The crimes and political violence of Bulgaria’s former totalitarian regime must be remembered to prevent them being repeated, Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva said on May 30 at a ceremony to honour the victims of the communist regime at the former Persin Island prison camp in Belene.
More than 2300 people were imprisoned on the forced labour camp island in the first years of Bulgaria’s communist regime, which used it again in the 1980s to imprison Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity who resisted the campaign to force them to change their names to Bulgarian ones.
Tsacheva said that it was a place marked by violence and grisly examples of callousness and cruelty.
“For decades, every day the moral principles and faith of thousands of people were subjected to trial,” she said.
“In the months and the years of imprisonment thousands of people have sought their way to preserving their own dignity in the face of anonymous and unpunished cruelty. This island has witnessed violence, perversion and betrayal, the lowest human degradation can reach, but also real examples of heroism and solidarity,” Tsacheva said.
The place had been conceived as a laboratory of repression of individuality, as a sinister weapon against representatives of the opposition and threat against anyone who opposed the totalitarian regime.
“It was here that the older prisoners, saving the lives of the young, created a bridge that goes beyond the islands of political violence. Faith and dignity of those who saved the lives of others, build the foundations of this bridge, which gives us strength to continue forward, to prevent ever more Bulgarians to be victims of political violence,” she said.
After the democratic changes, the victims of the democratic regime, those who survived the concentration camps, forgave their executioners even though the executioners had not asked for forgiveness, Tsacheva said.
The former prisoners and those repressed by the totalitarian regime wanted to end the spiral of hatred, fear and violence through which totalitarianism robbed human life.
“They answered them with oblivion, with replacement of the memory of the hundreds killed and hundreds of thousands whose lives and destinies were destroyed,” Tsacheva said.
“But we choose to remember,” Tsacheva said, “remembering the crimes and the political violence so that they do not happen again”.
Bulgaria chose the rule of law over political violence in all its forms.
“We choose to preserve the memory of the fallen and convey their honour to the next generations as a bulwark of democracy and protection of human dignity.
“And on this our choice depends how we will continue to build our national community. By collective and guilty oblivion, or as a complete and decent community of memory,” Tsacheva said.