Vasil Samokovliev

* 1946

  • “To study Czech meant to be a counter-revolutionary. We were all under scrutiny. Just the fact that we were rooting for Czechs and Czechoslovakia was dangerous in itself. But to return to that year of 1968 - all my guides were students of Czech or people who had lived or studied here, and we had a lovely sense of camaraderie going on. We went on trips, the tourists bathed or shopped, we chatted, made jokes, flirted, the way things are among young people. But then came 21 August 1968. I came to my group of tourists in the morning, I greeted them ‘good morning, how did you sleep, how is your breakfast...’ And they were crying. I didn’t understand what was going on. They were listening to the radio and swearing. So I found out that Czechoslovakia had been attacked by Russian tanks. They were to fly home that day, but they didn’t, they had to stay a few more days...”

  • “Suddenly they offered us an internship in Prague, and that was the turning point. It was laughably cheap at the time. As a good student from a poor family, I received a scholarship fee of 30 leva, which was 270 crowns. We travelled to Prague through Romania, we only went through the Socialist bloc. We arrived tired, sleepy... And suddenly we stepped out into Masaryk Station. We were amazed. There was a glass roof over the station, tramcars outside, stained-glass windows, and beautiful people - kind, lighter, merry, long-legged girls in miniskirts. We were thrilled. Then they took us by tram to the student hall in Větrník. Compared to our quarters in Bulgaria, it was a three-star hotel: a room for two, bedding, and a radio. There was a toilet and a kitchen at the end of the corridor. We all felt like we were in paradise.”

  • “Most Bulgarians believed the Russians. Thanks to propaganda. People believed that the Russians had to save our camp and that there was the danger of counter-revolution. Otherwise only the intelligentsia reacted. A few writers protested the invasion and lost their membership in the Writers’ Union. Rally only a few artists reacted to it. Otherwise Bulgarians saw it as correct Soviet policy, to save the camp. [Q: And you, students of Czech, who a more personal attachment to Czechoslovakia, what opinion did you have?] We were rooting for the Czechs. As you became more experienced, you could see that the Socialsm they were forcing on us so much was a utopia. That it couldn’t happen. The things that Dubček wanted - Socialism with a human face - that showed more promise.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 22.06.2017

    duration: 02:00:24
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

They brainwashed us with Communism from childhood

1986 Vasil Samokovliev
1986 Vasil Samokovliev
photo: archiv pamětníka

Vasil Samokovliev was born on 22 July 1946 in Bulgaria, into a Greco-Bulgarian family in the city of Pomorie by the Black Sea. A year after his birth Bulgaria was seized by the Communist Party, which both of his parents joined, although his father was expelled many years later. After attending primary school, the Communists chose the talented Vasil for a language school, where he was to learn French. However, he did not want to learn the language of capitalists and insisted on learning Russian. And so he attended the Russian grammar school in Plovdiv. In the mid-1960s he was accepted to study the Czech language - a university programme that only accepted 15 students from the whole of Bulgaria. In 1967 he visited Prague for the first time and was enamoured. During the holidays he worked as a guide in Sunny Beach, where he perfected his Czech thanks to Czech tourists. He experienced the dramatic August 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia with them as well, as the tourists had difficulties returning home due to the closed borders. His Czech friends introduced him to the idea of a liberalised society, which was unthinkable in pro-Soviet Bulgaria. From 1970 he visited his friends in Czechoslovakia regularly. In 1996 he and his wife Tatiana immigrated to Prague. He worked at travel agencies and has translated over twenty Czech books into Bulgarian, including the works of Vladislav Vančura and Bohumil Hrabal.