of 1880, signing with the initials V. and indicating the year 1874 and the place Pernik. The poem has an important task - through the memory of the distant past to motivate and give hope for victory to the enslaved Bulgarian people. Slowly but surely he began to strengthen the young poet's hand, to sculpt influential images, to break the form of the verse and to seek new artistic means.

Ivan Vazov

During the Pernik period Vazov created several travelogues, written fascinatingly and vividly. These are the travelogues "Visker Mountain", "Poganovo Monastery" and "To Radomir". The writer's keen eye captures not only natural landmarks, but also poor living conditions and problems. The contrast between the world of nature and the world of man, which brings a lot of pain and disappointment, is striking. Ivan Vazov's connection with Pernik remains forever alive and proof of this is that years later he returned to the Pernik region, driven by nostalgia for his youth. Indicative in this respect is his short story "After Twenty Years" (collection of short stories "Colorful World", 1902).


"Why are the memories of youth so sweet, even the heavy, even the sad ones?" Why is the sigh we let out at the sight, after many years of absence, so touching, the place where several bright hours of our youth have passed, where your life has smiled in its dearest beauty, as the magic of youth is able to give it! Oh, memories, like hope, and you are sweet, kind, graciously soothing! But you are higher than hope, because you never lie, you never poison us with deception and disappointment… Life and its storms, and the ravages of time, and the all-conquering power of life's evil, and prosperity itself, can take nothing away from your charm. Nothing!"


Thus emotionally begins the story in which the hero Pencho Debryanski (the prototype is the author himself) returns to the village, where twenty years ago he worked as a clerk. With great sorrow the narrator establishes the relentless defeats of time on people. What's more, his first and admirable love, Strumka, has died, and the pain intensifies. His last hope is the source of poetry - the place where he dreamed, loved and wrote his works. Here is how the writer recreates this feverish moment for him:


"At the spring!"


It suddenly occurred to him to go and visit the spring, the poetic spring. He hurried to go to the spring to dream, as he once did, alas, without waiting for anyone there, on the big boulder, under the branches, where two of them were sitting late amid the intoxicating enchantment of the quiet moonlit evening, with the melodious rush of marshmallows in the branches. And he was in a hurry.


After a while, Debryanski found himself at the eastern end of the village, at the gorge where Struma, noisy, passed under the high wall, which peeked terribly over her. He noticed with displeasure that the narrow shady meadow through which he went to the spring was threatened by the presence of several new shabby huts, which stood like disgusting patches on it. The kitschy willows, now with torn branches, peeled and mercilessly torn by tools, hung hopelessly mournful, as if secretly grieving for something. Several strands of sand left by torrents begged and erased the scanty greenery of this dishonored meadow.


Debryanski went to the spring, but found it dry. The spout did not exist. Its empty pool was stuffed with sand: the thick weeds around it and the deserted grass and nettles testified that for years no foot had stepped here for water; along with the life-giving stream the source of life, of laughter, of the ringing screams of youth, was dried up. The spring was dead. Sad, sad. Debryanski's eyes involuntarily moistened.


- He died too, he died too! Death everywhere, and desolation, and destruction! Time has put its terrible hand on everything that twenty years ago pleased the eyes, pleased the soul.

With documentary precision, the story reveals the life of the Bulgarian peasant from the end of the XIX century and gives information about the author - an invaluable testimony to the young years of the life of the patriarch of our literature. Pernichani are debtors to Ivan Vazov. The shrines in our cultural life must be remembered! They are like the water we can't live without. How will we pass it on to the next generations if the memory of them dries up ?!

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