by Nedyalko Yordanov*
A few days ago, I mentioned publically a sneaky delation made during the totalitarian regime by an agent of the reactionary Communist State Security. This informant was codenamed “Dimitar” by his recruiting Officer Captain Georgiev. The delation pertained to intellectuals who have been subject to spying by the repressive services whose secret informant was agent Dimitar.
There is nothing inferior to a bitter snoop, a snitch who is amputated from any moral values and inhibitions, when he or she is forthrightly exposed. It turns out that the repressive methods of the former Communist State Security (DS) are alive today; that active operations for defamation and public denigration through clear and demonstrable lies, manipulation and organized actions are alive today. I took the responsibility to expose the true nature of the “eternal media guru” Kevork Kevorkyan and am determined to get to the bottom of it. I knew what a waterfall of scum, slander, filthy innuendo, blatant lies and crap will pour from his “big mouth” aimed at me and my family. In his hysterical convulsion, caused by the shedding of light on his past, Kevorkyan was not ashamed to dig the bones of my father – Assen Nedyalkov Yordanov, who was slayed 67 years ago and to throw mud on his shining legacy. However, my decision not to allow the risk of this abomination to stop me is due to my belief that these people, rejected by history, continue undisturbed to poison the public space with their learned malicious methods of Stalin’s dictatorship. All this must be condemned once and for all, amputated and thrown into the basket of the past, no matter what sacrifices all of us will have to endure.
THE STORY OF A SNITCH OPERATION
Twenty six years ago, (1988) Kevork Takvor Kevorkyan, on behalf of the chief ideologist of the Union of Bulgarian Writers at the time of the totalitarian regime, Bogomil Raynov, who was declared persona non grata by the French government, tinkered with a healed wound in our family. Since then, he continued at times to ruthlessly rehash a filthy and long-disproved lie (ostensibly relying on the opinion of other people) that my father Assen Yordanov had betrayed the Communist guerilla and poet Atanas Manchev. Of course, Kevorkyan is a coward and is cautious enough to dare to say it directly, which is even more disgusting. He is hiding behind other people, who are allegedly claiming this, and with it, he quite freely and unknowingly to them, makes these people potentially responsible for serious libel.
In 1990, I left Burgas for a number of reasons. One of them was that at one of the first meetings after November 10, 1989 (the date marking the fall of the Communist regime – editor’s note), I held a public speech and for the first time took the liberty before tens of thousands of citizens to voice a heretical then (and now) call – to open all archives and files of the Communist State Security; to expose its agents and make their slanders known to be public. This was met at the time with hysterical fear by the still-alive and official DS. They never forgave me. They decided to undertake a strategy to condemn me along with my whole family. They used for this purpose the most docile and friendly to the Services “journalists” to issue media verdicts in the style “Dazibao”. This still sounds familiar, right?! Because of the dirty, dishonest propaganda, which was officially launched by these structures, I decided to go to Sofia and request access to the documents from archives of the Ministry of Interior, where information since the time of the Kingdom of Bulgaria is kept.
My goal was to find specific documents and real evidence to disprove the resurrection of the Stalinist propaganda inquisition that deprived my father of his life, my family from happiness and normal destiny and me from a normal childhood and adolescence. The regime was relaxing its grip, and in 1990, after an official inquiry, I received permission to access police records from before September 9, 1944 and to find out the whole truth, already with documented evidence, about the real the reasons for the death of my father, for his posthumous condemnation and about Atanas Manchev’s treason, of which he was accused in 1949 – two years after his death.
I then wrote the book “The Truth about my Father“, all based on police testimony, citing chapters and pages from the archives of the Interior Ministry.
In 2012, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth and a separate book, with all his diaries and letters, was published.
I want to share with the readers of Bivol what they have hardly read –excerpts from my books, where I tell the story of my father.
HIS NAME IS ASSEN YORDANOV; HE LIVED ONLY 34 YEARS.
I often think now if there is a person on earth with such an unhappy fate as his.
I picture him at the age of 16, enrolling in the Navy School in Varna, the strict regime there, the ambitious officers, the steam ship “Evdokiya” the solitary confinement, the rare leave, the student from the high school for girls, the first kiss and her letters… And then – the telegram about the death of his five-months-pregnant sister, Stefanka, passing away from an appendicitis crisis. I often look at her picture with her strange and beautiful eyes – a 23-year-old girl.
And then, the arrest of 48 students accused of sedition. They read banned books, gathered and discussed the situation in Bulgaria. This happened in 1932-1933. He was 20-year-old.
Beatings, torture, a court-martial process, and a sentence of five years in prison. I read his letters from prison and I shiver… His mother was paralyzed, confined to her bed, and he wrote to her carefree, cheerful letters about how school was; what exams he took; on which ship he did his internship. I picture my grandfather (after whom I am named) reading them aloud, and her listening to them and enjoying them. I picture him hiding the tears that were running on the open postcards, marked with the stamp “checked”. And my unfortunate grandmother Radka, whom I have never seen, passed away without knowing that her son was a prisoner. What grandmother – she was 48-year-old!
Then little King Simeon was born and there was amnesty. My father was released from prison (after four years), already a 25-year-old man. Two years of freedom, only enough to find my mother; to marry her and give life to me.
And my mother – 18-year-old, beautiful, innocent, and extremely poor.
How did she decide at that time to marry a prisoner and on top of it, a political one?
I was born on one day in January 1940.
1940 – the only happy year in their life together.
The new torments began in the winter of 1941. Two uniformed men and one plainclothes one arrived at the factory and took him away as he was, still dressed in his work clothes. He was put on a freight train to Plovdiv, under the watch of security guards; then taken by truck to Ardino; then on foot on forest trails, higher and higher, to the heart of the Rhodoppe mountain and the remote village Planinata (The Mountain), comprised of about twenty houses, inhabited by Pomaks (Bulgarian-Muslims – editor’s note). A place at the end of the world… All former political prisoners were sent to remotest parts of Bulgaria. And then, they were sent to concentration camps – first in Enikioy (Thrace), then in Belene and Gigen (on the banks of the Danube river).
I was exactly one-year-old then. When he saw me again, I was almost four. I cannot imagine how he survived; how he had not gone mad with grief, and how my dear mother has fed me during these hungry war years.
Four years in prison and three years in concentration camps!
He was released at the end of 1943.
Even now I wonder why he did not kept quiet from then on; why he had not decided to just take care of his family and young son, but became one of the organizers of the anti-fascist resistance – a Commander of the Guerrilla District Headquarters, which at the time were still legal.
THE FATAL MAY 21, 1944
I was already four-and-a half- year-old and I remember, though vaguely, that day; the day that turned my life around.
Because in the early morning, at sunrise, when my mother felt the first pains of an induced abortion (so they have decided with my father) and when the small town of Aytos was still sunken in slothful sleep, a group of fifteen heavily armed gendarmes besieged the little house where I have been sleeping on my father’s shoulder.
I will tell briefly how it had come to this. I have revealed the chronology of the events in more detail and with reference to many documents in the book about my father, written in 1990.
Aytos has been then a lively and noisy city – a district center in the Burgas region, full of friends and relatives of my grandfather Nedyalko.
My father, my mother and I were walking seriously and demonstratively on the main street in the evening of May 20, so that all could see us. This was in the interest of conspiracy – no one suspected that on the next day my father was living for Yambol and going underground. I was very happy; I had not seen him for 15 days, and I was already used to be with him every day. They had not dared to tell me that he was leaving on the next day. My mother’s heart has been sinking; she knew that this was the last time when they could walk freely on the streets.
And suddenly, a stranger for my mother, a man called my father’s name.
This was Todor Grudev, the same one who ten days ago had betrayed before the police Dimtcho Karagiozov, a Commander of the city Guerrilla Headquarters, who was drowned in the Burgas swamp with barbed wire around his neck.
In order to have clarity in my story I will mention a few details:
The actors in this drama are two well-known families from Aytos – Chengeliev and Grudev.
The two brothers Chengeliev – Ivan and Todor;
The brothers Grudev – also Ivan and Todor;
Chengeliev- this is a family with a tragic fate. They were going to be killed the next day and the bodies of the two brothers Ivan and Todor, of their mother Kalya, along with the body of Atanas Manchev were going to be displayed on the town square. Still warm, their bodies would lie stretched out on the pavement for a few hours as a warning – the town had to go by and see them on the order of Kosio Vladev and Captain Russev – the triumph of their activity, a successful operation to destroy the enemies of fascism.
Todor Chengeliev was a worker, a quiet and simple man, nicknamed Totio the Driver.
Ivan Chengeliev was a hothead, who had lived in Sofia; was sentenced to death in absentia, and at that moment was a member of the guerrilla unit “People’s Fist”.
They also had a third brother – Dimitar Chengeliev – then a minor.
The Grudev were the other Aytos family.
The elder brother – Ivan Grudev – was a Communist; he had been in the concentration camps Krasto Pole and Belene, and was a secretary of the District Committee of the Communist Party.
The younger one – Todor Grudev – has been a member of the youth branch of the Communist Party, but at that time he was already recruited and was an agent of Kosio Vladev, betraying several people.
The action took place in the tavern of Gospodin Zelkov, an old Aytos establishment, where my father was summoned. The four gathered there – he, Ivan and Todor Grudev and Todor Chengeliev.
Todor Chengeliev reported that his brother Ivan was hiding for the second day in a row with another guerrilla (Atanas Manchev) in their home. They had come down from the mountain to look for food, medicines and clothes for the unit. They had wanted to meet Ivan Grudev as a local party leader, but Ivan had not shown up at the first meeting and they were forced to undertake the risky move to enter the town. They had written a letter in which they had asked for help.
Ivan Grudev refused to intervene, under the pretext that people in Aytos knew him.
In this tense situation, my father naturally decided to come to the rescue, despite his own plight of a man who was going underground on the next day. He destroyed the letter and went with Todor Chengeliev to meet with his comrades.
Meanwhile, mom and I had already returned home.
How the meeting between the three proceeded; what they had talked about – this cannot be retracted exactly, but my father had written on a piece of paper a list of things he was to try to deliver and had tucked it in the watch pocket of his pants, folded in eight.
Then he came home to us without saying anything to mom.
And the evening has been difficult and restless; they had been determining the fate of the conceived child. I imagine his pain when he decided to agree on the abortion; my mom taking the pills and how they went to bed – on both my sides on the only bed in the house, which was made of iron.
Meanwhile, Todor Grudev has immediately sent a telegram to his police chief Kosio Vladev informing him that there were underground people in Aytos seeking connection with Assen Yordanov.
He had not mentioned a word about his brother, thus, on one hand, he saved him, and on the other – he gained some good points with the police.
At 10 pm, the Burgas gendarmerie was put on full alert and sent to Aytos.
At midnight, the town was completely blocked.
They identified four houses; besieged them and started watching them.
One of the houses was ours.
At 2 am my mom felt the pain; got up, lit the lamp, noticed the blood; washed herself, and tried again to fall asleep without waking us up.
At 4 am, the four groups stormed the marked houses.
MY MOTHER’S STORY
“I was awake all night. But I did not want to wake you up; you and your father were hugging and were sound asleep. You had such happiness so rarely. Around 4 am, at dawn, someone began slamming on the door.
It was scary. They shouted: “Assen open! Open immediately!”
I opened. The yard was crowded with gendarmes. Your dad only managed to put his pants on and they handcuffed him. However, I managed to pull his shoes on his bare feet and to throw a jacket on his back. They took him away, and took us – you and me – into the yard and began a search.
After half an hour, gunfire was heard. “What’s going on … What’s going on,” I was constantly crying and they told me: “Your husband is finished.” I was about to faint, all covered with blood, but I was not allowed to sit down. So, they held us in the yard until 6 am… Around 11 am, they lifted the blockade. Your father was beaten to death. The district police chief Milev had said: “He will never again be a real man; he will hardly survive to get to Burgas, because he was beaten so hard that in my twenty years at this job, I saw them for the first time hit so hard.”
Gendarmes were saying to each other: “There is a dark man here; they skinned him to death.”
My poor father survived. Only he knows how…
He also survived later, when for a month and ten days they continued to beat him savagely – tied his hands and feet to a lamb rack and whipped him with thin sticks on the testicles. He saved the organization – not even one person has been arrested after his capture. He even managed to somehow pull out from his trousers pocket the list, folded in eight; to chew it and to swallow it…
He has been beaten so severely that for three years thereafter that, until his death, my mother put plastic sheets on his feet to be able to move without being obvious that he was limping. He has been then only 32 years of age. But he has already endured so much since being a minor in the Navy School, and he knew how to withstand physical torture.
But what was all that for?!
Since after all that they accused him of treason – him who was ready to die, but not to betray his comrades. And they accused him after his death, when he could not get out of the grave and defend himself.
Such cynicism on the part of his comrades…
AND WHO WAS ACTUALLY THE TRAITOR?
The first and really the only conscious traitor was the already recruited by the police Todor Grudev. He was the one that caused the blockade of the town and of the four houses.
But who was the one who told exactly where Atanas Manchev and Ivan Chengeliev were hiding? Who revealed the hideout?
It took me many years to find all documents buried deep in police archives and the archives of the Ministry of Interior.
What was actually happening in Chengeliev’s house during the early morning of the blockade?
While they were taking my father away from the house in handcuffs, the police have already searched the house of grandmother Kalya Chengelieva. The brave old lady did not give any sign that she was troubled. Her son Ivan and Atanas Manchev, armed with guns, were hidden in a special hiding place under the shed, closed on top with a big box full of old iron things. It seemed that the danger was going to pass. And it is not me who says it, but the then-present gendarmes.
Lieutenant Dimitar Tsvetanov:
We went into the yard and knocked on the front door of the house. The elder brother Todor came out, and I asked him if anyone was home and he told us that his younger brother and his mother were inside. I told him that we will do a search and he told us: “Go on; there is no one here.” Then the policeman detained the two brothers and put them in the garage; then he came back and went inside the house and asked the mother about people being there and she said that nobody was there. I was near the door, while the policemen and Stoyko Zhelev did the search, but nothing suspicious was found and we were told to leave… The policeman went to the garage, took the two brothers, who were to be detained under the order of Kosio Vladev if nothing else was found. We took them to the prefecture and delivered them to Kosio Vladev, who was in the office of the police chief with the Unit Chief Panayot Dimitrov Chushkin, Police Chief Dimitar Milev and Captain Russev…”
(Interior Ministry archive, volume 1344, p.122)
And there, at the police precinct, where my father had already been beaten to death, they began interrogating the older brother Todor Chengeliev (the minor Dimitar was locked in solitary confinement).
This questioning has been short. Poor Todor had never been subjected to torture before and after the very first beating he admitted that his brother Ivan was hiding in the house with another underground person.
What a tragedy, right? A brother betrays his brother! But what could he do – scared to death, common folk, probably near insanity by that time.
Today, from the distance of time, when the idealized representation of the past is no longer – that Todor could not endure the torture seems so human and understandable. I guess he never knew what was coming next. That everything will end with the death of four people, one of whom himself. I guess they promised him to spare his life if he went back to the house and persuaded the others to surrender.
Yes, I understand it all! What I do not understand is why it was so thoroughly concealed for years.
But I can even understand that…
I just cannot understand the monstrous mind that slammed this betrayal on my father.
What irony! Sometimes I try to put myself in his shoes. What led him to ignore me and my mother; to quell the instinct of self-preservation and fanatically protect the lives of two perfect strangers? Was he aware when they were “skinning” him and when he kept repeating the same – “I do not know, I do not know, I do not know…” that this was completely pointless? Moreover – that this betrayal would be attributed to him and the shame of it would fall on our family for many years thereafter.
And here is what happened after that. I do not want to paraphrase here; there is no need of fiction, but of strict documentation:
I reported that the search found nothing and went to the room of the police officer on duty where I unloaded my ammo and was just going to wash myself in the yard, when Kosio Vladev and Panayot Chushkin came out of the office very excited and were taking with them the handcuffed detainee Todor, and it was obvious that there has been violence and forced confession. Kosio Vladev shouted at me what search I have done when underground people were inside the house and how come I could not find them and that Todor had said that they had been hiding in the shed. I told him that a thorough search had been done, but nothing was found and that Todor is deceiving them. Chushkin said, “We will see who is deceiving whom” and scolded me.
Then, on the command of Captain Russev, they gathered all soldiers and officers in front and around Todor’s house. Todor has been rushed there on a motorcycle, escorted by Chushkin and Kosio Vladev…
I was at the side of their house, on the street, together with Lieutenant Krachkov. Panayot Chushkin was near the front door, from where he was giving orders. Chief Kosio Vladev, in uniform, was at the other side of the house or on the street, near one horseless cart. Chushkin was also in uniform
During this time, a few neighborhoods away, I had been crying for the neighbor’s shot dog and my mother, covered in blood, was barely standing on her feet. And then gunfire was heard. My mother just kept repeating, “Did they kill him? Where is Assen? Did they kill him? “And just then the tragedy in Chengeliev’s house began.
Kosio Vladev and Chushkin sent Todor to invite the two who were hiding to surrender and Chushkin was roaring outside, shouting, “Get out, get out” and “Surrender!” Nobody came out. Then, they sent the mother who walked several times inside and came back and said, “Nobody is there”. Then, they sent again Todor to tell them to surrender…
And here comes the scariest. A brother betrayed his brother and because of it, a brother was shooting at his own brother.
I am trying to understand both men trapped in the hideout, desperate, seeing all the hopelessness of the situation. One of them – a poet, a dreamer, a lyrical soul who took to the mountain following Botev’s example; he was writing poems, where he was saying, “To be the first to fall in the middle of the first battles”. Atanas Manchev – that name would become legendary just one year later.
The other – Ivan Chengeliev, a rough guy, a professional revolutionary, who had already carried out several executions of people identified by the Party as enemies.
Which one of them fired at Todor who was going towards them screaming like crazy: “It makes no sense, come out…”
Who decided that Todor should be punished for his treason?
The poet? Or the brother?
Because gunfire was heard and Todor fell to the ground….
“…Gunfire was heard and we saw Todor crawling, shouting “They killed me, because I have betrayed them”.
(Interior Ministry archive, volume 1344, p.122)
This is what Lieutenant Tsvetanov said, but it was confirmed by Kosio Vladev himself:
Captain Russev ordered to surround the house and sent Todor Chengeliev to warn the underground people to surrender. Chushkin took Chengeliev and went to the house. After a while, he ran back and said that the underground people refused to surrender and opened fire injuring Chengeliev.
(Interior Ministry archive, volume 1344, volume 1363)
Well, there was no way the Communists would say all this when they came to power, including my father. The legend could not be destroyed. It was not necessary to debunk Todor Chengeliev, who was finished by the bullets of the police, or Ivan who shot his brother. Brothers Chengeliev had to remain as heroes in people’s memory, along with the heroically perished Atanas Manchev and their murdered mother Kalya, because bloodthirsty gendarmes killed the unfortunate old woman as well, along with the others. Then, they displayed their bodies on the square as a warning to citizens.
Meanwhile, my father, nearly dead from the beating, wrapped in a sack so that no one recognized him, was brought on a truck to Burgas and imprisoned in the basement of the gendarmerie.
THE SECRET DOCUMENT
Carefully concealed from those who killed and then accused my father of treason, this document ended in my possession because of one person – a classmate who then worked in DS in Burgas.
He secretly summoned me to his house and gave it to me to read it. I think this happened in 1978. I was not particularly impressed then – my father was rehabilitated; the detractors were lurking unpunished and I had no intention to delve back into this extremely painful story.
However, eleven years passed; November 10, 1989 came and the fierce Burgas Stalinists were again on the move. They thought that with the removal of Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov this was again their time and re-launched the insinuations against my family. My mother took it badly. At that time, Ivan Chengeliev, nephew of the Chengeliev heroes, was already First Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Communist Party in Burgas.
And then I thought of this document and asked my classmate for a copy. He had already left the Services, but at the risk of getting caught, he was able to get copy and gave it to me.
At a stormy press conference in the theater on December 10, 1989, I told the whole story about the betrayal in Aytos. It was hot and creepy. The hall was full of former DS snitches, “active fighters against fascism” and ordinary citizens. They also filled the lobby and the plaza in front of the theater; loudspeakers were placed on the street. When I read the text of the document a few angry voices started shouting and calling me a “son of an enemy and a traitor”. People booed them and drove them out of the hall. I have a full video of this press conference.
My mother could no longer move freely and was confined at home all the time I thought that back in 1950 she was subjected to the same test, but all alone and defenseless, while now all citizens of Burgas were standing behind me.
What is this document?
There is no more authentic proof about what happened on May 21, 1944.
It is classified top secret and is a report of the Assistant District Governor of Aytos, Dimitar Milev, to the Assistant Regional Director of the State Security Service in Burgas. It tells how the blockade in Aytos and the search for underground persons were carried out; how they arrested eight people – two of them brothers Todor and Dimitar Chengeliev. In the document, their names are written as Todor and Dimitar Dimitrov Ivanov. It is explicitly stated that during the interrogation Todor has said that two underground persons were hiding in his house, one of which was his brother and he did not know the other one. The latter was actually the guerrilla-poet Atanas Manchev, who was then hiding under the name Dimitar Ivanov Marinkov.
The report was sent on May 23 to Burgas. Later, the Burgas regional government has forwarded it to the Police Directorate Sofia and the resolution “For Mr. Geshev” is written on the top.
I make this clarification in advance, because really every word in this document refutes the monstrous hoax against the memory of my father.
Here is the text:
Confidential /Top Secret
City of Burgas – Assistant Regional Director
(State Security Service)
Outgoing number 3183/May 23, 1944
District Police Precinct – Burgas
Entry number 2089
I report to you Mr. Senior Commander that on May 21 this year, at 4 am, authorities from third gendarmerie battalion in the city of Burgas carried out a blockade in the town of Aytos and then proceeded to a search of some houses for underground persons. The persons detained were Gani Radev Kostov and his son Veselin Ganev Radev, Ivan Panayotov Demirev and Nikola Panayotov Demirev, Assen Nedyalkov Yordanov from the city of Burgas, who was Secretary of the Communist Party, and Kiril Kostadinov Apostolov from the town of Aytos and brothers Todor and Dimitar Dimitrov Ivanov.
During the interrogation of the last two, the first of them, namely Todor D. Ivanov admitted that at that time two underground persons were hiding in his home, one of whom was his brother Ivan D. Ivanov, who has been on the run for about three years, and he did not know the second underground individual.
The house was immediately besieged. We first invited the underground people to surrender, but they responded to this with gunfire; then a three-hour shooting fight with bombs and rifle shots occurred and the house was burned, and only then those two underground individuals, who had previously made a hideout, were killed.
The attached here identity card in the name of Dimitar Ivanov Marinkov from the city of Burgas, a clerk, was found in the pocket of the unknown underground person, but it seems that it is a fake, only the portrait is identical to the face of the dead man.
After the murder of the underground persons, the mother and one of the brothers of one of them, who knew that they were in their home, but did not call the authorities, were also killed.
The bodies of the four were displayed on the town square for a few hours; then lifted and buried.
The above listed arrested persons were taken by the gendarmerie to Burgas.
Assistant Regional Governor: (signature) D. Milev
I think how Regional Governor Milev must have been feeling when he wrote these lines. He personally was not involved in the brutal assault – he was from Aytos and had to obey the Burgas superiors. In Aytos then everyone knew everyone. Perhaps, he was also shocked like the other citizens by the murder of the mother. They killed her for no reason, just out of spite! And they just finished Todor with a shot to the head after his brother wounded him in the stomach.
I do not want to reflect extensively on this topic. At that time, now called Communist time (what Communism, this is crap!) such questions about the character’s psyche and the psyche of the enemy were inappropriate. The hero was staunch, the enemy – relentless.
In the end, both sides were people with their fears, passions and beliefs.
I’m trying to get into the skin of those who a few months later would face the so-called People’s Court. I am trying to exonerate them with professional discipline, duty to the homeland, fighting terrorism, compliance with laws, etc.
As they tortured and killed, some of them, but only a few, endured the deserved retribution later.
DEATH PENALTY ON JULY 27, 1944
They did not take me in the courtroom. My mother fainted when she heard:
“Sentenced to death by hanging.”
They have led him away from the courtroom in handcuffs and a prison chain on the right foot. And that happened just on his birthday, when he turned 32.
I remember quite clearly now how every day my mother caught me by the hand and we walked to the huge, thick prison door for forty days – every morning and evening. The iron window opened and the head of the police officer on duty popped up. Apparently he was a good man, because his eyes were smiling when he was saying “The sentence has not been executed.” Mom cried with relief and this repeated in the evening and again the next morning.
And he? How must he felt?
I have seen similar situations only in movies, already stereotyped and embellished, when the characters are waiting for their death; how they meet it with proudly lifted heads.
But I had such a man standing on my side; he created me; his blood runs in my veins… And yet again, as I know how meek I am, certainly, if I were in his place, I would not have lasted for more than 24 hours. Then I would be overcome by hysteria or would tear my veins with my teeth.
On September 8, (1944) they broke the jail and my dad came out – pale, with a beard, the people gathered on the square carried him up. Me, the crowd lifted me high and passed me from hand to hand until I got to him. The sharp bristles of his beard scratched my cheeks, but it was so nice and joyful – I now had a father.
Actually, I did not. I saw him only in the mornings when he hastily ate the mashed potatoes, which my mom put forcefully on his plate. He had ulcers from the concentration camps and prisons. And then, he rushed to work. Times were troubled. The People’s Court convened; the murderers of many people were put on trial – of people buried alive, men, women and children, thrown in the swamp, with barbed wire around their necks – Communists. Ordinary policemen and gendarmes were also on trial. He did not once set foot there; did not appear as a witness. He was a sentimental soul; wrote poems and did not want retribution. Later, this was precisely one of the accusations against him.
“He appointed lawyers in police precincts to comply with the law and thus allowed all police officers who have voluntarily surrendered their weapons to return freely to their homes…”
By the way, he was killed right before my eyes – in the bedroom, where we were playing. He had a cold and did not go to work. The Party doctor arrived immediately and put a vein injection. After 10 minutes, my dad started having convulsions, and died an hour later.
Nobody held doctor Tenev accountable; he just complied with an order.
A spectacular funeral was staged for my father. There were two days of mourning in Burgas. Those who carried his coffin were actually his killers
They named a ship and street after him.
Two and a half years passed.
One day the worst happened…
I was returning from school when my mom met me on the street and said:
“Kiddo, let’s take a walk in the park.”
It was completely unexpected. My mother never took me to the sea garden for a walk.
We sat on the bench next to the botanic garden; the park was getting dark and deserted…
I will never forget her words:
“From tomorrow on, you will begin hearing the worst things about your father – that he was an English spy; that he was a traitor; that he was rescuing policemen from the People’s Court; that he was trying to split the Party and an was an enemy of the Soviet Union… They will point the finger at you in school and on the street…. You should not ever believe that. This is a lie! This is slander. Your father was the most honest person in the world… Today, they we wanted me to denounce him. They wanted me to take the stand and to condemn him before everyone. That will never happen. Maybe I will get expelled from the Party; they will fire me; I will stay unemployed; we will live in poverty; we will have no money for toys for the little one… for the real football for which your collected half of the needed coins in your piggybank. You will have to continue playing with the rag ball. But we will not starve. We will survive somehow… The important thing is not to forget your father; to keep his memory alive; to study hard as he wanted you; to excel in everything…”
I gradually began understanding what she wanted to say… I did not cry; neither did she. She was a tough woman who had experienced everything already in her 30 years of life.
I will stop my story here. I took the liberty to quote excerpts from my books, written some time ago. I never imagined that I would have to go back to that awful sore point for our entire family just because of the disgusting and vile insinuations of a snitch from the State Security – agent Dimitar, who had framed so many of his colleagues over the years.
I will only add that in 1955 the name of my father, Assen Yordanov, was completely rehabilitated, but the true traitor of Atanas Manchev was never exposed.
They renamed the ship and the street after my father.
After November 10, 1989, the new “Democrats” again changed the name of the street and the ship sank from old age in the Burgas port. Ten years later, my mother Kin Yordanova, who died at the age of 80, joined my father. She became widow with two young children to rise at the age of 27, but endured the unenduring burden to defend at all cost his name and memory. She never knew another man in her life and left us her determination of absolute self-sacrifice in the name of Truth and Justice.
*Nedyalko Yordanov is a renowned Bulgarian poet, playwright, and publicist.
**Kevork Kevorkyan is a Bulgarian journalist and popular TV host since the time of the Communist regime; he has been exposed as a DS agent under the alias Dimitar
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