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
This current issue presents texts by the 2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellows: Paulina Petrova and Lee Romer Kaplan.
Lee Romer Kaplan, a 2011 Sozopol Fiction Seminar Fellow, spent her early years in Berkeley, California and in northern Israel. While studying at Haifa University, she taught theater and literary arts as conflict mediation tools in a program for Muslim, Jewish and Christian youth. She's performed, written and directed shows with theater companies in the United States, Israel and Europe. In addition to an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, Lee holds a law degree from University of California at Berkeley, and practiced as a civil rights and poverty lawyer before returning to the arts. For now, she lives in New York City, teaches writing at Borough of Manhattan Community College and is on the teaching artist roster at Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Her first novel, The Flight of the Lesser Kestrel, set primarily in Jerusalem during the first Lebanon War, is forthcoming.
June 6, 1982
On the eve of the Lebanon War, on a kibbutz in Northern Galilee, after the all-clear siren sounded, Eva emerged from the underground shelter into the bitter, smoke-laden air. Along with the other girls selected for this special task, she walked in silence toward her post at the entrance to the kibbutz; the girls' sandals skimmed the beaten dirt path as they walked, side by side. She was excited to have been chosen—one of several teenage girls who would greet the soldiers, offer them food, a smile, a little encouragement. Unlike the others, she was a recent Israeli, born in America to an Israeli father and American mother. Unlike the others, she was not a child of the village, though she liked to think that someday, once she had proven herself worthy, the village might claim her as its own.
The entrance to the kibbutz, a wide paved stretch of road half a kilometer long, was flanked by a stand of sky-scraping eucalyptus trees planted long ago by the founders, the sturdy forebears of the other girls. In the shadow of the eucalyptus, the girls stopped. Round-eyed and silent as fish, they listened to the eerie hush. It was June in the Galilee, the air ripe with summer fruit, the calls of frogs, sparrows, goats silenced by the rockets that until just a few moments before, split the air, whistling on their way down. Quietly now, their voices sharp against the soundless sky, the girls began to speak, and agreed upon who would stand where. The American-born girl took her post outside the guard shack. She leaned up against the unpainted wood, rough against the back of her bare legs, and eyes closed, listened as slowly, once again, the songs of birds filled the sky.
She stood at her post, one hand shielding her eyes from the glare, and looked up at the Golan Heights, at the caravan of army vehicles snaking its way up and over the mountains and into the hell that Southern Lebanon was fast becoming. She watched and waited for the soldiers, most of them not much older than she was, who would stop at the kibbutz before continuing their journey.
Soon, the soldiers began to arrive, and the air vibrated with the smack and roll of rubber against road, the clanging of metal against metal, the tinny laughter of boys on the verge of something new and exciting and terrifying. One soldier, sitting on top of an armored personnel carrier, tried to catch her eye. She looked up, saw dark hair backlit by the sun, a pair of long legs swinging against the metal flank. The soldier grinned, winked at her. She smiled back and after exchanging a few pleasantries, handed him a packet of food wrapped in brown paper.
When she handed him the packet, their fingers touched. In this moment, unbeknownst to Eva, the soldier imagined taking her small hand in his, climbing down off his Zelda, and still holding her hand, allowing her to lead him to some quiet place, a clearing just on the other side of the trees. The moment passed. Eva retrieved her hand and raising it, waved him forward.
Later, as he crossed the border from home into the unknown, as he moved towards Beaufort Castle where his life would change forever and for no good reason, the soldier would note the bag's contents: two cheese sandwiches, a can of the finest Galilean cider, a packet of slightly stale Osem tea biscuits, two Macintosh apples, and one dented orange. As she promised the many soldiers who pressed slips of paper with phone numbers scrawled in adolescent handwriting into her palms, the girl called to reassure the soldier's mother. He remembered her startling blue eyes, her hesitant Hebrew, and the anklet of tiny white shells encircling her shapely ankle. She remembered him only as one among many, and by the time they met again, she did not remember him at all.
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