Official commemoration of the contribution of Dimitar Peshev and other deputies 
to the saving of the Bulgarian Jews, held in the Bulgarian National Assembly
     

    SPEECH GIVEN BY MR. YOSSIF KIOSSO,
    PRESIDENT OF THE UNION OF THE BULGARIAN IMMIGRANTS IN ISRAEL


    Dear guests, dear deputies from Italy, dear ministers, dear deputies to the National Assembly! Mr. Sokolov, President of the Bulgarian National Assembly, let me thank you for your invitation to attend this event. This invitation is very important for the Bulgarian community in Israel, a community that had emigrated to live in its free mother country. Thank you for the great honour paid by you and my esteemed colleagues, the deputies to the National Assembly, by giving me the opportunity to speak before this forum. 

    I owe this respect to my sisters and brothers who had lived freely in Bulgaria for hundreds of years and shared the fate of the Bulgarian population in its difficult days. Already in the first years of democracy for Bulgaria after the Ottoman rule had been abolished, you provided an opportunity to the Jews to create their own educational system enjoying freedom of religion and community.  Youth organizations and sports clubs were founded. We could observe our holidays freely, and gladly those of the Bulgarian people. Even before our state had been instituted, we could march on the streets of the Bulgarian towns under our blue-and-white flag which was being saluted by heads of state. 

    I think, Mr. Chairman, I have not been invited to make an historical analysis. This has been done much better than I could have done it by Mr. Nissim - an analysis of what Dimitar Peshev from Kyustendil and his colleagues did, of the role of the Bulgarian church, the intelligentsia and the Bulgarian citizens, of all they did to save us from the Holocaust.  Because for us this is not history, but our own destiny. 

    When I visited the crematorium in Treisenstadt and saw the little cardboard boxes containing the dust of the people burnt, arranged with a horrifying German accuracy, each box bearing a name, I thought that for me, a five-year-old boy during the war, only a small matchbox would have been enough. I must have been awfully lucky I was born here. When I visited the concentration camps, I could see the last address we had been assigned.  

Only the year-long traditions and education in the spirit of hospitality and humanity made it possible for the Bulgarian people to block with their bodies the way to the death camps of the Nazi machine. Those who had suffered the hardships of a foreign rule, knew how to defend their fellow countrymen from the Nazi insanity.

What was done by Dimitar Peshev and the Bulgarian community which followed him, is a unique case throughout Europe's history. And therefore our debt to the Bulgarian people is enormous.

When our state Israel was founded, we all together, like one,  left Bulgaria in order to support our young country, and not because we had been afraid of anything or compelled to do it. This was a result from our Bulgarian education in the vein of love for freedom and national achievement, a consequence of the generation-old dream of independent education and liberty with which we had been reared by you. It is small wonder, therefore, that we progressed along with the progress made by our state Israel, but our roots remained deep in the soil of Bulgaria whom we love and pray for to overcome her hard times and stabilize her economy.
From the bottom of our hearts we wish Bulgaria, with her sacred land that had been bringing up and nurturing us for centuries, to take her well-deserved place in the big family of nations. Thank you very much.


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