This is an election year in Bulgaria and campaigning is sure to include the aggressive and the bizarre – but it is sad to record that with the distasteful antics of Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalists Ataka, it already includes the disgraceful.
This week, on the January 10 anniversary of one of the harshest days of bombing of Sofia during World War 2, Siderov and his election allies from the VMRO led a little band of their cohorts to hold a protest outside the United States embassy in Sofia, demanding the dismantling of a monument to the airmen who lost their lives in that war. Further, Siderov’s goons demanded that compensation be paid by Washington to the families of Bulgarians killed and injured during the 1943 bombing campaign.
This is cheap politicking at its worst, though in the years since 2005 when Ataka first emerged on to Bulgaria’s national political scene, nothing better can be expected of them.
Loss of civilian life in war is deeply regrettable, to say the least, and even at this remove any feeling person would have the greatest sympathy for the victims.
One may also have the greatest respect for those who put their lives at risk in the cause of freedom and democracy. Those Americans and all in the Allied armies intent on destroying Hitlerism deserve the respect and gratitude shown to them at the memorials not only in Sofia, but throughout Europe and the world.
Siderov says that he wants the memorial of the US airmen removed and instead one placed to honour the memory to the Bulgarian civilians who died in the attacks from the air. The idea of the latter memorial is highly praiseworthy; it is also not Siderov’s, because it has been a talking point for years. The Bulgarian capital’s city councillors should finally get such a project underway, while the rest of us wonder whether Siderov ever will come up with an original thought generally palatable in Bulgarian society.
Every year around Remembrance Day, a service is held at Sofia Cemetery to pay respects to the dead of the wars of the 20th century. Former foes, figuratively, join hands in these commemorations. The service reminds us all of how far Europe has come since those terrible long years of war, and what this continent still could grow to be. That service in Sofia cemetery is attended by senior Bulgarian representatives, including military officers.
Bulgarians of honour – meaning, the overwhelmingly vast majority of people of this country – understand what respect means and hopefully at this distance most people will accept that the Bulgarians who fell in war were ultimately the victims of a tragedy with fascism at its roots and aggravated by motive forces that held force majeure over the regime in Sofia at the time.
We look forward to the day that the monument to Bulgarian civilians is unveiled and we live in the day that Bulgaria dwells in the reality and security of its modern-day allies. Those who protested against the monument to the airmen did not dishonour Bulgaria because their petty hysterics are not capable of doing so; and we await Bulgaria’s judgment on their conduct in the election.
(Aerial photo: USAF)