Tolerance in the Past – Collaboration In the Future


By Assoc. Prof. Dr. Stanimir Stanev

During the WWII, from November 1943 till September 1944 in Bulgaria, on the Shumen Plateau, near the town of Shumen, there was a POW-camp for the Allied military personal, mostly  from aircrafts, fallen on the territory of Bulgaria for the stated period. Under the slogan “Tolerance In the Past – Collaboration In the Future”, the Civil Initiative Committee from Shumen organized several initiatives to commemorate the 60th anniversary from the releasing of the POW by the Bulgarian government. The main objective of these activities was to give opportunity to the heirs of the veterans for future collaboration. Civil Initiative Committee with the support of Shumen University, Shumen Municipality, Civil Society for Shumen and “Shumensko Plateau” Nature Park Directorate carried out the following activities on 8 September 2004:

  1. Scientific session at the Shumen University, dedicated to the 60th anniversary from the releasing of the POW and from the closing down of the camp near Shumen.
  2. Visit to the places near Shumen were the POW camp used to stand.
  3. Opening an exhibition at the Regional History MuseumShumen.

In the exhibition were also some exponents from the Museum of Aviation in Plovdiv provided by his  manager Mr. Slavi Pavlov. Bulgarian veteran pilots from WWII Alexander Gigov and Dimitar Somov were also in Shumen.

At the opening of the scientific session the participants were greeted on behalf of the Mayor of Shumen. Moving speeches were made by Vesselin Stoyanov – son of Bulgarian greatest ace during WWII General Soyan Stoyanov , and by Robert Johnson from Texas – former POW  in the camp and the former gunner from the bomber that was shot down on 24 June 1944 near Samokov . Mr. Johnson has arrived at the invitation of the Mayor of Shumen together with his wife and one of his sons. His visit to Bulgaria ended on 10 September with his visit to Samokov, where the bomber B-24 Gidi Gidi Boom Boom” was shot down on 24 June 1944. He and his family met with veterans from World War II and visited the places where the plane was shot down and where the prisoners of war were kept before their departure to Shumen.)Briefing for journalists was carried out. It was attended by all of the guests of the event. There also was one of the former commandants of the camp – the 90-years-old Dragomir Evrov from Sliven, known for his humane attitude towards the POW and veteran from Bulgarian anti-nazi compain in 1944. A moving moment was the hug between the former enemies .  It is interesting to note that during the preparation of the initiatives another former commandant of the camp was found – Kiril Kostadinov Kiryakov. On the 6 September Robert Johnson and his family, guided by Ass. Prof. Stanimir Stanev, visited him. There is certain data that Kiryakov showed very humane attitude towards the prisoners of war.

 The following scientific papers were presented during the conference at the University:

  1. Chronicle, people and events in the Shumen prisoners-of-war camp by Col.(ret.) Ass.Prof. Stanimir Stanev, scientific coordinator of the events.
  2. Documents for POW camp around Shumen from Central Military Archives – Veliko Turnovo, by the head of Archives Ivan Koev
  3. The “black Easter” for the Bulgarian Military Aviation –by Major Manush Hristov from the Air Force Training Base “Georgi Benkovski” – Dolna Mitropoliya
  4. The Bulgarian partisan army in the strategic plans of the allied forces – by Prof. DSc. Marin Kalonkin
  5. For one small military trophy –by  Ivan Bonchev
  6. The American air-raid over Dupnitsa – by Dr. Ivan Sekelariev

In the afternoon, participants in the events have visited by buses the two places on the Shumen plateau, where the camp used to stand. The group was joined by the defense attaché from the US Embassy in Sofia – Col. Carla Bass. At 16.00, with the attendance of many guests, the exhibition at the Regional History Museum in Shumen was opened. It was dedicated to the heroism of the Bulgarian pilots when defending Sofia and to the citizens of Shumen and their tolerant attitude towards the prisoners of war . After the opening of the exhibition, at the hall of the history museum continued the reading of papers from the conference by famous Bulgarian scientists historians – Prof.  DSc Vitka Toshkova, Ass. Prof. Dr. Stoyan Tanev and others.
In the evening the management of the
Shumen University gave official dinner for the guests of the event and for the participants in the conference. During that dinner the undoubted contribution of the conference to the complementation of the history of the camp was stated.