Dimitar Peshev

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Ivan Kurtev
Vice President of the National Assembly
at the solemn celebration of Dimitar Peshev
Sofia, November 6th 1998

Invited to attend this commemorative ceremony was also Mr. Colombo, a member of the Italian Parliament, who, unfortunately, has been unable to arrive. Unable to attend, for reasons of health, is also the son of attorney Yossif Yasharov who defended Dimitar Peshev before the people's court. However, both of them have sent letters to the President of the National Assembly, Mr. Sokolov, and I will allow myself to read them out to you.

'The Honourable Yordan Sokolov, the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria

My dear Mr. President,
I would like to thank you for the honour you have bestowed upon me by extending me an invitation to attend the ceremonious session in commemoration of Dimitar Peshev to be held on November 6, 1998 in the Parliament of the Republic of Bulgaria.

I am extremely sorry that I will be unable to meet with You, with the other invitees and with everyone attending the ceremony. Alas, some unforeseen and pressing obligations of political nature compel me to remain in Italy on this date. Anyway, my willingness to attend will be actualised at least symbolically.

I have asked my friend and parliamentarian in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Dario Rivolta, to present the text of the speech which I have written and would deliver had I been able to attend the solemn session.

Please, accept my sincerest and cordial regards.

Furio Colombo.'

I will also read out to you selected excerpts from Mr. Yasharov's letter. Unfortunately, I am unable to read out the entire letter since it is a rather lengthy one, but I can assure you it is an exquisite letter, indeed. Mr. Yasharov wrote, inter alia:

'I have been waiting all my life for the day to dawn when it would be possible to publicise the true story of the rescuing of Bulgaria's Jewry, as well as to express deep gratitude and pay a fitting tribute to the chivalrous Bulgarian parliamentarian Dimitar Peshev.

I am one of those Bulgarian Jews who owe their lives to Dimitar Peshev, being the son of the late attorney Yossif Yasharov who defended Dimitar Peshev before the people's court and saved him from a death sentence. I happen also to be the only Bulgarian Jew in the United States who has for years now, by way of publications in the American press and by historic co-operation with the Holocaust Museum in Washington, been trying to acquaint the American public with the fact that it was Dimitar Peshev's courageous intervention that actually saved all Jews within the erstwhile boundaries of Bulgaria from being put to heinous death in the Nazi extermination camps.

Although I am not physically among you, my thoughts and emotions will be with you while paying this official tribute to the noble deed and the heroic feat of this prominent Bulgarian.

I consider this solemn commemorative session of the National Assembly to be a sweeping victory of justice, a posthumous victory of Dimitar Peshev himself, a moral victory of his family and kin and a triumph of those of us, the beholden Bulgarian Jews, who have been trying for years now to convince the world community that it was Dimitar Peshev and not Todor Zhivkov who was particularly deserving of judicious praise for the rescue of Bulgaria's Jewry.

Dimitar Peshev had to live in dire poverty and isolation, doomed by the communists to a kind of domestic displacement, without a house of his own, disbarred from exercising his profession, deprived of the right to communicate.

We, the rescued Bulgarian Jews, will never forget our revered Dimitar Peshev. We spent years on end in trying to extend some financial assistance to him from lsrael. Alas, thanks to the communists again, those efforts of ours attained very little success. Currently, however, even though much too late and even if posthumously, we, Bulgarian Jews, in concert with Jews and non-Jews in a number of countries inclusive of Bulgaria, the United States, Italy and so forth, have been implementing an enterprising iniziative designed to set up an international foundation in memory of Dimitar Peshev, whose purpose will be to immortalise the truly heroic, genuinely humanitarian and definitely unprecedented for the period of World War II feat performed by this great Bulgarian.'

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

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