Kassabova's latest work in progress addresses the invisible borders we construct between locals and outsiders, compatriots and foreigners.
Issue 2, November 2006
by Kapka Kassabova; illustrated by Gergana Shkodrova
Part two of extracts from a book in progress. Click to read part one in VAGABOND 1
A Palestinian in Sofia
Outside the Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia, we were taking off our shoes to have a peek inside, when a well-fed middle-aged man with Arabic features said in English: "It's lunchtime but I let you go in, just for you. Where you from?"
"I'm from here," I said, "and Michael is from New Zealand."
"Ah, you life here and your boyfriend visiting you," he interpreted.
"No, we live in England," I said.
"You live England!" he was impressed. "He take you England." Yeah, whatever. I was getting sick of being a Bulgarian bride for export.
"Where are you from?" Michael asked.
"I'm Palestinian. But I have Bulgarian passport now, I married to Bulgarian woman. And Swiss passport. I have so many passports but no Palestinian passport." He smiled with a mouthful of random teeth. He had a business in Sofia, but it wasn't doing so well at the moment.
"I'm thinking to going somewhere else. But I don't know where. My wife, she is from Sofia, and I like Sofia, it's okay. Maybe go to Italy, maybe go to Switzerland again, I don't know."
"What's your business in?" I asked.
"Import-export. You know...Small things. And I look after the mosque. Not for money, just to spend the time here, talk to people, you know..."
He drifted off uncertainly. Michael tried to speak to him in Arabic, but the Palestinian stuck to his blend of broken English and broken Bulgarian.
"Where you learn Arabic, my friend?"
"Syria," Michael said.
"Ah, Syria. Yes," he laughed in embarrassment, "Your Arabic better than my Arabic. I forget too much. Too much." Then he abruptly terminated the conversation by shaking our hands, like a man anxious to get back to his job. Except there was nothing to get back to but the shade of the mosque doorway.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers