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Kazanluk treasures the memory of the first Bulgarian luthiers

The history of an old family from Kazanluk brought to life like a tale told under the branches of an old boxwood

Photo: kazanlak.bg

We are all as specks of dust in the centuries-long history of our town, our country and in the course of history. But there are people who have made a difference, leaving a legacy to the generations to come.

Boncho, Stefan and Ivan Saranedelchev from Kazanluk are just such people. They were born at the close of the 19th century and lived in turbulent times when the human race was faced with wars. But it was also a time of progress in a free Bulgaria.

Photo: Gergana ManchevaStefan Saranedelchev, a lawyer by training, and descendant of the three brothers from Kazanluk, published a book in 2015 tracing the history of the family entitled “Preserving the green twigs – chronicles of the Saranedelchev family from Kazanluk”. The book goes back nine generations, to the family’s “patriarch” Nedelcho, whom people addressed with “sara”, meaning a man of order, hence the name given to the entire family. At the centre of the family history is the old boxwood, now more than 200 years old, which grew in the yard of the Saranedelchev house.

Photo: library

Many important events have taken place in that yard. So, the boxwood is part of the history of Kazanluk, but also of Bulgaria, Stefan Saranedelchev says. For example, my grandfather’s brothers are co-founders of the first and, as yet, only factory for string instruments in Bulgaria – Kremona. There are many intriguing stories about these people, because the family was very up-and-going. They made non-ferrous metal castings. The idea for the factory for string instruments belonged to my grandfather’s youngest brother Dimitar Georgiev Saranedelchev. Before becoming a luthier he was a very well-known gunsmith. He constructed a machine-gun which was faster than the ones used by the German army. At one point during World War II he realized that this was a weapon that would bring nothing but death, so he decided not to improve the technology. He even broke his machine-gun to pieces so he would never be tempted to return to it. Instead, he started making string instruments. A very interesting man, I remember him, because he lived up until 1969. He made his first studio in the yard of the house he grew up in, right opposite the old boxwood. He founded it right after he came back from the war, in 1918. After that, after a competition, he was sent to Germany to study lutherie – the making of string instruments. In that time he sent his other brothers sketches with instructions on how to make string instruments. When he returned they founded the company together in 1924. They named it after the Italian town of Cremona, a hub of the art of lutherie where the famed string instrument maker Antonio Stradivari worked. Out of love for this form of art they named the company after the town, and it bears the same name to this very day. The sons of one of the three founders – Dimitar Saranedelchev – took up and continued the craft. Until a few years ago Georgi Ivanov Saranedelchev was one of the few double bass makers in the country.

Photo: kazanlak.bg

To collect the facts for the book was an honour and a pleasure, says the heir to the family from Kazanluk.

I have inherited my love of the old boxwood from my grandfather who remembered that as a child (he was born in 1887) the boxwood was no longer a shrub in the yard of the house, but a tree 6-7 metres tall, Stefan Saranedelchev goes on to say.

Even though in 1962 a block of flats was built on the spot where the yard once stood, the tree is still there. And every time I pass by, I always look to see what state it is in. I am glad to say that the people living in the apartment block also regard the tree as something precious to the entire town. The biggest danger at this time is a species of caterpillar that appeared four years ago which feeds exclusively on boxwood leaves. Many of the boxwood shrubs withered and that is a problem for the whole country. The insect is really obstinate and if you don’t constantly spray the trees against pests there is a real danger of their being destroyed. I have been spraying it regularly, so, for the time being it is safe.

The address of the old boxwood in Kazanluk is 23 Pehoten Shipchenski polk Blvd, behind No. 17.

Four of us took up the initiative to present the boxwood in the “Tree with roots” competition. The experts ranked it among the top entries in two categories – “Tree with roots, 2019” and “Centuries-old trees talking”. But the competition is not so important, what matters most is that more people have been finding out about the old boxwood in Kazanluk and its history.

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