“History is something we make together”, Orhan Pamuk once said. It is also something we enjoy together, I would add, because it is often a play of coincidences. Bulgaria is a beautiful country in Europe. The geographical location of Bulgaria is in the South East of Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. It has an interesting geography. It has mountains on the south and the middle and valleys in between. The entire border on the East is constituted by the coastline of the Black Sea. Romania is the border on the North separated by the Danube River.
To the West is Serbia and Macedonia, while Greece and Turkey are on the South. After an aborted uprising in 1923, the Bulgarian Communist Party had gone underground and its leaders fled to the Soviet Union. The Bulgarian party was marked by inner turmoil. The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 brought unity among Communists worldwide. In April 1944 the Communist party proclaimed itself the First Bulgarian Partisan Brigade and started communicating with the command center in Sofia.
The Chavdar brigade became the main arm of the party leaders in Sofia for sabotage, raids, and intimidation around the capital. During the night of September 8, 1944 the current situation led the partisans in capturing without bloodshed, the Ministry of War, arresting the ministers and seizing the communication system. As the partisans became the new militia, its political chief of staff directed the round-up and execution of thousands of enemies of Communism in Bulgaria.
According to the official figures, 12,000 of the population were delivered to the people’s tribunals, while untold numbers disappeared without a trial. I was born in 1947, the youngest in the family, in the town of Shumen by the seaside on the cost of the Black sea. We had a two story house on the hills. In the winter season the streets were covered with four feet of deep snow. In spring, Lipton trees bloomed with flowers, lining on both sides of the streets. The smell of its fragrance still remains in my memory.
In the summer after school, we were vacationing for three months in the beach house by the Black Sea. My father stayed behind to provide for us. Because of his love, goodness and kindness of his heart to our family, he struggled a lot to make up with the new government changes and restrictions. My father studied in France to be a dentist and had a clinic in our town and my mother was a house wife. Dad had a great influence on us as a pro-westerner because of his study abroad, living experience and knowledge of the life outside Bulgarian borders.
He told us amazing stories about the free world like Paris, Rome and the life of the Western world of prosperity and freedom. I grew in communist Bulgaria, but we were Armenian by nationality, because our grandparents came from Turkey as refugees in 1914, when Turks occupied Armenian land. They started their new life in Bulgaria. Communist Bulgaria and Soviet Union became very close. The emergence of Nikita Khrushchev as the leader of the Soviet Union replaced Joseph Stalin. After those changes life in Bulgaria became worse, bad economy, no food, no housing, and corruption followed.
Only the members of the communist party were privileged! Everyone lost their businesses and personal property because the Government took over. Our house was also nationalized. I graduated high school in December 1965, I could not further my education because my father applied for a refugee visa so that we can leave the country and move away from this difficult and corrupted life. The Government refused to give us a visa for the next five years! Instead they ask me to go to serve in the military for the next two years.
I was in the army during the conflict with neighboring Hungary and there were few major crises during my stay in the army. I completed my military service in the Bulgarian army and started going to college for my higher education. I also wanted to be a dentist and a dental technician like my father. At the same time our family was hoping that sooner or later the Bulgarian communist party will permit us to leave the country. During his lengthy reign, the President Zhivkov’s main policy was to follow the Soviet model. He often stated that loyalty to the Soviet Union was a test of Bulgarian patriotism.
He pursued increasing integration with the Soviet economy and resisted the economic experimentation of neighboring Hungary. In cultural affairs he bought off the creative intelligentsia to head off dissent. There were few major crises during his time in power except for one military plot, several instances of terrorism, and occasional outbursts of dissent. Bulgaria’s economic advancement during the era came to an end in the 1980s, and the collapse of the Communist system in Eastern Europe marked a turning point for the country’s development.
In 1990 elections, the Communist Party renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party and remained in power. A series of crises in the 1990s left much of Bulgaria’s industry and agriculture in shambles. I personally followed politics, economy and finance. Bulgaria joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. We had no hope until the ANCA (The Armenian National Committee of America), the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots organization helped the Armenian community.
ANCA was working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, such as The United Nation, to help Armenian families leave all communist countries around the world to get freedom, destining America. In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14, which declares, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. ” I was sad that I was leaving the place where I was born, but inside in my heart I was feeling happy for the new life that I will face soon.
Finally we received our visas to leave the country. In order to reach our destination which was the United States, we had to stop in the city of Beirut, Lebanon as a refugee in 1968 and then we flew to our final destination which was New York in December, 1969. New York is an amazing city, no wonder everyone talks about New York. It is one of the most agglomerations in the world at the center of the Metropolitan Area. New Yorker’s called us rubber necks looking always up at the tall skyscrapers.
We stayed for some time in New York, but we had to move to Los Angeles where our friends from back home started their life from zero. Our family had to do the same. Life for us was very difficult at the beginning especially for my parents starting at sixty; they had to start all over, building a new life. We lost everything, we had to learn English, find work, go to school at night, and find new friends and neighbors. Refugees or families like us really struggled a lot in the beginning. It took us many years to forget the difficulties, the hard work, pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, I lost my parents in the first three years of my stay in the United States; they could not take the pressures of the new life. Even though it was difficult for them, they were happy they came, so that we could build our life in this free democratic capitalism. This country is a political, economic, and social system and ideology based on a tripartite arrangement of a market-based, economy based predominantly on a democratic policy, economic incentives through free markets, fiscal responsibility and a liberal moral-cultural system which encourages pluralism.
This economic system supports a capitalist free market economy subject to control by a democratic political system that is supported by the majority. I am happy today with my lovely family, my wife and two boys. My older son is following the dental profession, and my younger son graduated medicine becoming a surgeon. I am still following politics, economy and finance. In 2000 I became a Financial Advisor for WFG. And in 2004 I became a real estate agent and a Broker. Today I am back to school taking classes at an online university for pre-law and I completed my LAVC (Los Angeles Valley College) for Paralegal degree.
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