Ivan D. Hristov

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THE OUTLAW

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MANOLE MACRELATA

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VALCHAN’S SWING

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DESTINY

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THE CROSS SIGN

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THE ORDEAL

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THE ORDEAL

THE REFUGEE

Translated by: Росица Шопска

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Staiko’s life became entangled and twisted into a firm knot after the Ilinden uprising, when one day in spring he set off to run away with his family across the border of Rozhen to independent Bulgaria.

In the dark they came to the Turkish guardpost. They were afraid of being noticed and sent back. The mule bells were stuck with grass so they could not be heard. The spruces stretched out their dark shadows in the moon light. There was a tied dog in front of the guardpost. The solier on duty was not seen, he was probably sleeping in the guardhouse. They stiffened in place for fear that the dog would start barking at them. It miraculously stared at them and did not move. They crossed the border running. They sighed with relief and climbed down the slopes of the mountain. They headed for Gorovo, where at that time refugees settled down. In the place of the abandoned by the Turks village in the past, new houses were now emerging.

Stayko arrived in Gorovo with his wife Kera and their three children. The refugees who had come before him gave him land to build a house and a garden, under the high overhanging rocks, where the echo answered the bagpiper’s song.

Staiko did not leave his bagpipe. When he whistled and sang, people stopped working and listened to him dreaming. The inhabitants of Gorovo met him with good, because a bagpiper came to their village, and he would rejoice their souls.

Soon new refugees built houses next to theirs - the Spilkovi brothers and their sister Petra, still not married. Both of the brothers were once members in Captain Petko’s band.

Staiko and Kera thought that in Gorovo they would live a better life, but their hearts were in anguish - because of the border they could not go and see their relatives. With his bagpipe Stayko tried to drown his sadness on the rocky peaks and hills. He always began and finished playing with the song about the sad foreign land.

Autumn fogs came. The northerner blew. The first snow fell on the grownd. Stayko watched that Kera became more and more depressed every day; for almost a year now she had no news from her relatives. If she were a bird, she would have flown to her native Dereke, to see her mother and relieve her sadness.

The long winter passed. Spring came to the mountain. The meadows grew green, the forest came into leaf. Easter was approaching. On Good Thursday, Kera rolled up her sleeves and kneaded a special Easter bread, she stuck in it and painted eggs for health and fortune. Early on Saturday, she put the bread in a new colorful bag. She sent Stayko to the village of Dereke to visit the church and to see their relatives.

“Give my love to mum. May she be healthy! Tell her that I miss her and the village,” Kera said.

Staiko had to cross the border in the evening, to stay for two days in the village of Dereke, and to go back to

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