The story of how a chitalishte was saved

Chitalishte named after Saints Cyril and Methodius renovated after big flood in Dolni Bogrov village

“Our chitalishte (community culture club) is now the only place left for cultural and festive events”, say the people from Dolni Bogrov. They add they regret not having a school because it is a big village with many children. The local chitalishte, which bears the name of Saints Cyril and Methodius, has for years been a magnet for amateur ensembles, children’s dance and sports clubs and, most of all, for all fans of fiction. The chitalishte offers an array of new and worthwhile books, donated by the publishers themselves, and also by private individuals. The chitalishte chair Rumyana Krustanova has lived in Dolni Bogrov for 30 years, and it was she that saved the library, and the chitalishte from the big flood in the village 14 years ago. The heavy rain at the beginning of August 2005 left devastation in its wake. Hundreds of houses were flooded and almost 1,500 people from Dolni Bogrov had to be evacuated. Literally minutes before the water rushed into the chitalishte, the building was full of children.

“We were hacing a visit from an actress with the stage-name Lady Ellen,” Rumyana Krustanova remembers. “She told the children how important it was to banish all fears. The children were having fun but I could see that the situation was growing worse. There were trucks driving by loaded with sand which they tipped into the river to prevent an even bigger calamity. A little after we all went home I got a call that the chitalishte was filled with water. I hurried back but there was no way to enter the building, everything was under water. We were unable to rescue anything, and on the next day the water filled all rooms. It took a week for the water to recede. The books were all covered in mud and slime, just two shelves were left untouched. The costumes, the outfits the children wore on stage were also dirty. So, we put all books in sacks and threw them away. It was so sad to see the destruction of a chitalishte it had taken dozens of years to create. We moved temporarily to the building of the now non-existent school but there was nothing there we could offer the readers. There were no more than 1,000 books left, but we couldn’t even reach them after the flooding.”

At that critical for Dolni Bogrov point, Rumyana Krustanova says she was left with no choice but to try and contact major Bulgarian publishing houses personally and ask them to donate books. No one was left indifferent to the plight of the village chitalishte. Publishing houses donated the first 600 books, inspiring the hope that the efforts will pay off and the work will be able to continue.

“In the space of 2-3 years we collected around 5,000 volumes of books, now we have more than 7,000,” Rumyana Krustanova says. “We received many good books from the publishers gratuitously, but also from private individuals. They are the books readers look for most often. The books there is no interest in we set aside and replace with new ones that are a better read. That was how people started coming back to the chitalishte, attracted by the prospect of taking out an interesting book. We work really well with the teachers from the Zornitsa kindergarten, the only one in the village. The children come here often, we tell them all about the library and we hope that when they grow up they will come to the library all by themselves. The chitalishte now has a well renovated building, the refurbishing was financed by the municipality. It took a lot of effort and donations to give the chitalishte in Dolni Bogrov village a fresh start.”

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