Текст оригинал (английски)
Though I didn’t know it, and despite the iron curtain, I grew up in Bulgaria as a deeply, old-fashionedly pan-European. As a child, I knew how to scale resiny fir trees in the mountains, how to gather wild berries in late summer and preserve them, taught by my grandmothers, and how to pick lime-blossom and elderflower in spring and make tea and cordial for hayfever, how to make yogurt – and that family mealtimes were sacred. On television, I watched Russian war films, soulful Italian and French dramas, zany Czechoslovak series, and even the odd Hollywood blockbuster about the Roman Empire, like Spartacus (who, having been born in today’s Bulgaria, was clearly European).
Emigrating as a teenager to New Zealand, and later as an adult to Scotland, I was surprised to find that this had not been the formative experience of my generation in the Anglo-American-Antipodean world. That they had a whole other world of songs, jokes, and TV characters to quote, and that ‘pantomime’ in Britain meant something very different from the art of Marcel Marceau.
No matter what happens to Europe, I have seen the essential Europe I love and carry in my bones, a continent whose secret histories and inflections weave themselves into everything I write and everything I am.
Europe of forested seasons and ancient languages spoken by people with faces tattooed with harshness and forgiveness.
Europe where borders and peoples have moved across the land like spilled mercury, leaving memory stains.
Euro-Africa of the seedy ports where the red wind of the Sahara blows in.
Europe that rises from the ashes of its own murderous madness.
Europe of neighbours and intermarriages, not militarised borders.
Balkan, Eurasian, oldest of Europe, where the confluence of East and West is a tangle of rivers running into the Aegean.
Europe not of the engorged imperial capitals, but of the potholed roads between villages with names difficult to pronounce, of fishing towns and islands with lanolin jumpers, of lonely coastal cottages, of Orcadian graffiti scratched by Vikings in a moment of drunken immortality.
I struggle to separate the Europeanness of the British Isles from the rest of European Westerndom. To me, a child of the European East, they are civilisationally one. And if we go back far enough, everything came to Europe from the East: people, ideas, wine, wheat, gold, prophets.
Travelling along the lethal iron curtain of my childhood, now on history’s scrap-heap, I saw this: the destiny of all walls is to crumble, no matter how many lives they smite and how permanent they look. A border crumbles and you see that the neighbour looks like you. Borders are mirrors in which we see our true reflection.
This is my difficult Europe – a continent of lessons so hardwon they bankrupt us, of vanishing borders, of last-ditch chances and unbelievable stories of escape, of people like you and me and our grandparents, who carry the heartbreak of four wars on European soil within just three generations: the Second World War, the Greek Civil War (1946–49), the Yugoslav Wars (1991–2001) and the Cold War (1945–89). This is my Europe – where so much suffering has been carried by so many for so long, that being human must surely be enough, for us to continue. It is enough for me. Enough.
A Love Letter to Europe, Coronet 2019
Био (английски)Kapka Kassabova is a writer of creative non-fiction, poetry, and fiction. Her work explores the alchemy between places and people, geopolitical ‘peripheries’, nexus of cultural confluence or conflict, and geographies both inner and outer. Border (2017) and To The Lake (2020) explore the multiple narratives of the ancient trans-boundary human geography of the southern Balkans. Her ongoing work continues the narrative enquiry into nature and culture, trauma and transformation, collective ailing and the search for healing.
Kapka Kassabova is bilingual in English and Bulgarian, and reads French, Spanish, and Russian. Her reviews and essays have appeared in The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Sunday Times, The Scottish Review of Books, The Economist 1843 Magazine, The New Statesman, Prospect, The NZ Listener, Metro Magazine NZ, Granta Magazine, World Literature Today, Tin House, Aeon, Belgium’s De Standaard, The Spectator, and Vogue.