12/05/2016 Ralitsa Stoyanova Gallery

A Walk Around the Women’s Places of Old Sofia

Did you know that the monument of the Soviet Army was created by a woman? Its creator is the sculptor Vaska Emanuilova. The architect of the Sofia Library and Slaveikov Square is also a woman – Victoria Angelova – Vinarova who won the library project competition when she was just 24 years old. I learned this information during one of the so-called Feminist walks. The event has been periodically held since the eight of March last year and its hostesses are lecturers and students from Sofia University’s “MATILDA – History of women and sexes” master program.     

The walk begins in the early Sunday afternoon in front of the garden next to the Parliament, runs for about two hours, and ends in front of the National theater. The tour guides show curious visitors around key places related to women in Bulgarian history and art. Some of the ladies, such as the above mentioned, are not particularly known to the general public. One of these ladies is Tsvetana Sabeva – Rasheva, a dentist, who in 1941 donated her house on 15 Khan Krum street for the establishment of the Bulgarian Bibliographic Institute.

The organizers of these tours want to put in the limelight women who contributed to Bulgarian history since leading characters in the textbooks are predominantly men. Even if you don’t have a particular attitude towards feminism, you will undoubtedly get interested by the “women’s” stories which the girl-guides tell.  

Imperceptibly, we reach 9 Graf Ignatiev street where Julia Marinova’s home is situated. We all know who Alexander Malinov is, but I, personally, only now learn that his wife was a founding member and a longtime Chairwoman of the Bulgarian Women’s Union, editor of Woman’s Voice magazine, and a member of the board of directors of the Bulgarian Red Cross.    

Of course, we pass by Elisavetha Bagriana’s house who needs no introduction. Our guide, however,  draws our attention to the fact that during her time, women writers had to rely not only on their talent, but also on the protection of a male mentor. For Bagriana, this role was played by Boyan Penev who was also her great love. His ex-wife, the infamous Dora Gabe, on the other hand, was patronized by Peyo Yavorov in her first writing steps. While Lora Karavelova sadly remains famous mostly for her tragic love with Yavorov, at her mother’s grave behind the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi church, we learn that Ekaterina Karavelova was a founder of the Bulgarian Women’s Union and participated in the establishment of the Jewish Protection Committee.     

In front of the National theater, our lady-guide tells us about Eugenia Mars whose plays were put on its stage. Ivan Vazov’s close friend was a chairwoman of the Bulgarian Women Writers club, but remained mostly in Vazov’s shadow.       

Information about the next Feminist walk tours can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/FeministWalkingTour/?fref=ts. I strongly recommend spending two hours in the company of women who left a lasting impression on the history of the city.