WE'VE GOT MAIL

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Every significant change in Bulgarian history, of which accession to the EU ranks amongst the grandest, has been marked by changes in the lyrics of the national anthem.

For example the first stanza of the original written by Tsvyatko Radoslavov in the first half of the 20th Century was:

Proud Balkan Mountains (Горда Стара планина,
Blue North by their side до ней север се синей.
Vitosha shines like gold in the sun Слънце Витоша позлатява
Istanbul is white and far away към Цариград се белей.)

But the Communist rulers decided it was not good to mention Istanbul in the anthem - Turkey was an "enemy" NATO and capitalist state at that time. So it became:

Proud Balkan Mountains (Горда Стара планина
Blue Danube near by До ней Дунава синей
Sun shines on ThraciaСлънце Тракия огрява
And makes fire on Pirin Над Пирина пламеней)

Then some "great" Communist mind decided to ingratiate Bulgaria even more with the Soviet Union by inserting Moscow in the lyrics. So Bulgaria's anthem became the only one in the world citing the capital of a foreign country:

United we go, Bulgarian brothers, (Дружно, братя българи,
Moscow is with us in war and peaceс нас Москва е в мир и бой
The Great Party is leading Партия велика води
Our victorious social orderнашия победен строй)

Of course, this stanza has been officially removed from the national anthem. Now, with the EU, someone may think it is a good idea to include Brussels in the lyrics?

Stoycho Peychev,
Sofia

Far From the Danube

DEAR VAGABOND,

What a sensitive, warm and deep understanding of life steeped in religion (Vagabond No. 3)! I will be coming to Bulgaria in the spring and hope to be able to buy Far From the Danube! I adore history and the period described is veryinteresting. I am not aware of many book/ novels published on this topic and period in Western Europe. Hope it gets published in the UK. Please congratulate the author, Christopher Buxton!

Christine Jones, UK

DEAR VAGABOND,

I bought Far From the Danube on a recent trip to Bulgaria, and can highly recommend it. Not only is it a touching love story, but provides a vivid insight into European history. It certainly deserves to be a bestseller.

The Decay of Communism

DEAR VAGABOND,

Thank you for bringing up the Communist past. It seems to be so difficult in Bulgaria. After Georgi Lozanov's interview (Vagabond No. 3), Anthony Georgieff's investigation of the umbrella murder (Vagabond No. 4) was fascinating. I also love the "NoWhere" piece. Diana Ivanova has a sense for poetry, her article, "Redzheb, Passing Sorrow" (Vagabond No.3) was truly poignant - and the photos were wonderful. And so was her last article. Melancholy, as she describes it, is just the right word for post-Socialist decay. In Italy, or in Cuba, decay only adds to the charm of monuments or cities. Here in Bulgaria, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, decay has something unforgiving about it. It has no charm, no excuse and can claim nothing for itself. But it is often the very face of melancholy, of times past, of elusive glories, of hopelessness for the future - knowing it cannot expect renovation, but only destruction. Congratulations on those two excellent journalists.

Benedicte Contamin-Gantchev

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