Dimitar Peshev

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Yossif Kioso
Chairman of the Union of Immigrants from Bulgaria to Israel
at the solemn celebration of Dimitar Peshev
Sofia, November 6th 1998

Distinguished guests, distinguished deputies from Italy, distinguished cabinet ministers, distinguished members of parliament!

My dear President of Bulgaria's National Assembly, Mr. Sokolov, let me thank you for the invitation which was extended to me to attend this event here today. Such invitation is very important for the Bulgarian community in Israel, a community of immigrants residing now in their free motherland. I appreciate the great honour whlch you and your colleagues have bestowed upon me by giving me this opportunity to address this forum here today.

I owe this honour and respect to my brothers and sisters who used to live freely in Bulgaria for hundreds of years and used to share the fate of Bulgaria's population in times of hardship. During the first years of democracy in Bulgaria right after the Ottoman domination, you provided the Jewry with an opportunity of setting up their own educational system and granted the community the freedom of religion. Youth organisations and sports clubs were established. We were free to observe our festivals while heartily celebrating the festivals of the Bulgarian people as well. Even before our state was established, we used to march along the streets of the Bulgarian towns under our blue and white flag, which was saluted by the heads of state.

I do not think, my dear Mr. Chairman, that you have invited me here to make a historical analysis. Mr. Nissim made such analysis much better than I would - an analysis of what Mr. Dimitar Peshev of Kyustendil and his fellows did, an analysis of the role played by the Bulgarian church and by the citizens of Bulgaria, an analysis of everything they did back then to rescue us from extermination. For us this is not just history, this is our fate.

When I visited the crematorium at Treisenschtadt and saw the small cartons containing the ashes of the victims cremated there, all neatly arranged with that horrible German accuracy, with a name inscribed on each carton, it occurred to me that for myself, the 5-year old at the time of the war, just a little matchbox would have been enough. It seems to me I must have been extremely lucky I was born here. When I visited the concentration camps I saw where our last abode was destined to be.

It was the old deep-rooted traditions and the conventional upbringing in the spirit of hospitality and Iove of men that instigated the Bulgarian people to block with their bodies the roads to the deathcamps of the Nazi machine. Those, who had suffered the hardships of enslavement, knew well how to safeguard their fellow citizens from the Nazi folly.

Dimitar Peshev's deed, a feat repeated by the entire Bulgarian community, was an isolated separate occurrence in all of Europe. This makes our indebtedness to the Bulgarian nation a most profound one indeed.

When our State of lsrael was set up, we left Bulgaria together, all of us just like a single man, in order to support our new-born state and not because we were afraid or because we had yielded to any pressure. This was the result of our Bulgarian upbringing to hold dear freedom and national assertion, it was after all a manifestation of the dream cherished by many a generation to value autonomous education and freedom, a dream that you have reared us with. It is not strange therefore that we were growing as the State of lsrael was maturing, whereas, however, our roots remained here, deep inside of Bulgaria. Bulgaria which we do Iove and have been praying for, praying that it would go through these times of hardships and stabilise its economy.

To Bulgaria, this truly sacred land which reared and nourished us in the continuance of manifold years and centuries we do wish from the bottoms of our hearts to take its well-deserved place among the large family of nations. Thank you very much!

Other speeches at the celebration:
• Yordan Sokolov (introduction)
• Ivan Kurtev
• Alexander Bozhkov (reading a message from Ivan Kostov)
• Ivan Kurtev (reading letters from Colombo and Yasharov)
• Gabriele Nissim
• Dario Rivolta
• Nando Dalla Chiesa
• Pierluigi Petrini
• Dan Tikhon
• Yordan Sokolov (conclusion)

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