“I am Bulgarian” – 40 stories about inspirational women

Photo: BNR

One of the most successful books for children on the world book market right now is called "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls." The idea of ​​the authors was to tell about young women of the past and present who could inspire readers to fight for their dreams and to change the world for the better. It was this book, with its beautiful illustrations, that motivated Bulgarian writer Petya Alexandrova in collaboration with 40 talented artists, to tell the inspiring stories of Bulgarian women who lived before us. The book is entitled "I am Bulgarian" and the stories are selected and presented in a colorful and funny way. One of its merits is that each of the stories is true and the information presented is taken from letters, documents, witness stories and other sources.

The book is aimed at the younger audience, but it could be interesting to adults who could find interesting memories about personalities such as Ekaterina Karavelova, wife of a famous Bulgarian politician of the late 19th century, Tonka Obretenova – active member of the national liberation movement, Veneta Boteva - wife of poet and revolutionary Hristo Botev, writer Leda Mileva, and Lyudmila Zhivkova – creator of international children's festivals with a pacifist focus. The book also contains memories of women whose lives and work are little known and even forgotten. Such is the story of Stanislava Karaivanova Balkanska, who at the age of 15 became a teacher in the region of Macedonia and overcame many difficulties.

"Some of the people I describe are little known even to historians for a very simple reason; there is not enough information about them left," says writer Petya Alexandrova:

“Some of the stories continue to amaze me, making me admire personalities that evoke in me vibrant and warm feelings. Such is the story of Stanislava Karaivanova Balkanska. The very first day she started teaching, nearly 100 children came to her. She welcomed them in her room, all sitting on the ground. They were so many that by the time she could show the alphabet to each of them, the school day had passed. She did not have firewood and was often hungry, but she continued to do her teaching. It is difficult to imagine how today's children, satisfied with everything, would accept such a life of deprivation. The same girl became a telegraph-postal employee after years. Nobody wanted to appoint her initially and she was even mocked because of her wish to become telegraphist. But she persisted because she had secretly mastered the craft. She also sent a request to Prince Alexander I Battenberg himself, and he signed the document and said he was very proud and happy to appoint the first female official in Bulgaria. Back then, there were even people who specifically went just to see what this woman, who dared to pursue a male-only profession, looked like.

“In those distant times, when women did not have many rights, the Bulgarian woman was up to date with everything that was happening and had active social position,” Petya Alexandrova says.

“There is documentary evidence that admission of women to the university would have been delayed for years, had it not been for the ladies of a women's society who had written a fierce petition demanding that the girls should have the right to study and receive a college education. I wanted to know all the details of the lives of my characters, but there is not much information available about them. Three of the women featured in the book don't even have any photos saved. I relied on the imagination of 40 female artists who recreated the images in their own way. They are equally involved with me in creating the book to make it look so beautiful and elegant. In the future we will even have an exhibition with all the illustrations on the topic of ‘I'm Bulgarian.’ These young female artists worked without expecting payment, which makes me think that women in Bulgaria are not focused on the material, but hold more on the spiritual values.

English: Alexander Markov

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