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In Search of Spisarevski, a new documentary by director Adela Peeva

Photo: BGNES

In December is the 70th anniversary since the exploit of Bulgarian pilot Dimitar Spisarevski in air combats above Sofia during World War 2. His name is associated with the dramatic events in 1943 when the storms of global geopolitics challenged grossly the capital and other Bulgarian towns. On 1 August 1943 a division of US fighters undertook a major operation against Ploiesti, Romania, the center of that country’s oil industry. The raid was a failure and resulted in heavy losses, as the division lost half of its planes. Six of them were brought down by the Bulgarian aviation as they returned to the Bulgarian air space. This was the first air combat in this country in the years of World War 2. Though rather reserved over the alliance with Nazi Germany imposed on them, the Bulgarians were prepared to defend their land. Following the involvement of Bulgarian pilots in air combats of strategic importance, the allies launched retaliation raids against Sofia. One of the Bulgarian heroes in air combats was Dimitar Spisarevski. On 20 December 1943 he brought down two US fighters, the second of them with a battering ram, in which he perished.
On the eve of the Day of the Bulgarian Aviation, 16 October, the House of Cinema in Sofia hosted the first night of the film In Search of Spisarevski directed by foremost Bulgarian documentary film director, Adela Peeva. Her films have been awarded both nationally and internationally. Suffice it to mention Whose is This Song, Divorce Albanian Way and The Mayor. Peeva first heard the name of Spisarevski from Prof. Bernard A. Cook in New Orleans, Loyola University, where she was invited to pay a visit. The historian has been exploring Bulgarian-American relations during World War 2 and told her about the remarkable pilot.
Absolutely gorgeous, adored by women, a bold man with an acute sense of justice – this is how people remember Dimitar Spisarevski. Why has the first battering ram in the history of Bulgarian aviation turned him into a legend?

© Photo: BGNES

“This is what the story is about. It is trying to explain what this miracle is, this charm, this myth surrounding Spisarevski”, the director says. “However, we should note here that he was not popular across Bulgaria. During communism he was listed as a fascist, though in fact he had defended the residents of Sofia. However it is also true that many people are fascinated with his personality and life.”
This new film is telltale of Adela Peeva’s manner of work: an in-depth exploration of the theme bringing in various points of view. In the film the spectators can see old people who have known Spisarevski during his lifetime, as well as pilots, young people, members of patriotic groups etc. In this way she weighs the values of the past against the values of the present day in search of Spisarevski as an emblem of bravery and dignity. This is also a search for the national causes that have the potential to unite us.
Adela Peeva says she has been impressed with how Bulgarians living abroad accept the film.
“In an online forum I came across a family of Bulgarians living in Canada – Radka and Andrey Yakimov. Radka was a little girl in 1943, and for her Spisarevski was the man who saved her life from the air raids.”
Adela Peeva is grateful to the Yakimovs, to Radost Racheva and Georgi Grozev as well as to Mira Paunova from Australia who have all supported the film financially. Dutch national Patrick Lus has also provided financial support for the latest Bulgarian documentary film.

English version Daniela Konstantinova

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