‘I think of Bulgaria, I dream of you. Bulgaria and you are my two mistresses - one of my mind and life, the other of my feelings and my heart. Both of you are equally dear to me, equally needed, equally the most important drives in my life. Tearing either of you from my heart means tearing a part of me, crippling myself.’ These are the words of the financier, patriot and ideologist of the Bulgarian bourgeoisie Atanas Burov. We start the story precisely with this introduction because it hints to the mark he left in Plovdiv and particularly in Kapana.
Born in 1875 in Gorna Oryahovitsa, he was one of the most highly educated Bulgarians of his time. Apart from being a prominent banker, he was elected as a representative of the People’s party a few times. He was also the founder of the First Bulgarian insurance company ‘Bulgaria’, which was later under the control of his son.
Going back to Kapana’s history, we came across the mark of the Minister of foreign affairs after the 9 June coup d'etat. One of the most influential Bulgarians of the last century was a member of the government of Ivan Bagryanov, whose life was connected to Plovdiv. After the 1944 coup d'etat, Burov was arrested and convicted by the People’s court to one year in prison. However, two years after he was released, in 1947, he vocally expressed his disagreement with Nicola Georgiev’s death sentence, which the communist government thought punishable and he was arrested again. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. First, he was taken to Dryanovo, and then he was moved to the concentration camp near Dulovo. In 1950 Burov was moved again, this time to the prison in Pazardzhik, where years later he found his death.
Officially, he is believed to have been buried in a mass grave at the end of the Armenian cemetery in Pazardzhik. After that his daughter and wife buried him separately and put a cross on his grave. However, it appears that this is not exactly the way it was. Burov’s story is still alive in Plovdiv and is told from mouth to mouth by his heirs and family friends. Georgi Tomov is the story’s living memory and he tells us about the recollections of his mother and grandmother, they having been friends and neighbours of the banker. According to his grandmother’s stories, Burov’s body wasn’t buried, but burned with the coals in the prison furnaces. Forced, the convicted threw the politician’s body in the coal furnace. The cause of death is not clear, but there are a few theories. The storyteller Tomov shares: ‘The communists say he was buried in a mass grave, but that’s complete rubbish, something fabricated. I know what I’ve learned from my elders and this is written nowhere in the books. ’
Georgi, who is nearly 70 years old, said that Atanas Burov was an extremely active person, as his biography says, but the banker exceeded the stories about himself. Other than that, he was also a great lover. Burov loved women, as much as he loved his country, but he was very delicate in the relations he had. Being a married man, he skillfully covered his extramarital relations and he never visited a hotel in which he could be seen with another woman. In these moments the economist in him calculated that it would be more appropriate to buy a few houses in different towns and meet his mistresses there in peace and quiet. This simultaneously guarantees the security and purity of his name and makes a long-term investment in real estate. It’s not clear how many such houses Burov had, but Tomov says he’s sure about three cities – Sofia, Russe and Plovdiv.
And here starts Atanas Burov’s commitment to the town under the hills. In the Kapana district, the banker bought two properties. The first house he bought was on 24 Zlatarska Str. A woman was hired to look after the property when he was away. But it was another woman that welcomed him during his visits in the town; her name remains unknown to this day. There they would hide from society’s watchfull eyes and steal moments of peace and quiet for their love. Today, the PLOVEDIV souvenirs are sold there.
Burov’s other house was on 10 Hristo Dukmedjiev Str. and was bought as an investment, with no particular purpose. He was a clever man with good financial means and provided for his heirs, Tomov says. Both properties are still in the famous minister’s family. They are rented out, but the owners sometimes come back. As of today, some of Burov’s heirs live in the Czech Republic. ‘I met some of them when they came to renovate the house on Zlatarska’, Tomov mentions. ‘A woman came, absolutely charming, gorgeous! Another heir lives in Sofia, but he’s of considerable age and stopped coming here.’ Tomov recalls, and practically denies the claim that Burov has no living heirs in Bulgaria.
The houses in Kapana keep their secrets, but the stories can’t stay untold. One by one, the tales of Kapana go beyond the district’s bounds and just how many curious stories lie in store – we should find out.