The Plovdiv public figure and chairman of Plovdiv Civil Club, Luka Stanchev, in an interview with FOCUS News Agency. For eight years Luka Stanchev, Plovdiv Civil Club and Plovdiv Revival Foundation have organized open-air events on the Island of Saint Achilles which have featured prominent Bulgarian artists.
FOCUS: Mr. Stanchev, how will Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev’s visit to Greece affect the relations between the two countries in the area of culture?
Luka Stanchev: I am sure it will be beneficial, especially in a moment when Greece needs moral support in these hard times. We should forget and leave the old things aside. Life develops, times change, we should not live with the old; we should live in the 21 century. There are two things the President’s visit will help, in my opinion. I think the issue of Bulgaria’s recovering the relics of tsar Samuil will be set in motion. The politicians should reach an agreement. It is very important to us. The relics of tsar Samuil were discovered by a prominent Greek scientist, archeologist – professor Nikolaos Mitsopulos, who examined them also in the Soviet Union. His claims (and he is a Greek from Athens, not from Northern Greece so that we could say he is of Bulgarian origin) make us quite certain that these are the relics of a great Bulgarian tsar indeed. I hope we will have an opportunity to renovate tsar Samuil’s grave. The Greeks maintain the basilica on the Island of Saint Achilles, but the grave is not in a very good condition. The arch might fall; it has already got detached from the wall. I hope these issues will be solved after the visit. In addition, perhaps it will be possible to prevent people from neighboring Macedonia from erasing the notice on the basilica of tsar Samuil. What is more important is to put a notice on the grave itself – “This is the grave of Samuil. Tsar of Bulgarians.” Outside it is written in Greek and English that the basilica was built by Samuil – tsar of Bulgarians. The notice does not have to be in Bulgarian; we, in Bulgaria, do not put notices in Greek. There are international standards; it is enough for it to be in Greek and English.
FOCUS: What else will the President’s visit help?
Luka Stanchev: Another issue I hope will be solved is the establishment of an honorary Bulgarian consulate in the city of Florina. The city is close to Prespa, tsar Samuil’s grave is in this region. The city is near (30 km away from) Bitola, which also holds much historical Bulgarian memory; a student’s and very nice and beautiful city. An honorary Bulgarian consul would be very suitable; of course, not a Bulgarian, but a Greek, for example. I have recently been in Florina and I interviewed the former district governor of Florina, Pavlos Altinis. He is a prominent lawyer with fondness for Bulgaria, a cosmopolitan with Greek identity who is quite aware of his origin. I hope an honorary Bulgarian consulate in Florina will give impetus to the Bulgarian-Greek relations. The city of Kastoria is close, so is the city of Edessa. An honorary consulate can give Bulgaria an opportunity for a lot of cultural events. There is already strong Bulgarian presence on the Island of Saint Achilles. For eight years the Plovdiv Civil Club, Plovdiv Revival Foundation and I have organized open-air events there. Some of Bulgaria’s greatest artists and sculptors, such as Gancho Karabadzhakov, Valchan Petrov and others, were there. Their plastic arts made of marble and wood and related with the historical memory are there and the scores of tourists can enjoy them. The honorary consulate is a very important issue to Bulgaria which will both strengthen the Bulgarian-Greek friendship and give an opportunity to enhance it in some other areas. After two years of talks Greece is ready to discuss the issue, which should be developed by the President’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This would be a very serious breakthrough in the Bulgarian-Greek ties.
FOCUS: What cultural events do you organize this summer together with Greece?
Luka Stanchev: Right now Greece is not quite ready to meet some big cultural events. In a hard economic and financial moment when everything is austerity the people in Greece are very worried and troubled by what is going on and you cannot expect something else. We plan to develop the relations between the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv and the city of Florina, as well as between Plovdiv and Kastoria; moreover, Plovdiv and Kastoria are twin cities. I hope the new local government in the city of Plovdiv will develop these relations and this will give impetus to our ideas. I hope we will set up a gallery, an art center, on the Island of Saint Achilles where Bulgarian artists will be presented at one place, a place that is so beautiful that you can say that it is kissed by God.
Can you imagine what it will be like, if we accept tsar Samuil’s bones in Bulgaria, if we build a mausoleum of a great Bulgarian tsar in Sofia; what is more, Samuil is related with Sofia – Gate of Trojan and so on. Serdika was in Samuil’s kingdom. The place where the throne of the Serdika metropolitan bishop was is outlined in the basilica on the Island of Saint Achilles. If this happens, it will be something unheard in Bulgaria. Imagine what it will be for the Bulgarian-Greek relations, but this will give an opportunity to solve other Balkan disputes we do not talk about. Archeologists, historians and other scientists cannot do this; politicians should reach an agreement.