Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive
Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive


Who was Sava Popov? The Unlocking of an Archive

August in Paris

Sava Popov and Iliya Beshkov found themselves in the French capital at the same time. Beshkov had arrived after winning a competition for a one-year specialized course, and Popov intended to get his documents in order to set out for South America. Beshkov wrote to his relatives that the Ministry had left them without money, that he felt anxious, and that he did not like the atmosphere. In Sava Popov’s letters to the Chipev family, one can sense that he was also depressed by the pre-war atmosphere.

From the memoirs of Sava Popov about his conversations with Beshkov in Paris, 1939

“Walking through the Paris streets at night, we spoke more about Bulgaria. The Parisian scenery sometimes only served as a reason for us to change the topic. Returning to the hotel late one evening, we stopped in a pub, a garden restaurant to drink a glass a beer and to relax a little. Young couples sat at several tables in the establishment. Some were talking quietly, others, holding hands, looking at each other with love and affection, while others still were embracing and kissing with less restraint, having forgotten the world around. Iliya understands both the youth and the human desires and manners of this city, liberated from many conventions. He smiles indulgently and says, ‘In our country, in the villages, women don’t go to pubs. At most, someone who’s fiercer with her husband will go up to the threshold to call him. Our pubs are places for men’s business. Our entire social, political, cultural, and economic life runs through them. They discuss politics there, elect their mayors and people’s representatives. And field-keepers, cattlemen and swineherds, church and school trustees, teachers and tax collector secretaries are appointed…’”

(Sava Popov’ personal notes, undated)
9 August 1939, Sofia

Dear Sava,

Sia just read your long letter. I’m upset and astonished that you can be so discouraged. Nothing worthwhile comes easily! You should not lose courage. Surely in 10 – 15 days everything will fall into place and you will forget about all the bad things you’ve experienced so far. It is my  heartfelt wish that your departure from France be arranged as soon as possible. Cordial greetings from me and Asya.

Aunt Anka

Keep your head up, Sava!

Haven’t you realized by now that everything will work out, albeit with a lot of obstacles? That everything good – and you yourself know that what you dream of is very good – is difficult to arrange. But it’s being arranged! Is it right, dear boy, for you to despair? But I am quite confident that in the 15–20 days you’ll spend in Paris, everything will turn out the way you want it. You will try everything possible. All this is a terrible absurdity, but you already know it from Bulgaria. How sad I am that we are not by your side now. Things would be completely different!

If we could talk, you would feel better. How many times have you given me courage and tried to inspire me with faith in the future. Don’t be disheartened! Your letter quite upset me. Don’t sit in silence and experience everything alone. Since you have no one there except Iliya and “the Philosopher,” confide in them. I assure you that you will feel better. Even if they don’t understand you. Once you come out and say it, it begins to seem less frightening. Try it! I know that Iliya is egotistical and he reserves the right to be the only one to suffer and complain – but complain to him, too. I believe it will be easier. Walk around Paris, distract yourself as much as possible. Don’t remain alone when things are hard for you. In such moments, people help. Even the unpleasant ones.

And then finally, you’ll do what’s possible in the present moment. And for everything beautiful and good, there’s time and it will come. And I am so confident in you. You will succeed! And the greater the stumbling blocks, the greater the good that awaits you. You know that good things come slowly. How I wish I could be with you. To cheer you up! Banish these dark and frightening thoughts! (They don’t suit you!) I was so happy this morning when I saw these three envelopes in the mailbox, and then they caused me so much grief. Everything will get better! Aren’t there still some little doors that just seem to be closed? Take a good look around! But first calm down, rest, and start to act again, fresh once more. You will see that that you got upset and despaired like this for naught. Distance, damn it, is a scary thing. Now I would like to be a bird – and yet I remain Sia, firmly bound between the walls of my home – a prison! I hope that my faith and my good thoughts and wishes reach you. There is so much spirit and freedom around you – there. Draw from it.

I advise you seriously, rest for a while, walk, relax, you have a great opportunity, don’t think about past failures and “bad luck,” and then, when you have rested, refreshed, think carefully and apply yourself anew. Look at Stoyan Mihailovski!?

I stopped for a bit. Around 1 o’clock in the night I had guests. Filip and Mitko Bukureshtliev. I had to meet them, to make them coffee and chat, and I’m very sorry they interrupted me. It would have been better if they hadn’t come. You, however, are not sorry that I’m here. I’m impatiently looking forward to a nice and very happy letter from you. Be cheerful and healthy and have faith in your good future. Your strength and faith in goodness will not perish in the wind! Take care of your health! I wish you success from the bottom of my heart! Many greetings and kisses from Bebo and Maria. Be strong.

I repeat:

Be strong – without being a German!
Be proud – without being an Englishman!
Be human – as you are – in order to be what you are! Keep your head up, you will proudly conquer!


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