At one of the first sittings of the Council of Europe Bulgarian political emigrant Dr. G. M. ‘Gemeto’ Dimitrov insisted on empty chairs left for the Eastern Bloc states – and one day those seats would be taken. The agricultural leader in exile had taken part in the movement for unified Europe since its very beginning and he did believe that the Eastern part of the continent would be free and democratic one day. So, there is symbolism in the fact that exactly on the International Archives Day – June 9th, the respective state agency in Bulgaria received the archive of one of the first Bulgarians who had upheld the idea for the establishment of the European Union. At the same time the agency released the Bulgaria and Europe album, telling the story of our centuries-old relations with the European nations.
The archive brings insight on the exile period in the life of agricultural leader G. M. Dimitrov. In Washington he was the head of the Bulgarian National Committee migrant organization – it worked for democracy in Bulgaria and revealed the atrocities of the communist regime. It also established the first Bulgarian company in 1951 that served in the NATO bases across West Germany.
“My father was a remarkable person, totally devoted to Bulgaria,” daughter Anastasia Dimitrova-Moser says. “He would give his last penny to support the newspaper and the organization that he established as an emigrant. He would work for our liberation from the communist regime till his last breath. My father was an MP in the period 1931 – 1934, when the regime of Tsar Boris III banned all parties. In 1941 he was forced to migrate to the Middle East to avoid an arrest. He started then sending appeals to the Bulgarian people via the Free and Independent Bulgaria Radio, also informing on the situation in the country while it was an ally of the Reich. Upon his return in 1944 Dr. Dimitrov was warmly welcomed by the Bulgarian people, but soon afterwards the communists began to persecute him and a sentence of home confinement was imposed on him. However, on 23 May 1945 he managed to escape and received asylum at the US embassy in Sofia. Later on Dr. G. M. Dimitrov, aka ‘Gemeto’ migrated successfully to the USA. Up until his death in 1972 he would rebuke the communist regime and believe that democracy would come to Bulgaria one day, despite the despair of so many people and their adaptation to the new power.”
The totalitarian regime that lasted nearly 50 years and tore Bulgaria apart from the family of free European states is now behind our back. However, this country has had many centuries of relations with the nations across the Continent and those are now presented by the Bulgaria and Europe album. Using documents, photos, maps and schemes it reveals the stories of notable events and persons, related to the bilateral cultural, political and economic interaction.
As we talk on events that happened on the International Archives Day, we can ask the respective question: are we interested enough in our past, in order to avoid repeating its mistakes?
“There is some interest towards what we keep, but I’d like to see it growing,” says Chair of the State Agency ‘Archives’ Mikhail Gruev. “So, the holiday is an occasion to call on researchers, journalists and anyone with interests to the past demonstrated; please, feel invited, step into our place. Of course, politicians don’t have the time to dig into this primary documentation, but I would like to see them learn more from history, since its beginnings can be found exactly in archives. Our permanent mistake is that we keep not learning from our mistakes of the past. Hence the trend to turn to nationalism and radicalism, Russophilia and Turkophilia – and at the same time our path of development is clear and visible.”
English version: Zhivko Stanchev