Bulgarian President honours memory of victims of communism, role of Pope John Paul II in fighting totalitarianism
At a series of ceremonies, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has paid tribute to the memory of the victims of communism and to the role of religion against totalitarianism in Bulgaria’s communist era.
Among the ceremonies was the unveiling of a monument to Pope John Paul II in Belene in northern Bulgaria, site of the one of the most notorious concentration camps where Bulgaria’s communist regime persecuted people.
The events in which Plevneliev took part on November 15 came as Bulgaria celebrates a quarter-century since the fall of the Zhivkov communist regime, with Plevneliev as patron of the 25 Years Free Bulgaria campaign.
Plevneliev laid flowers at a memorial plaque at a building in the Belene former concentration camp and visited the derelict buildings of the former concentration on the island of Persin.
Describing Persin as a “sinister island”, he noted that it was there that part of the Bulgarian elite had died in the early years of the communist era.
He said that it made possible an understanding of the importance of being together as a community.
“The communist state manipulated the past to divide us, but history shows that justice and community are based on the truth,” Plevneliev said.
At the unveiling of the monument to John Paul II, he said that religion was one of the main enemies of a totalitarian community and people who would not give it up had been persecuted.
The ceremony also honoured the memory of Evgenyi Bosilkov, Kamen Vichev, Pavel Djidjov and Yosafat Shishkov, Bulgarian martyrs to their faith when they were killed at the hands of the Bulgarian Communist Party regime.
Plevneliev said that the monument would stand as an eternal symbol of faith and good.
He highlighted the important role that Pope John Paul II played in the fight of millions of Eastern Europeans for freedom and dignity.
Plevneliev recalled the Pope’s boldness and his words uttered to the then incumbent government of Poland: “I have the feeling that the whole country has become a concentration camp.” Generations of East-Europeans lived with this feeling, the President said.
He said that through their personal experiences, Bosilkov, Vichev, Dzhidzhov and Shishkov were among those Bulgarians whose ruined lives are powerful symbols of the blasphemous times.
“I believe that the truth about the communist regime should be remembered. However I even more sincerely and strongly believe that we should narrate the experiences of the people who did not choose resignation but dignity,” Plevneliev said.