Stoian Bukov’s New Friends
The author describes a visit to his beloved former pastor, exiled to a remote Turkish village in Bulgaria. Stoan Bukov had led a thriving ministry and had pastored an influential church. Because he refused to tone down his evangelism, Communist leaders separated the pastor from his family and banished him to live among Muslim Turks in a village without electricity, running water, and roads. The author traveled to the village expecting to find his former pastor lonely and broken. Instead, he found just the opposite when Stoian told of his new Turkish friends. These Turks were also victims of a Communist agenda, forced to change their names to Bulgarian ones.
“Well,” he [Stoian] said with a sad smile and sat down on the only chair in the room. “Don’t be afraid. We talk openly about these things here. No one can hear us. There are few Communists in the village, except for the mayor and a few others.
“Then again, I am a victim of Communism as much as they are. In addition, I suffer because of my faith. So, this is one more thing that brings us together. To me, they are Turks, and I address them by their Turkish names. I openly state that don’t approve of what the Communists did to them. Besides, something happened that brought us even closer.”
“What was it?” I asked, surprised that anything could happen at all in this forsaken village.
“The Communists changed the names, not only of the living Turks, but also of the dead ones. Once, when I went to report to the mayor, he asked me into his office. He was nice; he even offered me a cup of coffee and invited me to take a seat. Then he asked me to do a job. A secret order was issued to chisel out the Turkish names from the gravestones and to engrave Bulgarian ones instead. Since very few Bulgarians lived in the village, he asked me to do the job.”
“Really?” I said in amazement. “To replace even the names of the dead people!”
“Yes, I am not joking. They have rewritten all the archives, and changed the names of the deceased. However, they have to change them in the graveyard also.”
“You declined to do this, didn’t you?” I said in hope.
“Sure I did. I would never dream of doing it.”
“What happened? Did they punish you?”
“No, what more could they do to me? The villagers heard about it though, and since then have showed even deeper respect to me. Is that food that you brought with you? Take it back, please. I am fine here. The villagers keep bringing me vegetables, fruits, chickens, bread, cheese, and milk. I am afraid I am going to grow fat. I have never eaten so much. “When we went out and headed for the car, the proprietor and his wife came out from the house carrying a linen bag and a bunch of flowers picked from the garden. “Take them in memory of us,” he said. “I killed a chicken for you.” His wife handed the flowers to my wife with a shy smile; she did not dare to look up.
“Why? You shouldn’t do this,” I said in amazement.
“Since you are Stoian in’s friends, you must be good people,” said Murath, his hand on his chest.
“I have three brothers and two sisters, but I don’t have a friend like Stoian. I hope they’ll set him free soon, but I’m going to miss him a lot. “We left profoundly moved, but at the same time reassured. As we drove away, I could see in my rear view mirror the diminishing silhouettes of Stoian and Murath standing together and waving goodbye until we disappeared from sight. Now we knew that our pastor was not alone
among enemies. ♦
Daniel Nalbantski is a Methodist pastor in Ruse, Bulgaria.
Editor’s note: This article was awarded first prizein the LITT-WORLD 2006 writing competition sponsored by Media Associates International, Bloomingdale, Illinois (http://www.littworld.org/LW06/eng_article_1.htm).
Published with permission of the author and Media Associates International, Carol Stream, Illinois.