by John Struloeff; photography by Anthony Georgieff
The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and Vagabond,
Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich
the English language with translations of contemporary
Bulgarian writers. Every year we give
you the chance to read the work
of a dozen young and sometimes
not-so-young Bulgarian writers that
the EKF considers original, refreshing
and valuable. Some of them have
been translated in English for the first
time. The EKF has decided to make
the selection of authors' work and
to ensure they get first-class English
translation, and we at Vagabond
are only too happy to get them
published in a quality magazine.
Enjoy our fiction pages.
This current issue
presents texts by the
2011 Sozopol Fiction
John Struloeff and
John Struloeff is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Creative Writing at Pepperdine University
in Malibu, CA. He is a fiction writer and poet, with work published in The Atlantic Monthly, The Literary
Review, The Southern Review, PN Review, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere.
His awards include a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University and a Literature Fellowship from the
National Endowment for the Arts. He has published a collection of poems, The Man I Was Supposed To Be,
and his manuscript, Animals, was a finalist for the Iowa Short Fiction Award.
He lives with his wife, the novelist Cynthia Hand, and their two children in Thousand Oaks, CA.
The engine shed in Yasenki was a low, gray
building made of slatboard next to the
rail line. A set of tracks emerged from
beneath the door and angled onto the main set
that led north. The door was slightly ajar. Several
lines of footprints in the snow led across the
tracks and to the doorway. Lev tied off his horse
and followed the prints to the open doorway.
A police inspector and two men in business suits
stood near a make-shift table in the center of the
room, where a figure lay draped in a white sheet.
Above their heads hung a lamp, burning brightly
to illuminate their faces in the dark shed. Dark
smears of blood stained the sheet from beneath.
The form of the body beneath the sheet was
misshapen, as if two women lay together.
A fourth man, a doctor named Andreev, was
unloading utensils from his bag, laying them in
a row beside the covered head. He had examined
Lev on several occasions for minor ailments,
although the two men did not know each other
Lev's shoe scuffed on the gravel, and all four
men looked at him, startled.
"Count Tolstoy," the policeman said.
"I hope you are well today," Lev answered and
stepped up next to him. "Gentlemen," he said to
the others. They each bowed their heads slightly,
but this was an unusual circumstance, and so
they added nothing more.
Both of the two men in suits were holding
notepads and pencils. Lev recognized one of the
two as a journalist who occasionally worked in
Tula. The other man appeared to be the doctor's
assistant. Lev withdrew his own notebook from
his pocket and marked the date: January 4, 1872.
The doctor gripped the top of the sheet.
"Ready," he said in a quiet voice.
He drew the sheet down to expose the woman's
head and neck. The right side of her head was
missing, severed in an almost clean line, leaving
her nose intact. She was a young-looking
woman with black hair and delicate features.
Gray and purple tissues hung like a fringe where
her cheek and eye were missing. Her hair was
tousled and drawn around to the right, matted
with her blood and the damp mix of brain
matter and other tissues. A smooth, round span
of blackened blood the size of a dinner plate lay
next to her head. Her eyelid was partially open,
exposing a green iris. Her skin was pale and
translucent, a blue hue beneath her cheek.
"The woman has been identified as Anna
Stepanova Pirogova," the doctor continued.
He took a metal prong and inserted it into the
exposed areas of the inner flesh of her face,
touching sections of bone, examining cavities.
Then he held her head gently with both hands
and shifted it to the side to better examine the
uninjured sections of her face and neck. "There
appear to be no other injuries to her head and
neck but the damage inflicted by the crushing
force of the wheels."
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