chapter 2



The decade after the First World War can be defined as the apogee in the incremental expansion of the capital. In the press and at different state and municipal levels, the subject of „housing issue“ and „housing crisis“ was being interpreted. The respective institutions were often forced to abandon the observance of the most elementary urban requirements that the legislation provides. The construction of the city periphery was carried out primarily, lacking any aesthetics.
„Batalova Vodenitsa“ hosted extremely poor people who had hardly any idea of town planning and built their homes uncontrollably. The cottages rose like mushrooms against any rules and requirements. One and the same practice was usually applied. A group of homeless people secretly communicated and in the evening they met in their chosen places. They were equipped with picks, shovels, boards, nails, beams and, most importantly, tiles. They divided the plots and, with the active help of friends and relatives, the „house building“ began late at night. In a few hours they raised the stakes, attached the improvised walls and roof to them. They placed tiles on it, which was a mandatory requirement of the municipal authorities. With this the building was ready. When the fire command arrived in the morning to break it, she faced a law-protected construction. Following were the prolongue and often endless struggles of the new owner with the Capital Municipality and the regional mayoralty, accompanied by exhibitions, requests, requests and intercessions for the legalization of the looted terrain. These disputes continued for years and usually ended with a compromise solution in favor of the self-serving alien in „Batalova Vodenitsa“. This tendency was typical for the other marginal capital neighborhoods.
In addition, in the early years of the neighborhood, planning and parceling took place quickly, sometimes by the settlers themselves. Urban and communication errors were allowed. There was no detailed real estate cadastre and preliminary triangulation. A change occurred in 1934, when the Ordinance for the construction of the capital was adopted. It was based on the overall urbanization and construction in Sofia by the end of the 1930s. Then the compaction of the already built quarters was completed and ended in general their shaping.
The neighbours built one-storey, unsightly houses that were surrounded by primitive fences of cracked broken boards. They were no different in architectural terms. The nice buildings were rare. During the construction no machinery was used. The water and the ballast were taken from the Vladaya river. The mandatory ratio between sand and gravel was often not respected. During the excavation works there were serious problems with soil clearance. Carriages could hardly enter the neighborhood. That’s why they used small trolleys with which it was thrown into the deserted terrains. A few words about this kind of transport. The trolley was a two-wheel drive towed by one horse. Its wheels were very large and it easily turned like a tipper. However, it was widely used for various types of activities.
Most of the dwellings were tailored to one family. They looked more like huts, far from any hygiene and public works. The buildings were low and cloaked, built with slats or hedges. Both inside and outside they were covered with mud. Usually they consisted of 1 or at most 2 rooms. They were entered directly from the yard. The floor wass of soil, and the ceiling was stiffed from ordinary, poorly trimmed boards. The walls were unbleached and damp, there were no chimneys and windows. The height of the premises did not exceed 2.2 meters and their total area was of 30-35 sq.m. They were heated in the most elementary way, dominating the sheet iron or cast iron stoves of „Qumbe“ type. In the first years, the neighbours carried on their backs through the muddy autumn days heating materials for their homes, and in rare cases they could rely on trolleys. Later on, the burning stove („Pernishka“), which is more suitable for operation, began to become popular. The main building materials used were wood, hedges, mud and small stones. Only since the mid-1930s were used bricks, cement and glass for the construction of homes . Reinforced concrete was used only for the construction of the neighborhood school building. There were still empty spaces between the buildings. The neighborhood was densely built and settled in the late 1940s. At that time were built more beautiful two-storey houses and relatively massive carpentry workshops. Typical of it were the rather large yards of the houses, where henhouses and even pig houses were often built. Rarely could be found horse houses, as some of the inhabitants earned their bread by horse-drawn horse stays. Cloaks, clothes, duvets, and bedclothes hang washed on the ropes and pipes. In this state the neighborhood was not attractive. Sometimes, in the name „Batalova Vodenitsa“, there wasa certain disdain on the part of the more affluent, educated and pretentious citizens living in the central parts of Sofia. But in the disputes that have arisen, the Suburbanists find a way to „oppose“ improper epithets, above all with physical arguments.
Against the backdrop of this poor urban development, there are no public buildings in the first years of existence. It is only later that three massive buildings have been built and stand out. First of all, this was the school „Vasil Drumev“, opened in 1935. After two decades near it was built the full day kindergarten on 78 „Gyueshevo“ Str. It was housed in one main and one smaller building. It was finally completed in May 1956, and the establishment opened after four months for the new 1956/1957 school year. Initially, four groups of 25 children aged between 3 and 7 years were formed. Each of them is run by two teachers and one assistant tutor. In the following years the groups increased to 6, and a swimming pool was built. Most of the children born in the neighborhood after 1952 took advantage of the kindergarten. It exists today under № 116 Kindergarten „Happy Childhood“ Kindergarten. It is transformed into one of the most welcoming and desirable homes. It has a huge yard of lawns and in it the kids grow surrounded by coziness, tranquility and warm care.
On the corner of „Lambi Kandev“ Str. and „Kamen Andreev“ Str. in the late 1950s was built a spacious two-storey building, which houses a weekly nursery. In 1968, it was turned into a „Home Mother and Child“. It carries children under the age of 3, and those with more complicated disabilities – until they are in the first grade. Their number reaches 100. The reasons for the placement of infants in the home are social or caused by the need for constant medical surveillance. Most of them were children of single mothers. Bulgarians were predominant, but there were also quite a lot of gypsies that were taken directly from the street. They staied here until they found an alternative for their future. Usually this was adoption or removal to foster families. Since 2000, thebuilding has been a home to the Children hospital „St. Sofia“, which keeps the same functions. It is under the authority of the Ministry of Health and the building continues to be municipal property. Managed by the NGO „Foundation for Our Children“. Currently, only 11 children are grown under the care of 35 medical, administrative and service staff under the direction of Dr. Lora Botchukova. In this state practically, the establishment is closed. The perspective is to be transformed into a „Center for Complex Services for Children with Disabilities“ again to the health service. It is planned that children will not be raised here but to come with their parents for treatment and rehabilitation by qualified medical specialists.
At the end of the 1950s, the first attempts in cooperative construction were made in the neighborhood. Just opposite to the school and next to the kindergarten are built two four-storey brick blocks. The dwellings are mainly owned by clerks, teachers and party staff who have nothing to do with the history and traditions of „Batalova Vodenitsa“.
Sofia between the 1920s and the 1940s of the last century is the city of the local pubs. There were at least 2-3 pubs in each neighborhood. They never lacked clients. This rule also applied to „Batalova Vodenitsa“. Its inhabitants were renowned as unsurpassed drinkers. Let’s say all adult men were potential drunkards. Then this was the most widespread and perhaps the cheapest vice. Because one liter of wine costed as much as one kilogram of yogurt. From the stories of the old local people it is clear that there were 7-8 such drinking establishments, which were located on the separate streets without any system. There were no casual visitors there. Outside people were rarely seen. They were visited exclusively by men who consumed mainly rakia, and less often wine. They talked with glass on the table and admired their drunken spirits. The enjoyable entertainment was always accompanied by listening to Serbian music. In the evenings until late, cries and songs could be heard on the streets. From time to time, the neighbours also stopped at the popular bars of „Tri Kladenetsa/Three Wells“ – „Devette Magareta/ The Nine Donkeys“, „Dewette Mezeta/ The Nine Appetizers“, „Karutsarska Sreshta/ Cart Meeting“ and others. Nearby was the pub of Rasim Shabanov called „Tsigansko Kabare/ Gypsy Cabaret“ near the streets of „Pozitano“ and „Tatarli“. It was open until late after midnight and many of the residents of „Batalova Vodenitsa“ used to visit it despite the expensive beverage prices and appetizers. Serbian and Gypsy songs were sang, there were often scandals among drunken clients. Bloody fights and heavy injuries occured.
After 9 September 1944 most of the pubs in the neighborhood were closed. The new pub „Bloody Inn“ was opened, and there most of the representatives of the post-war generation were sitting on a drink. In it we enjoyed the wonderful songs performed by Sando – Dikanetza and Dancho – Chashkata, accompanied by the virtuoso accordionist Mladen. The restaurant exists in our times, but is emptied of traditions and no longer has the role of an attractive center.
Here I want to open a bracket and turn the reader’s attention to the crimes and family tragedies in the neighborhood. In the early years, its inhabitants lived closed and obeyed their patriarchal morals. They maintain good neighborly relations and this largely discourages criminal behavior. Unlike other Sofia districts murders, suicides, street dramas, thefts and more. they do not happen here. Compliance with law and public order in the neighborhood is controlled by the Xth Police Station, on 98 Zaichar Str. It is also subordinated to the neighborhoods of „Bullina Livada“, „Konyovitsa“, „Evreiski Geren“ and „Zaharna Fabrika“. There are no trams and cars in „Batalova vodemitsa“ that could cause traffic accidents. There are also no injured citizens. In other city areas and especially in the central part of Sofia there are not few cases of attempts of suicide by lying on the tram rails or by passing by due to the inattention of the wattmen and the pedestrians themselves. However, this situation does not last long. Since the late 1920s, the first serious misdeeds have been noted. Here are the more dramatic of them.
On September 23, 1928, after midnight, during the performance of his duties, one of the neighborhood streets the stationary (quarter-responsible) of the 22 post Stoyne Apostolov was shot with a revolver in the abdomen. He was a 40-year-old sergeant from Negushevo village, Sofia district. It is not clear how the murder was committed and the reasons for it, and the shooter was in obscurity. At 3 o’clock in the morning, a guy with a fruit and vegetable seller goes past the crime scene. He saw a heavy wounded guard on the ground and immediately looked for help. Knocked at the house of Asen Panayotov on 22 „Payak Planina“ Str and woke him up. The latter gave a few shots of alarm with a legally owned pistol. He promptly alerted the Xth police station, and four policemen arrived soon. The seriously wounded was immediately taken to the Red Cross Hospital, but something strange happened there. When the duty team (physician and nurse) saw that the victim was a guard, refused to accept him despite his colleagues’ protests. They were then forced to move him to the nearby Divisional Hospital, but lost more than an hour of precious time. As a result, the injured person got severe bleeding and died. He left a widow and three little children. In the following days and weeks, the tragedy had been widely and widely commented on by the neighbours who had been appalled by the events that happened.
Several months later a new murder was committed in the neighborhood. On April 28, 1929, at 1.45 o’clock at night, on „Tri Ushi“ Str is shot with a revolver the Jew Isaac Levy Mekish, a tailor. According to the testimony of occasional witnesses, the crime was commited by two strangers. Then they ran by the banks of the Vladaya River and disappeared to Bullina Livada. The investigating authorities launched an investigation, but the motives for the murder were not clear, nor the criminals were found. The assumption of robbery was denied, as Isaac’s pocket were found 4700 leva, which he received in the evening as a weekly reward from his employer. There was also a hypothesis, which was not supported by evidence that the eradication was done on an ethnic basis.
In „Batalova Vodenitsa“ there was also a bloody family drama. On the 42 „Vladayska Reka“ Str. lived the family of Ivan and Nenka Stoyanovi. The man was often drunk and beated his wife who reproved him for his vice. The scandals between them were familiar to both neighbors and the police. Ivan was warned by the Chief of the Xth police station that he would be sued for his actions. Despite this preventive measure in the evening on March 23, 1931, women’s screams were heard from the house. The neighbours understood that Nenka was again subjected to terror and called the neighborhood policeman. He enterd the house and found the woman unconscious after a stroke with a heavy object on her head. The wounded was immediately taken to the Alexandrovska hospital, and Ivan was detained in the police. In questioning as an excuse for his actions, he pointed out that Nenka blameed him for infidelity, and this brought him out of balance. The next day he was released, but according to the neighbours’ attitudes at the time, everything seemed to be endless with his family offenses.
On the eve of the Liberation and the first two decades after that Sofia supplied with drinking water from sources of Vitosha, mainly from the surroundings of the village of Boyana. It was brought to the city via a masonry channel, ring pipes, wooden, stone and concrete troughs covered with slabs. The condition of this plumbing was cryptic, but nevertheless it supplied 33 fountains. There were also 21 fountains with spring water. Several dozen wells were also used for water supply, mainly in the western part of Sofia at the Vladaya River.
Since the 1880s, more serious attempts have been made to rebuild the new capital’s water supply network. The first projects were developed, relying on a quantity of 60 liters per day per inhabitant for a population of 40-60 000 people. With the advent of the new century and the rise of the city, the water at the foot of the mountain proved to be insufficient. Then it was decided to include in the system Vladaya and Boyana rivers. They start from Cherni Vrah and are captured at an altitude of 1730-1800 meters. The length of the waterworks reached 58 km, of which nearly 50 km are under the street network. A maximum flow of 300 liters per second was provided. Unfortunately, however, there is no significant change in the traditional way of bringing water to homes. On the eve of the Balkan War, only 27% of Sofia’s buildings were connected to the water supply network. Most of the Sofia citizens, mainly from the poor neighborhoods of „Tri Kladentsi“ and „Konyovitsa“, pour water from street fountains (125 in 1909 and 2200 in 1933).
After the end of the First World War, due to the rapid development of new quarters and the rapid expansion of the capital, problems with the water supply rose again. The water was insufficient and was „fed by neighborhoods and hours“. While in 1907 138 liters of water per day for a Sofia citizen, in 1924 that amount dropped to 48 liters. Then the Sofia Municipality took radical measures to solve the problem. After long research, it was decided to bring water from Rila. In July 1925 The National Assembly voted the proposed Law for the implementation of the „Rila – Sofia“ water pipeline. Its construction lasted more than eight years and it collected the waters of the Levi and Beli Iskar rivers. It was officially opened on April 23, 1933, and the capital fully managed to satisfy its water needs for decades to come. On the 69-km water-pipe every second in the city came 2000 liters of water from Rila. The length of the water supply network was also significantly increased. In 1934, it was 256 488 meters, and in 1941 – 429 295 meters.
As a newly created neighborhood of Sofia poverty, „Batalova Vodenitsa“ had constant difficulties with the water supply. The first settlers carried by hands water from the fountains in the nearby neighborhoods. Later, a deviation from the Vitosha pipeline was carried out, which served the neighborhood in the following years. Due to the frequent and systematic seizing of the water, the inhabitants were forced to wake up night time and bring water from the street fountains that were not illuminated. In the documents of the Sofia Municipality there are very brief data on how the water supply network of Batalova Vodenitsa was built. From the memories of the inhabitants of the neighborhood it is clear that unpretentious water facilities on the streets with a low jet have been laid first. It is only then that fountains were installed in the yards of the houses. Finally, the water entered the kitchen areas of the homes. In October 1937, there were waterpipelines in the streets „Neznayniyat Voin“ (360 meters), „Fourka“ (115 meters), „Ohridsko ezero“ (270 meters), “ Payak Planina“ (375 meters), „Captain Georgy“ 110 meters) and „Kamen Andreev“ (185 meters). In this way a significant part of the neighborhood was water-supplied centrally. It can certainly be said that at the end of the 1940s Batalova Vodenitsa had a fully constructed water supply system and ceased to feel the lack of water for drinking and household purposes.
Every major city, especially a capital centre, needs regular sewerage and a drainage system. They are one of the most important conditions for it to claim a well-developed settlement. In this regard, Sofia has centuries-old traditions. Archaeological excavations show that in the old Serdika, during the Roman Empire, a sewerage network and plumbing were built. They continued to function in the early Middle Ages. During the Ottoman rule, however, they no longer exist.
After the Liberation and the election of Sofia as the capital of the Principality of Bulgaria, it was without sewerage. This problem stood out in the foreground and was constantly being considered by the City Council. The relevant projects were also being developed. The city has a natural slope and this is a favorable time for the discharge of impurities from the lavatories, the pits, the rainwater and those used to wash the streets. Two basins – east and west – with collectors (collectors) are formed in the sewerage system. They are built along the Perlova River and the Vladaya River. They head south to the capital and take the sewers to the Sofia Field.
The construction of the urban sewrage system was a continuous process that went through different stages. Undoubtedly and most justifiable attention was paid to the central urban areas, which until the beginning of the wars (1912-1918) were generally pipelined. With the expansion of the city and the construction of new neighborhoods away from the sewerage system, serious difficulties arose. They are above all financial, as the development costs outweigh significantly the opportunities of Sofia Municipality. For this reason, the construction of new channels goes slowly and faces serious challenges. This trend also affects „Battalion Vodenitsa“.
„Batalova Vodenitsa“ entered into the municipal development plans much later. During the first years of existence of the neighborhood on the streets there is no sewage system for the outgoing dirty water from the homes. The toilets were built right next to the fences of the houses. Their emptying took place at the expressed wish of the owners of special cars at the „Purity“ service. This was usually done at night, so that the yards could be cleaned by the morning. Only in August 1935 at a meeting of the Capital Municipality, the Assistant Chief of the Water Supply and Sewerage Department eng. Nikola Popov reported in a report that directly concerned the neighborhood. Here is the content. In order to realize the rational drainage of the impure and rainwater of the newly built school, it is proposed to immediately build a sewerage system on the streets of „Sveti Vrach“ and „Gyueshevo“ with a length of 530 meters. The approximate value of the facility is about BGN 250 000. Funding must be provided from the credit for the construction of the school (BGN 150 000) and by the municipal water supply and sewerage budget (100 000 BGN). It is recommended that the auction be implemented within 15 days. The city council approved the report and the proposed conditions. The construction was to take place within one month of signing the contract. The winter period from December 1 to March 31 was excluded from the contractual term. Below are all the rights and obligations of the developer. Details of the technical conditions for the construction and restoration works, the width and depth of the canals, excavation of the pits and their filling, used materials, drainage, concreting, retaining walls, laying of the sewer pipes, deviations and connecting shafts, cast iron shutters, grilles and iron stairs.
The project was realized in the spring of 1936 and these were the first two streets in „Batalova Vodenitsa“ with a normal sewerage network. In the coming years, drainage canals were being built on other parts of the street network. As a whole, the full sewerage of the neighborhood was completed in the early 1950s and was directly related to the emerging industrial zone.
In 1951, a team of metropolitan architects developed a large-scale project for the construction of a canal and water spaces with islets, cascades, beaches and gardens in the neighborhoods of „Tuhlarna Fabrika“ and „Batalova Vodenitsa“. But as in many other cases this plan did not find its practical solution.
With the settling of „Batalova Vodenitsa“, the streets were gradually formed. But in the early years, they were drowned in mud and darkness, clogged with junk and sloppiness. There were open holes in some places. The negligence was total. Almost everywhere there were no sidewalks. From the streets they went straight into the yards of the houses, which had no cellars and were overgrown with weeds. In torrential rains, many of them were flooded. That is why covering and paving the street network was becoming one of the most complicated urbanization problems. The beginning of this process was put in the summer of 1932. At that time, the Sofia Municipality adopted a decision to fix the streets „Parteniy Nishavski“, „Dr. Georgi Zlatarev“ and „Payak Planina“. They had to catch up, ditch and adjust. These intentions took place later. At the same time, curbs were placed on parts of „St. Vrach“ and “ Gyueshevo“ Str. – 750 meters in total. And over the next few years, street improvements in the neighborhood were going too slow. Usually, around the parliamentary and municipal elections, the capital’s government was cheating the inhabitants with some social gain. Most often this was the shuffling of stretches of a street. At the same time, the Sofia Municipal Government, referring to the Public Works Act, took steps to increase the width of the streets in the districts of „Gevgeliiski“, „Lagera“, „Batalova Vodenitsa“, „Zemlyane“, „Krasna Polyana“ and others. For this purpose, the yards were alienated with the corresponding assessments. In this way, the regulation of „Batalova Vodenitsa“ was significantly improved.
The efforts of the Municipality of Sofia to develop the green system of the city have decades of history. In different parts of Sofia were built gardens and parks. These oases for walking and relaxation were met with satisfaction from the citizens of Sofia. True to the old Bulgarian traditions, they gathered there for contacts, communication and fun. At the end of the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s, gardens were formed under the projects of specialists-park-builders in front of the Military Club, the National Assembly, the Mother House, the Alexandrovska and the Clementinski Hospital, the Church „Sv. Sevdmochislenitsi“. These sites were in the central part of Sofia, but also the Third District Hall took practical steps in this direction. There were green areas around the churches „Sveta Troitsa“ in the neighborhood „Konyovitsa“, „St. Nichola“ in „Three wells“ and „St. St. Peter and Paul“ in „Razsadnika „. Unfortunately, this trend did not include a „Batalova Vodenitsa“. The problem was not addressed at the regional and central city level, and here there wans never a created garden. Perhaps because there was no church in the neighborhood? It is a matter of a point of view and interpretation. But the inhabitants would always suffer from the lack of a park environment, especially after large industrial enterprises are emerging. They found an intuitive exit from the situation. On foot they past through the Vladaya river and were looking for a place for rest in the park around the church „St. Apostles Peter and Paul“ (some time called „Borimechka“).