Chapter 9

CHAPTER EIGHT

THEY LIVED IN „BATALOVA VODENITSA“

The social and ethnic composition of the neighborhood predetermines and explains the fact that few popular people live here. In this respect, it can not be compared to the central parts of Sofia and other prestigious neighborhoods, where famous politicians, public figures, cultural and military figures were settling and giving birth. But we still have to mention the names of several people who spend some of their lives in „Batalova vodenitsa“. Some of the people were closely connected with the Bulgarian Communist Party, but when it comes to them, the author does not impose any political tinge. They were still part of the neighborhood’s history.
In chronological order we start with Svilen Russev, who used the illegitimate names Boyko and Sasho. In historical studies and memories of contemporaries he had always been portrayed as one of the Fifth of the Workers’ Youth League (WYL). He was born on 14 June 1914 in the village of Dolna Dikanya, Pernik district, in a craftsman family and was the youngest of the five children. His father died in the First World War. His mother married again and in 1924 and all moved to live in Sofia.

Although for a short period of time in the neighborhood, another, even more prominent, communist figure lived there. It is about Hristo Mihaylov, who was a symbolic figure in the history of the Communist Party. His life is filled with revolutionary transformations.
During his Illegal Period, Hr. Mihaylov changed his location several times for security reasons. For some time (1941-1943) he was hiding in the rented house of his brother in law Stefan Karov, which was located on 144 „Dimitar Petkov“ Str. at the corner with „Tri Ushi“.
R. Candeva settled to live in the neighborhood in the early 1950s. The house, which she inhabited, was located on 6 „Temelko Nenkov“ Str. In 1952 she was elected councilor at the Sofia City People’s Council of Dimitrov region and was directly responsible for „Batalova Vodenitsa“. Four years later, a second term followed. This gave her the opportunity to get to know the problems of the neighborhood and to use her positions to solve them. Grandma Raina, as her colleagues called her, was loved by them, always ready to help. She made close contacts on various occasions with students from the 67th school. Presented at the opening of the school year. Assisted children in distress to be accommodated in a boarding house.
Another cultural figure residing in the neighborhood was Nikola Petrov Russev. He was one of the leading writers, playwriters and screenwriters during the socialist period of the development of Bulgaria.
A part of her life in „Batalova Vodenitsa“ spent a worthy woman, closely related to Bulgarian folklore. This was Grandma Nasta Pavlova. The facts of her biography are scarce, but we present her in all her colorfulness according to the memories of her contemporaries. Her real name is Anastasia Pavlova Stankovska. She is a Bulgarian woman, but she did not know when she was born in the Macedonian town of Krushevo. Nasta Pavlova was so popular among Sofia citizens that when they hear the sirens warning about bombing during the war, they said: „Baba Nesta called!“
Finally, a few words about another villain who was crammed into the cultural field. This was Ilia Rizov. He was one of the first and most prominent dancers in the „Philip Koutev“ State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble. He began his career in 1953 and at the beginning he made impression by his physical and visual presence.

CHAPTER NINE

THE HAPPY DAYS OF OUR CHILDHOOD

Despite the bad living conditions in which we lived, we spent our free time passionately devoted to our favorite activities. With a lot of excitement, we were involved in the numerous games and we used all kinds of entertainment and sports. That is why we fully justified the motto of this book, „The Happy Days of Our Childhood“. The writer of these lines has no material to illustrate how they have enjoyed the neighborhood during the first decades of his existence. But he will be happy to tell about his personal experiences. They are entirely subordinate to the thought of the famous director Rangel Vulchanov: „We lived poorly and with little money, but we were free and happily stranded in time …“
In our childhood, there were many games that we organized on the streets or in the schoolyard. I will mention the most popular of them.
First of all, it was the game of beads and ascites. It was fun mainly for boys. Each of us strictly stored the necessary attributes in jars or boxes. The beads were made of glass or porcelain, but there were also metal from machine bearings. Their diameter ranged from 0.5 to 3 cm. The biggest ones were called gudi. The ascites were made of the knuckles of the lamb’s back. We stored them at Easter. We gathered them after St. George’s Day, when traditionally people ate roasted lamb meat, buckwheat buckets or meat shops.
Unlike the boys, the girls played most of the time on „Dama“. There were at least two children in it. The charts were drawn with chalk. It was shorter or longer, depending on the age of the players. Then, on the principle of elimination, the order of the players was determined.
Without going into any detail, I will list some more children’s games involving boys and girls together. I start with „People’s Ball“ and continue with „Krienitza“ (Hide and seek), „Watchmen and Apache“, „Celik“, „Blind Baba“, „Skip the mare“, „Donkey“, “ Broken phone“, rope jumping, movie play, and more. When we practiced our favorite games, we really enjoyed it. In them were the more healthy and the more skillful kids. But despite their positive or negative finale, they brought joy to our daily lives and fed our childish illusions.
A few words about a little known today, but with pleasure practiced in our teenage years of pursuit. It’s about capturing songbirds. The law banned their capture, but that did not stop us. We usually did this anti-ecologically, in the modern terminology, a work in the „Balkancheto“ area, which was just above the Ring Road, near the „9th September“ Shoe Factory.
Hand-made nets were used, in front of which a tied chick called a kesak was placed as a bait. We mainly hunted goldfinch, hems and sicca. Then we closed the winged animals in cages and enjoyed their chanting tweet.
As children, we paid attention to the holidays as well. We were eagerly awaiting for Sirni Zagovezni (Proshka, Pokladi, Sirnitsa, Maslenitsa, a day for forgiveness). It is celebrated seven weeks before Easter, always on Sundays. This is the time of kukeri. Swings, to which girls and boys swing, are installed. In the neighborhood for decades, the celebration had to be celebrated as Pokladi. For days, we were preparing for his traditional celebration. We were collecting and transporting wood, old tires and other incendiary stunts all over for the huge fire we had to burn. The individual neighborhoods competed for the size of the festive omen. In the late February evening, when the flaming tongues were quenching, we were struggling to jump over the stove for health. Some of us were falling into it, but that was only a joyous exclamation. Usually the fun continued until late. Then we went home and asked for the forgiveness of the elders with the traditional words: „Forgive!“, „Forgiven!!!“.
To a great extent, the fun during our childhood years was determined by the seasons. During the hot summer months, when heavy clouds of dust were visible everywhere, we searched for suitable cooling spots. The closest to our houses was Vladaya River, which is related to the unforgettable days of our childhood. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the stretch passing by Batalova Vodenitsa was not yet built and concreted. The river flowed calmly and freely spilled. The water was not quite clean, but that did not bother us at all. We walked straight from the street to the riverbed without any difficulty, stoned it, and bathed in the underpants.
With the older children we started to visit the summer open-air baths in Sofia. In our time, they were three. In the chronological order of their discovery, Dianabad stands first. The complex opened on July 19, 1931. It was built by Dimitar Pehlivanov, an activist of the swimming sport and owner of a fish nursery near the capital. The facility is located behind the „Hunting Park“ and practically in its early years it was outside Sofia.
The „Maria Luisa“ swimming pool in the Borisova garden is significantly larger. The decision for its construction was taken by the Sofia Municipality in early 1937. The total value of the project, realized by architect Boris Dalchev, was BGN 8.5 million.
In April 1938 a decision was taken to build a new summer bath in the „Konyovitsa“ district. Tsar Boris III expressed his noble wish instead of the cooked golden instrument as a gift from the town on the birth of the heir to the heir, the money to be used for the construction of the entertainment facility in this poor region.
Our most visited place was Lake Pancharevo. It is next to the capital and has convenient transport links next to it. It is situated at the very end of the picturesque Pancharevo Gorge, between Vitosha Mountain and the Lozen Mountain, at the flow of Bistritsa river in the Iskar river.
The carefree summer days went unnoticed. The autumn months were boring and they did not offer much entertainment. We were mainly enjoying the already mentioned games. But the winter was coming, and things were a bit different. During our childhood the winters in Sofia were not only cooler but also quite long. A lot of snowfall was occurring and skating areas were formed in the neighborhoods. They didn’t lack in „Batalova Vodenitsa“. The Vladaya river was freezing, and we were sliding on the ice with hand-made wooden skates or straight on „Pionerky“ shoes. For snowdiving and some sort of skiing were the most commonly used „Balkancheto“.
The other cult place we loved to visit was Vitosha. There is hardly a European capital that is so close to a mountain and access to it is so fast. It is a few hours away from the streets and boulevards. In any part of Sofia, everyone sees it several times a day. It is inextricably linked with the city and gives it a peculiar charm. It has entered deep into everyday life and people’s consciousness. Vitosha is dotted with many beautiful places and is a constant source of fresh and healthy air. It is enough to look at it through the window to enjoy constantly changing paintings. You will see it embraced by the sun, or with shrouded brows, under the weight of dense clouds, covered with abundant fluffy snow. Here is nice in all the seasons. Spring time between the slopes feeds on the heads of purple crocuses, while the summer lovers of the mountain seek coolness among the shadows of the forest. In autumn they enjoy the generously scattered tree colors, and when winter comes, the mountain is a paradise for skiers. Vitosha became even more important when the population of Sofia grew. All this determined the fact that it became a cradle of Bulgarian tourism. On an August day in 1895 Aleko Konstantinov, along with 300 Sofia citizens, headed to the Dragalevtsi Monastery and on the unknown paths for the first time climbed the Cherni Vrah peak of Vitosha. Previously, in the Sofia newspapers, Aleko made the following call: „The Sofia lovers of the Bulgarian nature are welcome on Sunday, August 27, the Cherni Vrah Mount in Vitosha Mountain, where a meeting for the formation of a club of Bulgarian tourists will be opened at 12 o’clock in the day. The invitation applies to all lovers who have reached the age of 20. “ From then on Vitosha ceases to be only a beautiful scenery of the capital. In the following years, prejudices and fears gradually disappeared. For the citizens of Sofia, it became a tradition to celebrate every holiday day in the mountain. In 1934, it was declared a park with an area of over 120 sq. km, connected organically with the multi-lived life of Sofia. Two years later, the first Ordinance on Nature Protection Law was issued in Bulgaria and a special Regulation for the management and use of Vitosha was issued.
While in the first decades the mountaineers moved to Vitosha by improvised routes, it was possible to form panoramic tourist paths and paths over the time. They were well-designed, precisely marked and marked with signboards. Their length exceeded 300 km. Two automated arteries were also built: Boyana – Golden Bridges and Dragalevtsi – Aleko. They had had regular bus lines.
To keep the tourists on the other side of Vitosha Mountain, a lift from Knyazhevo to Kopitoto was built. The line was built in 1962 by the Austrian company „Brothers Girak“. It was a four-seater cabin lift with roundabout and detachable cabins. The home station was 744 meters above sea level, and the final 1348 meters above sea level was next to the 160-meter television tower. The line was 1920 meters long, with 54 cabins moving. It transported 600 people per hour and the journey lasted 11 minutes. For nearly 30 years, the lift station was used by mountain lovers because it created rational options for choosing tourist routes. In 1992, after a major accident, it stopped working. Lift stations were looted and its recovery in its original form is unthinkable.
There is no dispute that Sofia people long for Vitosha. But apart from it, though rarely, we organized outings on Lyulin mountain. It is lower and accessible on all sides. We were getting on the regular bus from Knyazhevo to the village. of Valdaya and we went to the popular Restaurant „Cherniyat Kos“ (today it is in ruins). From it began the main tourist promenade on which we headed to the meadows over the area of the Karlezha. Here the road flows into a busy road, where some of us from Gorna Banya reached the monastery „St. St. Cyril and Methodius“. To the left of this junction there is an old wagon road that led us to the very top of the mountain. As students they organized and led us to Lyulin Mountain, and for justified political reasons we usually stopped at the Bonsovi meadows. Most of the time we spent in boring talks, and that could not in any way replace the carefree moments of Vitosha.
In our free time, we also took on, a mildly said, hooligan occupation. Then there was an unwritten hostile attitude between the neighborhoods. We crossed the neighboring neighborhoods and sought physical contact with our peers. Most often we walked along the „Kamen Andreev“ Street and we went to the „Russian Monument“ or „Five Kiosheta“. Among us, it was felt that the „bourgeois bastards“ lived there, who should be punished. These were actually the children of the new Communist nomenclature, who annoyed us with their arrogance and the privileges they enjoyed. We were provoking them with cursing and swearing, and so we reached into violent inter-neighbour battles. Initially from a distance different caliber stones were used. The dusts and elastics were included. Gradually we were approaching each other, and then the fists and leg kicks were in use. Some wore special iron boxes that caused severe injuries. The brisk fight continued for hours, usually ending without a final winner. Many of us were coming home with broken noses, bleeding lips, and lumps on their heads. We accepted this as normal, we commented on the scandal in detail and cut plans for future attacks.