January 12 marked 100 years since the birth of foremost Bulgarian brain worker Petar Ouvaliev. In times when it was a big challenge to become an encyclopaedist Ouvaliev proved it was possible. He was a polyglot, interpreter, diplomat, producer, screenplay writer and film director, university professor and critic. In the Cold War years he made a choice to live beyond the Iron Curtain and close to 50 years was reading his weekly essays aired by the BBC. People still remember his inspirational Eulogy for the Bulgarian Language delivered in 1995, six years after the democratic changes in this country, at St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia whose graduate he was.
To mark his birth anniversary a plaque was unveiled on the façade of his house of birth in Karnigradska St. Sofia, the work of sculptor Ivan Prodev.
"With great excitement today we proceed with this gesture meant to honour the memory of a Bulgarian who can rightly be called a brain worker of European and world calibre, a man who has left a bright vestige in the spirituality of Bulgaria and Europe", Sofia Deputy Mayor for Culture, Todor Chobanov said at the ceremony. "He was remarkable with the cosmopolitan nature of his work and with that in times of great hardships for Europe and of great trials for the European Community, he left behind this vestige of humanism which has become even more relevant following the recent developments in Paris. He was a man who raised his voice in an atmosphere of resignation and fear to urge for more humanism and national dignity in a bid to keep the memory of dissidents for the generation to come who should be taught that in any circumstances man is able to make a worthy choice.”
"Whenever I pass down this small street I will always think about a few things, and in the first place about Bulgaria”, Vice President Margarita Popova said in her speech. “Petar Ouvaliev was a man who always kept his deep love for the motherland, its image and symbol. This symbol was there, before his wide open eyes until the very end. He was seeing Bulgaria the way it is: without looking for its flaws. Although he spoke about parallel Europes he once said: 'I am a Bulgarian meaning I am Balkan. Being Balkan, I am also a European. One of the two Europes is here, in the Balkans, and it is Eastern Europe'. The other one, the Western part, was where he worked for the sake of his motherland. He used the beauty of language to show to us how the prestige of a country is created with love as part of a long-term effort to assert its grandeur and glory.”
The widow of the intellectual Sonia Rouve-Ouvaliev and the couple's daughter Mila-Georgina attended the unveiling of the monument in Sofia.
"Petar lived in the residence of the Bulgarian Legation in Rome, then in Paris with his sister and for many years in London”, Sonia Rouve-Ouvaliev said. „First he lived in the Legation and then in Chelsea where our house was dubbed 'the informal embassy'. He had a very happy life in England but his spirit was always with and in Bulgaria. Therefore we are privileged today to bring back to life the spirit and memory of that great Bulgarian and patriot in his home, at 1, Karnigradska St.”
The event went on with a conference hosted by St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. An exhibition opened there of photographs by Ivo Hadzhimishev honoring Petar Ouvaliev. The Ouvaliev family decided to donate his archives as well as personal effects to the University.
And, let us remind you that Petar Ouvaliev's first job was back in 1937 on the wavelengths of Radio Sofia in the Italian-language Service. That was the beginning of the foreign language broadcasts of what is Radio Bulgaria today - in French, German, English and Italian. “This radio was absolutely incredible”, Petar Ouvaliev once said. “It saw the light of day to make us believe that it stood at the very centre of the expanse and so borders started to collapse as our voices took off. We were young guys, somewhat not fully hatched birdies, but we spoke up to somebody beyond. While the world would stubbornly break up to produce enemies, the radio waves jumped over the trenches of hatred. The radio taught us how not to hate…”
English Daniela Konstantinova
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