Photo by Nikola Mihov

The project

"Something to remember by" is an art-installation, realized by Antina Zlatkova during the 8th
GOATMILK festival in Gorna Bela Rechka, Bulgaria.

The installation includes cartography of the abandoned homes in Bela Rechka, 13 stories
about houses and missing people, as well as three conversations with residents of the village
about the topics of home, abandonment and memory.

The blog “something to remember by” contains digital copies of the visual and audio
materials, used for the installation.

The place

Gorna Bela Rechka is a small village in the North-West of Bulgaria, about 100km from
Sofia. The houses there are 136 and until 1940 its population was over 600. Nowadays in
Bela Rechka there are 69 people at the average age between 65 and 80, and because of the
limited transportation possibilities and the access to medical care part of them spend in the
village only half of the year (March to October).

Since 2004 in Bela Rechka the New Culture Foundation organizes the Goat Milk Festival
– a meeting place and an event that tries to urge new viewpoints on the topics of identity,
personal and collective memory and their role in our society. In 2011 the main topic of
the festival was “The abandoned houses – The abandoned North-West?” which brought
up questions about the long process of depopulation of the Bulgarian villages, as well
as about the different aspects of abandonment and being abandoned. During the festival
journalists, architects, artists and photographers from eight different countries presented
their perspectives to the problem. “Something to remember by” was one of the four projects,
awarded in the competition of New Culture Foundation.

A viewpoint

On many levels the feeling of being abandoned effects the community and each person and
causes the collective fear, that the village will soon disappear and everyone there will be
forgotten. The residents of Bela Rechka share a certain feeling of helplessness and look at
themselves as the last representatives of an old, already worthless world.

The questions with which I go to Bela Rechka are what and who is being abandoned, and
how the abandoned deal with the decay. If everything we leave behind is items of no use,
what story can they tell about us? And can we reconstruct the decay in the memory?
I have made a map of the thirty and more deserted homes and have given them the names of
those who last lived there. I look for what they have left behind – useless items, that no one
takes and the fragmented memories of the last sixty-nine people in the village about them.
The stories of the houses are the family and personal history of the missing residents of Bela
Rechka fragmented and subjectively told by those who remember them.
It is a try to understand the long and complex process which has led to the depopulation of
the Northwest and the collective trauma caused by it, as well as our personal attitude to the
decay, abandonment and memory.

About the author

Antina Zlatkova (1990,Montana) graduated at the Peter Bogdan Foreign Language Highschool and currently is studing journalism in Vienna. Author of the poetry book “Ships of paper”, 2009.