History in Todor Slavchev’s photo archive

Todor Slavchev himself
Photo: private archive

The photographs of Todor Slavchev are as various as life itself and those have captured and preserved for the next generations the images of politicians, sportsmen, people of art and agriculture etc. One can see here the pictures of writers Elin Pelin, Dimitar Dimov, Dimitar Talev, artist Vladimir Dimitrov-the Master, Tsar Boris III, the creator of Sofia’s urban plan – German architect Adolf Mussmann and many, many others.

The active period of the 1900-born photojournalist was 1930 – 1991, i.e. nearly till his death in 1992. His granddaughter Yana Uzunova takes care of his archive on her own, unsupported by the state. All the photos can be seen at http://photoarhiv-todorslavchev.com and Yana gives us details on it:

"There are different subjects, parallel to my grandpa’s path in life. There is also this very nice and humane side of the story, as he always loved to photograph human faces, images, the light of the face and the eyes, the mood and state of mind…"

Great Bulgarian painter Vladimir Dimitrov - the Master

Part of what had been created in the 1930 – 40s was destroyed during the bombing of 30 March 1944. The other part is preserved:

“For instance, the photos from Macedonia. In 1941 when Bulgaria received back Macedonia, my grandpa went there for a few months. I found the films. When I published those photos online, there was this tremendous feedback of lots and lots of people, who wouldn’t stop liking and sharing those. The photos brought great joy. For instance, the photos of old Kratovo were found to be great by Macedonian people, because they saw their town the way it looked like 70 years ago,” Yana tells.

In 1945 Slavchev covered the second phase of WWII as a photojournalist in Hungary. His memories from that period are preserved in the Golden Archive of the BNR and especially – on the way he transported his photo lab to the frontline:

“The Second World War. Some people participated with a gun in their hand, writers and journalists held the pen and I and my volunteering colleagues took along our cameras. Commander of First Bulgarian Army Shteryu Atanasov and Gen. Ferdinand Kozlovsky had ordered the establishment of a photo laboratory. I offered to transfer my personal lab from Sofia. On the military airport in Sigetvar, Hungary, I found a pilot and a major of the Yugoslavian army. The plane was a two-seater, so one of us had to sit into the other’s lap. I had packed the entire laboratory in Sofia…” Todor Slavchev recalled.

Welcoming of the Parachute Battalion, November 1944

Yana tells us more on the stories behind the photos:

“Grandpa shared few things. However, he told me about this granny in the end of the 1930s, sitting on the road between the towns of Tarnovo and the village of Arbanasi, who would prepare coffee for the passers-by. He took a picture of the scene. It was something small, but touching at the same time, since we can’t see anything like this today…”

Granny Elena making coffee by the road, 1940

There are lots of other precious photos in the late photographer’s archive – The coup on September 9, 1944, the People’s Court that followed; The city of Truth in 1990 – a protesters’ sit out are other topics that Todor Slavchev’s camera recorded. His photos also cover the history of the BNR:

“There is this film from July 1940. It shows the initial broadcast of the radio from Cherni Vrah /Black Peak/ on the Vitosha Mountain – with the hosts, actors, unknown persons as well… It is hard to identify some of them as time has passed, but I do my best to discover their identity. Many people that I know and strangers as well help me in this process,” Yana Uzunova, granddaughter of late renowned photo journalist Todor Slavchev says in conclusion.

Participants in the first radio broadcast from Cherni Vrah, 1940

English version: Zhivko Stanchev 

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