Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Help Arevik: innocent, pregnant, imprisoned

Arevik with her beloved David (photo copied from Svetla Encheva's blog).

I know Arevik's story from Bulgarian bloggers Svetla Encheva (here and here) and Lyd (here and here).

Briefly, Arevik Shmavonyan is a young Armenian woman. 5 years ago, she met on Skype David Arutyunyan, a young man of Armenian origin living in the city of Montana, Bulgaria. They fell in love and about 3 months ago Arevik came to Bulgaria to unite with her beloved. They could not marry because Bulgarian bureaucracy refused to clear their paperwork, but started living together. After Arevik's 1-month visa expired, she obtained a permission to remain for additional 14 days. However, despite this permission she was sent to the infamous detention facility in the Sofia district of Busmanci, where refugees and candidate immigrants are kept indefinitely without clear reasons (I have blogged about this facility in my earlier post Prison by any other name).
In Busmanci, Arevik found out that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy is problematic, causing cyclic vomiting and severe eating and sleeping problems. Arevik has been in Busmanci already for one month, and for this time has been taken twice to hospital unconscious. Nevertheless, she is still kept there, in a room with about 10 other women and without adequate care. Although Arevik has done nothing wrong, her release is not in sight, and her life is in peril as well as the life of her unborn child.
I appeal to you to try to help Arevik. Svetla Encheva in her April 18 post gives a beautiful model letter citing appropriate quotes from Bulgarian and European legislature, as well as the addresses of the Montana Police Department whose orders have led to Arevik's imprisonment. I shall not translate the letter - knowing the English proficiency of our average law enforcer, I think a short note comprised of simple words would do a better job. In fact, I think that the police will be more impressed by the mere obtaining of messages from abroad written in English than by their text.
Here are two e-mail addresses of the Montana Police Department: rdvrmon@net-surf.net, police@net-surf.net. You can also fill this form. At the top line, you must select "MBP - област Монтана" (Montana Police Department). The lines below are, respectively, for your first name, family name, e-mail, postal address, subject of your message and then comes the field for the text of your message. You are also advised to send a paper letter at the following address:

Comissar Valeri Dimitrov
Police Department - Montana
2 Aleksander Stamboliiski Blvd
BG-3400 Montana

I also advise you to turn to the Ministry of Interior in the capital Sofia. Its contact form is here. The lines are (from top) for your first name, family name, address, telephone, e-mail and below is the field for the text of the message. The postal address is as follows:

Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov
Ministry of Interior
29, 6th of September Street
BG-1000 Sofia

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Rufinka": Bulgarian folk song about death in spring

One of the best known and beloved Bulgarian folk songs is Rufinka bolna legnala (Rufinka was lying ill), originated some 150-200 years ago in the Rhodopa mountain (although, similarly to other Rhodopean songs, it is very difficult to sing). It was created by Bulgarian Muslims and, as far as I know, is the only element of their culture incorporated in mainstream Bulgarian culture. Once I read an article about the background of the song. According to it, Rufie (informally Rufinka) was a real person, a girl from a well-to-do family. About age 20 and before getting married, she succumbed to a progressive fatal disease, probably tuberculosis. Before her death, she was asked what she was more sorry for - her wedding dress or the world. The historical Rufie reportedly answered, "For the dress, because I shall never put it on." However, the character of the song gives a different answer - see below.

The lyrics in Bulgarian (in the original dialect) can be found e.g. at this forum. The participant supplying the text writes, "This is perhaps the only folk song I truly admire and when I listen to it, everything in me bristles up." My opinion is similar. This song in a very simple way gives you the tragedy of being human, of having a self-aware spirit longing for existence but trapped within a mortal body. It is felt even more clearly because of the mentioned abundance of life in spring, and because Rufinka despite her religion does not seem to believe in afterlife.

Here is my (quite rude) attempt of translation:


Rufinka was lying ill / there in the high mountain.

No one was by her side / only her old mother.

She was telling Rufinka, / "Rufinka my dear daughter,

Are you sorry for your wedding dress, / your dress and your beloved?"

"My dear, my dear mother, / I am not sorry for my dress,

I am sorry for the world, / because spring has come now,

Everything's coming out of earth, / and I shall go into earth.

Mother, call Mizho's Fatma, / let her come, and I'll tell her

To marry my beloved, / to take my wedding dress.

Friday, April 09, 2010


I rarely publish photos of my loved ones, because of concerns about their privacy.
But now I just wish to share with you this charming document of happy life that was and will never be again.
The photo was taken about a year ago, presumably by my sister in-law who is absent from it.
Left to right: my late brother, I, his daughter, my sons and my husband.
"Let the memory live again."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Keep breathing

The text below is copied from the blog of a lady writing under the name "On the edge" - from her Feb 1, 2009 post Remembering to breathe. It is strange how different people are the same inside and feel the same.

"There have been times in my life when I have literally forgotten to breathe. I remember the first time it happened. I was 15 and the boy I had loved since I was 4 years old told me he was marrying... I can remember my heart stopped beating and I couldn't catch my breath for a minute. He broke my heart.
Then it happened again when the doctor told my sisters and me that our mother had colon cancer and would not live more than a year or two... She died just three short months later.
The day we got the lab reports back telling us our youngest son had HIV/AIDS, my head started to buzz and all I could think was no, it wasn't true. I had prayed so hard to Allah to make it not true. It couldn't be. There had to be some mistake in the lab work, but it was true.
When he died and they came to tell me, I was calm, but later after all business of the funeral was over, I would remember he was dead at odd moments. It would catch me off guard. I would stop breathing. The ache in my heart was so strong, it squashed all breath out of my lungs. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe off and on... The disbelief that my son was gone forever was almost more than I could bare.
I learned to get through these losses by taking one breath at a time. One minute, then two, pretty soon I was breathing whole blocks of time without reminding myself to keep inhaling and exhaling air. Amazing how resilient the spirit is when faced with the end of the world.
So, if this ever happens to you, just try to remember one breath at a time is all it takes to carry on with the business of life. One breath, then two, then three and soon it just happens on its own. Even if you wished it wouldn't ."

Thursday, April 01, 2010


On March 22, I lost my beloved brother George.
He died suddenly at age 41, leaving behind a wife and a 4-year-old daughter.
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