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Plovdiv European Capital of Culture 2019

Annie Pilibosian living between Plovdiv and Paris

Annie Pilibosian was born and raised in Sofia, she studied and graduated in Sofia, and then became French language teacher. And then her life turned around – she left for France where she married. She always comes back to Bulgaria, but for the past six years Mrs. Pilibosian has been spending more time in the country of her ancestors where she has been looking to find out more about their past.

Nothing out of the ordinary so far, a story like the story of so many other Bulgarian emigres. But one day Annie decided to find out more about her father Ovagim Ovagimian – woodcarver, poet and singer. “He is from Plovdiv, he was born on “Nebet Tepe” (one of the seven hills on which Plovdiv was built), says Annie. It is in this same part of the city that a historical settlement is to be found founded more than 8,000 years ago. Having been declared a monument of culture of national significance, this hill is one of the most important cultural and historic sites in Bulgaria where different ethnic groups and cultures have left an imprint. The archaeological complex is yet to disclose its mysteries to experts. It is also fascinating place where people go to enjoy the breathtaking view.

“When I go up “Nebet Tepe” I feel exactly as if I was in Jerusalem. Time seems to be in limbo – not going forward, not going back, but always exactly the same,” Annie Pilibosian says. “Plovdiv is my favourite town and I am proud to say it is the town my family comes from. It is the town of my childhood years. During vacations we came to the house of my grandparents and my great-grandparents. Our family has been living in the city for 120 years. My heart, my very soul is in Plovdiv. As things turned out my father went to live in Sofia, but his heart was left forever in Plovdiv. His first works were crafted here – the iconostases he made in the 1930s. In 1938 he took part in the international Plovdiv Fair.”

Everything Ovagim Ovagimian crafted, he took photographs of before selling:

“I had intended to present an album of my father’s work but the quality of the photographs he gave me was not so good. So, I started traveling around Bulgaria looking for works of his and I took pictures of them. I first wrote a book in French but that did not seem enough. So, I made a film.”

The presentation of the book entitled “The refined world of the Thracian master craftsman” and the film are part of the Old Town Festival in Plovdiv, 16-22 September, which is on the Plovdiv European Capital of Culture, 2019 calendar.

“I am so honoured to be making the first presentation of the book in Plovdiv, the town where my father was born. The house he built was inspired by the Revival-time style of Plovdiv – with murals, with a typical verandah. He is the only wood carver to have ever worked with such intricate mother-of-pearl, silver and brass inlays. His first works are iconostases, which is his biggest contribution to the development of woodcarving in Bulgaria. But he was also a singer, and a laureate of the Cyril and Methodius order for overall contribution and for the mastery of his craft. He also wrote poetry and was never indifferent to the events that shook the world in the 20th century.”

In Sofia, the book about Ovagim Ovagimian will be presented on 24 September at the Cyril and Methodius National Library.

Photos: courtesy of Annie Pilibosian
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