Computer tales and a brave and wonderful man!

Now I understand how to send mailing group message from Gmail but have it show my BIU address, I can finally send this message, written on the 24th. Its subject line, now doubly inaccurate, was:
“Ruth and David at Sofia railway station on the way to Vratza! (sent the next morning from Vratza)”
Well, it took me over a week to rediscover what I knew on the 20th’ but better later than never!

Dear RRR
Quite amazing, what one can do these days with a computer and a hotspot… (see subject line above)
Excellent trip by train from Kyustendil, although it was a little sunny where we were sitting – we just missed sitting on the shady side, but the reason why we arrived 15 minutes later than we had originally intended was that we got lucky.
I’ll tell you a little story:
Very close to our hotel in Kyustendil is a “house-museum” dedicated to Dimitar Peshev.
He was a remarkable man from Kyustendil, who in 1943 helped save some 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation and extermination.

I have reproduced a few passages from the Wikipedia entry below.
We didn”t manage to visit this small museum at the beginning of our time in Kyustendil, and when we wanted to go, it was closed – Monday, Tuesday – and we felt very sad at the idea of not being able to visit it. This morning, our last in Kyustendil, it was still closed at 9, so we went to draw out some money from the ATM. And joy of joys, on our way back the museum was open! Fortunately most of the exhibits were labelled in English as well as Bulgarian.
We were very moved by the exhibition, and discovered that Kyustendil had a synagogue pre-war. We were not the only Israelis to visit, as we saw from the guest book. There was one entry by a woman who wrote in Hebrew that she wouldn’t be here were it not for Peshev.
Two shekels got us to the railway station by taxi, although the lady driver”s boot (trunk…) was full of I know not what and my large suitcase had to go in the front passenger seat…
At the Sofia railway station we were observed with great interest as we ate our picnic lunch by a bunch of kids travelling with a couple of adults. One was convinced that England was much more beautiful than Bulgaria: I politely disagreed. I told them that although I was from England, I live in Israel. They knew where it was, they said. Where in Israel? Jerusalem. A young man with very careful English observed that living in Jerusalem must be very interesting. I shared with him the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times…”
It was nice to see the children get out their skipping ropes and skipping. Our local “character” – an American nicknamed Skippy – would have loved it.

As we stood by the rather steep and fast escalator, debating whether to risk it or use the stairs, we were approached by that rare breed – a porter! Not only did he manage both suitcases at the same time, he knew where to go and how to get up to our platform by lift. He seemed somewhat surprised that we didn’t have reservations, but the lady at Kyustendil station who sold us two through tickets to Vratza via Sofia for the princely sum of 10.40 leva – about NIS 26 – didn”t say a thing about booking. But fortunately there seems to be enough room…
Of course porters who appear magically know how to turn the situation to their advantage. Basing ourselves on the 2 leva for the taxi fare, David offered the man 1 leva. This, he made clear, was far from satisfactory. Eventually he got his way. A cup of tea at our Vratsa hotel costs 1 leva… He got the 5 leva he was demanding.
We are now off to our next port of call – a wonderfully situated town called Vratza 110 kilometers north of Sofia.

” Located in the heart of the Balkan mountain, famous for its divine nature, Vratza, as it was written in a newspaper in 1858, is a place “…where the mountain starts from the main square. This unique combination of urban and mountain areas makes the town a perfect tourist spot. One of its greatest advantages is the opportunity to visit so many natural, cultural and historical sights in such a small region.”



Role in the Jewish deportation

Peshev was a good friend of Bulgaria’s Jewish community. However, he had not objected to the institution of the “Law for the Defense of the Nation” (ZZN), an anti-Jewish bill. In the beginning of March 1943, the Jews of Kyustendil were ordered by the Commissariat on the Jewish Issues to leave their homes with only a few belongings. Understanding the implications of this order, the citizens of Kyustendil appointed a delegation to ask the government to repeal this evacuation order.[1] On March 8, 1943, the delegation marched into Dimitar Peshev’s office. One of the delegates, Peshev’s Jewish friend, Jakob Baruch, informed him of the government’s plan to deport the Jews. At first, Peshev thought Baruch’s words to be untrue until he called several high government officials who confirmed the rumor. By the morning of March 9, Peshev had made up his mind to halt the deportations.

Peshev tried several times to see Bogdan Filov but the prime minister refused. Next, he and his close friend and colleague, Peter Mikhalev, went to see Interior Minister Petur Gabrovski insisting that he cancel the deportations. After much persuasion, Gabrovski finally called the governor of Kyustendil and instructed him to stop preparations for the Jewish deportations. By 5:30 p.m. on March 9, the order had been cancelled.[2] However, the order did not reach all the Bulgarian cities on time and, on the morning of March 10, police began to round up Jews in Thrace and Macedonia.

Once Peshev learned about this, he wrote a letter to Filov on March 19 which aimed to prevent any future anti-Jewish legislation in Bulgaria. He, along with the Kyustendil delegates, got 43 government deputies to sign the letter. These signatures were only from members of the pro-government majority so that no one could accuse Peshev of acting against the government.

Even under the pressure from Prime Minister, who was furious at Peshev’s letter, 30 of the deputies refused to withdraw their signatures. As a result, Peshev was censured and dismissed from his position of Assembly Vice-chairman on March 24.

Righteous Among the Nations

Peshev’s deeds went unrecognized for years after the war as he lived an empty, destitute and isolated life. In January 1973, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, awarded him the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” for his role in saving Bulgaria’s Jews at considerable risk to himself. He is one of eighteen Bulgarians so officially honored. He died that same year and has only been since recognized by Bulgaria as having performed a great service to humanity during the war years.

When asked about his rationale for preventing the Jewish deportation, Peshev once stated: “My human conscience and my understanding of the fateful consequences both for the people involved and the policy of our country now and in the future did not allow me to remain idle. And I decided to do all in my power to prevent what was being planned from happening; I knew that this action was going to shame Bulgaria in the eyes of the world and brand her with a stain she didn’t deserve.”[4]

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