For the 40th year running, the small town of New Lexington in Ohio, USA is hosting a festival commemorating prominent American journalist JanuariusMacGahan and his contribution to the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman domination, a man who ultimately laid down his life in the process.
MacGahan started his career as a war correspondent in France. In 1876 he wrote a series of stories from Bulgaria after the crushing of the April uprising for the Daily News in London. He went to the town of Batak where the biggest massacre of peaceful civilians took place. His dispatches resonated across the globe, but most of all in Great Britain, where the government was in support of keeping the Ottoman Empire intact, though public opinion largely shifted to support the Bulgarian cause. During the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation MacGahan was, once again, a war correspondent, covering the heroic defence of Shipka pass, which decided the outcome of the war. He reached Istanbul where he contracted typhoid fever and died.
The first MacGahan Festival was organized in 1978 to mark the centennial anniversary of his death. Until that time the journalist was barely known in his home town, even though there is a sign on the highway that reads: Near BirthplaceofJanuariusMacgahanChampionofBulgarianFreedom. Forty years ago a group of Americans of Bulgarian descent living in Cleveland launched the initiative and obtained the support of the local public for holding an annual festival commemorating the war correspondent. Bulgaria’s ambassador to USA Tihomir Stoytchev is honorary guest at this year’s edition of the festival.