Tsola Dragoycheva, Zabcheto (the Tooth) and Raycho Kirkov used to hide in the Kanurkov house’s tunnels

Everyone has been lost at least for a moment in Kapana. Even Filibe’s inhabitants. In the last days Pod tepeto has been going lost on purpose amidst the narrow paved streets, but not due to lack of orientation. We sink deep into the personal stories of old families, not written down on nobody’s paper, but passed and lived through the generations. Secrets that we ask about in detail and tell them to you. That’s what our series Kapana’s Legends is about.

In a short moment of despair, standing between the dead artisan houses and their traceless families, we came across a dark red building, with a living part of the family and fully preserved history, told by one of the direct descendants – the 82-year-old Tsvetana Kostadinova Kanurkova-Anadolieva. She was kind enough to talk about the innermost truths of a family that has taken and saved lives.

She showed us the secret passages, through which the partisans they used to hide have passed. She showed us with her hand the metamorphosis the current Sofia T bookstore on 7 Abadzhiiska Str. has been through, before it became a bookstore in 1991. She told how her family invented themselves a surname, which is unique in Bulgaria. We take you where the Italian Ornella Muti had Bulgarian coffee and slept in white sheets under the Plovdiv sky in two romantic days on the set in front of the façade of the house. She shot Mordbüro in Kapana in the 1990’s, when her partner was Angel Georgiev – Acho – a lawyer and her husband. Fit for a film is the century-old story of the Kanurkovs, in whose house Ornella shot.

One of the few houses in Kapana that still breaths and keeps watch, in spite of the aluminum windows and the destruction of its contemporaries, was built c. 1922. It was bought by Tsvetana’s grandfather – Georgi Stoychev Kanurkov as a metayage. Because of a lack of means to pay the rest, he went to work in America with his wife Grozdana. They saved some money and came back to Plovdiv. Money was not enough and out of necessity he opened a public house on the ground floor. He named it Macedonia. The name was due to the fact that his wife and he were refugees from our neighbouring country. Not long after, he saw that the public house didn’t work according to his plans and he left for America once again. A short stay there and he sent his wife, her father and their children to Plovdiv, but he remained there.

In April 1928 there was a big earthquake. It was announced in all news that there was huge destruction all over the country, buildings were ruined in Plovdiv, and there were many casualties. Back at the time when there were no phones, Georgi could not contact his family. After two months of grief he became sick with cancer and died. Shortly before that he had sent all his money to his wife. With them she managed to pay the rest of the metayage. After his death the favourite house was now fully owned by the family.

The first to live there were Grozda, her son Kostadin, her daughter Stanka and their two grandfathers – Georgi and Stoyko. Kostadin grew up, got married and had a baby son. A few years later in 1932 his second child was born in the house itself – namely our heroine.  She cried out on one of the upper floors. ‘My aunt went looking for the midwife. She was late and my grandmother cut the umbilical cord. But she didn’t do a good job and now I can’t show my belly button, like the others’, Tsvetana jokes. ‘Six months later my mother died. My father became a 21-year-old widower with two children that he raised on his own. This was an act of heroism’, proudly says his daughter.  ‘It’s been a café here since I can remember’, Tsvetana tells us today sitting on a wooden chair in the bookshop. ‘I know from my grandmother that there was a public house before. The café was also called Macedonia. They changed the place, because the old business became a burden. It was a huge obligation. Only they took care of all the cooking. They just closed the kitchen.’ adds to the picture our interlocutor. And here, where they served black coffee and black tea in a seemingly calm atmosphere, unexpected for the rest life-saving hidings happened.

 ‘Ok, I’ll confess. Everyone in this house was socialist. Georgi Tarpeshev, Tsola Dragoucheva, Ivan Hristov – Zabcheto, Raycho Kirkov, Georgi Kirkov used to hide here’, Tsvetana says in a lower voice. ‘Entering quietly and illegally into the café, none of the clients knew them. They would come exactly here in order to go on the upper floor and hide, and then go through the secret passages. We were watched, but they never caught anyone. When the café became emptier, they would go to the toilet. Down there, under the stairs there is a tunnel to the basement with a secret ladder. Then they would lift the trap-door and go up. Quite often the police would come in the night especially to check the entire house. My dear granny was a great person. She knew when they were going to arrive and used to sit on the window waiting for them. When they approached, she’d go the partisans, push them through the passages into the basement and then spread a rug. After they had had a look, the men in uniforms would leave, without the expected catch. They’d wake up early in the morning, open the café and leave in the same quiet way. Sometimes they couldn’t go under because there was no time. Then they’d use the trap-door on roof and jump over other houses. There is a house with a staircase next door, which they used to climb down and we’d never see them again’, recollects Tsvetana about the wild partisan times.

The Second World War started. There was no one to drink coffee anymore. They turned café Macedonia into a greengrocery.

Circa 1955 Kostadin, Tsvetana’s father, became the director of Universal services. The greengrocery became print production storage.

The transformation of a public house, café, hiding-place, greengrocery and print production storage also became a family home for our heroine and her husband.

They didn’t have a place to live and grandma Grozda signed the floor over to her granddaughter. Tsvetana explains how their nest looked like. ‘When you entered through the door, out bedroom was on the right, against the door – the living room, in the far end was the kitchen, a small corridor, a bath and a toilet. Then we sold the floor.’ Yet, the house hasn’t changed at all, draws with words our heroine. Today on the third floor lives her nephew – Alexander Kanurkov. He also knows his family history like the fairytale it actually is.

The story about the origin of the name Kanurkov is a most interesting one. A one of a kind name in Bulgaria. Tsvetana’s sister-in-law has been called to Sofia to give an explanation about the surname.

Our great-grandfather had an amazingly beautiful wife – Tsveta. A Turkish man went to see her a few times, he courted her. Not long after that, her son lost his temper and killed the Turkish man. Hence he went to jail for a few years. There, in order to make their sentence smaller, they made them spin wool. My grandfather was an only son. There was no one to play with when he was a small child, that’s why he’d sit on his mother’s lap, watch her spin wool and learn doing it. When he went to jail he was the most skilful and the fastest. He made the most hanks for the least time. But they didn’t call them hanks, rather they called them kanuri. They didn’t know each other’s names in prison and he got a nickname. They called him Kanurata. When he went back to his village they used the same nickname. That’s how we invented our surname Kanurkovs.

With a blissful smile, a long overcoat and graceful manners Tsvetana had come for a chat after the ritual meeting with her friends, with whom she meets every morning at 10.00 to have a coffee together. Very cheerful, the 82 years old woman recollects her childhood in Kapana. There’s nothing new here, other than the new windows on the shops. Years ago there were many coppersmiths. Ooooo, all day, all night bang-bang. It was a beautiful noise. It still echoes in my ears. During the day we used to play barefoot on the uneven pavement and we didn’t pay attention. It was absurd to have passing cars. Just the bin lorry. It had a bell and when it was coming from afar it was giving a signal that it was nearing. My cousin Lambrev wanted to become a dustman, it was a big deal. We were a big neighbourhood. Can you imagine – over 100 kids played together. We made ourselves sandwiches with bread, oil, salt and red paper and sung ‘He’s my target, I won’t share him’. We played tile, chilik and machka, tag, cops and robbers. Stone fights with the Armenian children, by way of a joke, of course. We got on well with them.’, sinks into her beautiful true childhood from nearly 80 years ago grandma Tsvetana.

These are my secrets, and now they’re yours. I’ll tell my neighbours to tell you their stories. You’ll understand that none is like the previous one. Kapana is a magical place, be careful with it’, Tsvetana Kanurkova made small steps at parting.