Not far from Botevo village, 30 kilometers to the East of Dobrich and 35 to the North of Varna, in a locality where medicinal water flows from what is known as the Marina spring, rise the white walls of the St. Marina monastery.
According to written records which have come down to us, these lands belonged to a Turkish bey who decided to build a grand house in this piece of heaven. As construction work began and the terrain was being cleared away, a stone cross was found with an inscription – St. Marina. The bey sold the land to grandpa Lecho from Botevo village who, on his part, donated it for a future monastery.
In 1882, the church board decided to build a chapel and public baths – one for men and one for women – using the spring’s medicinal water. Two water fountains were built, one of them hexagonal with 12 spouts. And it was all funded by the people living in these parts. For the day of St. Marina, 17 July, one of the biggest fairs in the whole of Dobroudzha was organized in the locality. The festivities would go on for three days, starting with a great blessing of the water and continuing with singing, dancing and merrymaking. Until the communist coup in 1944, one of the biggest markets in Dobroudzha was organized here. People would come from Dobrich, Varna, Shoumen, from the whole of Northeastern Bulgaria. A wooden shelter was put up for the merchants that was 150 metres long and there they laid out their commodities. After the communist coup on 9 September 1944, the fair was put an end to and access to the Marina spring was forbidden. A catchment area was built and the water was channeled to the neighbouring villages. The people from the village closest to the St. Marina chapel – Botevo – never forgot their patron saint’s day. By an old Christian tradition they continued to get together to pray for fertility, health and the patronage of the saint. After the democratic changes in the country in 1989 the tradition was restored, one step at a time.
“Around 2,000 people got together for the fair at the Marina spring in 2016, a sign of the reawakening of tradition and of the desire of modern Bulgarians to preserve our authentic national heritage,” says Miroslava Petrova, chair of the Budeshte (Future) culture community centre in Botevo village. “Even though the village is on the borderline between two districts - Varna and Dobrich – our village is not as arid as Dobroudzha is. There used to be orchards here and many merchants came to sell their fruit and vegetables on market day. Guests would start pouring in on the previous day, they would spend the night and take part in the vigil on the night before the patron saint’s day. Marin den – that is how we, in Botevo, call the day of St. Marina. Here it is connected with the harvest and with fertility. On the morning the water is blessed and then the guests go to the baths to wash using cold water for health. At the turn of the 20th century swings, Ferris wheels and all kinds of amusements were put up for young and old alike. Circus artists came, people walking on stilts – every kind of fun and games that existed in those days.”
Every man, woman and child in Botevo knows the story of the St. Marina spring.
“There is no reliable information as to when and why the village honours St. Marina. There are all kinds of legends that have taken prominence through the years,” Miroslava Petrova says. “According to one of them the older members of a family from the village decided to travel to the nearby town and promised to take their 12-year old granddaughter Marina with them the next day. But the next morning they decided not to wake her up and the caravan left without her. When Marina woke up and saw they had left her behind, she started out all by herself and tried to catch up with them. But the road passed through woodland and she got lost in the forest. Tired, she got to a spring of clear and very cold water. She drank of its water and there she found her death. The grandparents went out to look for her and found her next to the spring. On this spot they put up a cross and wrote on it “here rests 12-year old Marina”. People have called it the Marina spring ever since. People started going there on the day of St. Marina and she was proclaimed their patron saint.”
English version: Milena DaynovaPhotos: svetimesta.com