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Wax figures of the Revival period delight Bulgarian history lovers in the town of Byala

Photo: БГНЕС

Is it possible at the beginning of 2022 to find yourself in the company of 19th-century figures such as Prince Alexander of Battenberg, revolutionary Panayot Volov or the renowned master builder Kolyu Ficheto? The answer is yes.

The newly renovated Art Center in the town of Byala /Northern Bulgaria/ has one of the first wax figures expositions in Bulgaria, consisting of six figures of famous people in Bulgarian history, each of whom is connected with the city's past.

The Art Center has a community center concert hall, art café and a 3D cinema hall. Two-thirds of the funds for its construction were raised by locals who organized charity bazaars and concerts.

“The entire population of Byala supported the idea of building a community center for our cultural events,” mayor of the small town on the Black Sea Dimitar Slavov said. He told the BNR that Byala municipality had bought the building, which had been “in very bad shape – defaced, dilapidated - the building which once used to be the best nursery in town.” It was renovated and turned into a place where people could convene and remember the past, enjoy themselves in the present and look forward to the future.

“This town has a rich history. In just 12 or 13 years – from 1865 until 1878 - many major events took place in Byala. The building of the bridge by Kolyu Ficheto, with all its architectural elements, marks the dawn of the Bulgarian Revival. The most valuable exposition of the local Art Center are the wax replicas of well-known national figures whose lives were connected with the history of the town,” Dimitar Slavov says.

One of the six significant historical figures in the exposition is Russian Baroness Julia Vrevskaya, who volunteered as a nurse during the Russo-Turkish War in 1877-1878 and who died in Byala. The town hospital is named after Vrevskaya. As writer Victor Hugo said, she was "the Russian Rose of Russia, that died on Bulgarian soil."

Another wax figure depicts the Revival-time master builder Kolyu Ficheto, the architect of the town bridge. The other models in the collection are of Russian Emperor Alexander II, revolutionary Panayot Volov and Prince Alexander of Battenberg who was only 20 when he was awarded his first order by Emperor Alexander II.

The sixth figure is that of the famous Bulgarian poet Petko Rachov Slaveykov, who started teaching at the school of Byala when he was only 18 years old.

The analogy with London’s Madame Tussauds is in favor of the collection of the Art Center in Byala, believes Mayor Dimitar Slavov, because the wax figures we have seen in foreign museums “cannot touch us in the same way as those related to our Bulgarian history,” says Slavov.

The six wax sculptures were created by Veliko Turnovo sculptor Boris Borisov and his team - Konstantin Kirilov, Deyan Todorov and Galina Hristova. The carving of each figure took 2-3 months.

“The period and the historical personalities are close to my heart. It was very challenging to make a portrait of Kolyu Ficheto or Panayot Volov. First you need to make a clay sculpture. But you have to take into account the clothes and the posture - and the frame of mind of your character. That’s the most difficult part if you’re a sculptor: to convey a certain meaning, the artistic expression,” sculptor Boris Borisov says.

For him the most exciting part of the project was carving the wax sculpture of Kolyu Ficheto – standing upright, his right hand touching the bridge near Byala. Boris Borisov sees a special meaning in the fact that the Revival-time master builder also used wax to model his future masterpieces. Not only his methods of work, but also his wisdom are still relevant today, like this advice to his contemporaries:

“Do not build tall fences to separate you from your neighbors, build more bridges to unite you.”

Interviews by Asya Pencheva, BNR correspondent, Ruse

Editing by Vessela Krasteva

Photos: BGNES, Twitter/RusCons_Ruse, byala.bg
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