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Past and present in a small Bulgarian village

Gradeshnitsa - the village where archaeologists discovered a tile with the most ancient writing

Photo: Radio Vidin

Although it is located in the poorest region of Bulgaria, the village of Gradeshnitsa is rich in archaeological finds, which testify to the presence of human societies as early as the early Neolithic era - the sixth millennium BC. The village is located 38 km northwest from the town of Vratsa and a small river that is a tributary to the Ogosta flows through it.

During archaeological excavations in the 60s of the past century, a ceramic tile was discovered in Gradeshnitsa, as the written characters are supposed to be at least 1000 years older than the Sumerian cuneiform script and the Egyptian hieroglyphs. The small ceramic tile with the earliest proto-writing overturns the familiar notions of the chronology of world's writing. Today, the artifact is a symbol of the village and one can see a monument with its image there. The original tile is located in the Historical Museum of Vratsa.

"There are many archaeological finds and artifacts here. The museum in Vratsa exhibits them periodically," 90-year-old local historian Luben Krastev says. "The Thracians lived here. During their time, there was trading with places as far as the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The coins found here clearly show this…"

Near Gradeshnitsa there was also a Roman fortress, an early Bulgarian settlement with a necropolis and other historical landmarks that show a rich economic and spiritual life existed here.

Today the population of the village is less than 400 people. Mostly elderly people live in Gradeshnitsa. They gather early in the morning at the local retirement club for a cup of coffee to see each other and discuss the latest news.


"We have been gathering at the club for a long time and this is a very pleasant tradition because there is no other place where we can meet here,” Stanka Krasteva, who lives in the village mostly during the summer months, says. “The women come and tell each other what they did the day before, exchange recipes or discuss various problems. This is a friendship and that is very nice. There are many problems to solve here. No attention is paid to the roads. The road from Krivodol is overgrown with bushes and two cars would hardly pass each other... The cemetery park is also inaccessible; we need better organization from mayors, and some things we can do ourselves.”

"We buy medicines from Vratsa, a doctor comes twice a week, the grocery store is stocked; if we need something else, we travel by car to the neighboring village,” says another resident of the village, who settled here a few years ago and has chickens and vegetables in his farm. “It would be good if there were more young people in the village, but there are none - they live in big cities or abroad; they visit us from time to time."


"The streets in the village are in awful condition, they have not been repaired for more than 20 years," another elderly woman who lives in the village says. She fears that even an ambulance would not be able to reach her if needed. There is no one to mow the grass and the garbage bins are also far away from her:

There is also good news related to life in the small northwestern Bulgarian village:

"There used to be a lot of thefts, but for 2 years now we have had no thefts. I'm a single woman, I don't have any animals because I can't take care of them anymore. I only have a few hens... The young relatives help, as we are already very old.''

"At the end of August, a local initiative group was created to apply for European funding with projects and we hope that at least one of our projects will be approved,” a man from Gradeshnitsa says. “We want the funds to reach the village, not just the municipal centers. Taxes are collected here and not a penny has reached the village...When you have closed bakery and school in a village and there is nowhere to work, who would stay here?”


People complain that there is no public transport to neighboring villages and to nearby towns. The mayor tries to drive them everywhere - to the hospital, to weddings, baptisms and funerals. In their yards people usually take care of goats and hens, so that they do not run out of eggs and milk. The main employers in Gradeshnitsa are two farmers who take care of a total of 100 cows and 100 sheep. A curious fact is that still there is still one horse and a donkey left in the village.

The problems here are just like those in all the villages of Bulgaria, former mayor Magdalin Salkov says and adds:


"The mayor of a village does not have the right to create a project by himself. Projects for the villages are also prepared in the municipalities. It all depends on the municipal mayor. The main problem is that the budget for the villages is not enough. A solution can be reached with a change in the law. I guess the situation is the same in other municipalities, too..."

Author: Katya Borisova, BNR-Vidin

English: Al. Markov

Photos: Radio Vidin

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