Bulgaria's Forgotten Schools: Cyril & Methodius Primary School, Gintsi village
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
“... From here the eye finds no bounds.
The Universe before me yields freely.
The soul proudly breathes. By these mountains
The mind strives forward to the big and the bright… “
~ Ivan Vazov
Mount Kom greets us with fog, a northwestern wind and the echo of Vazov’s poetry. There is something unexplainable on this peak. It’s neither the highest, nor the hardest to climb; it is not the most western nor does it have the best view. And yet in itself, it combines dignity and softness, specific for the Balkans. This is where the most beautiful road to the sea begins.
For a moment, the wind changes direction and cuts through the fog, as we become speechless spectators of the diversity of this piece of land. To the east and to the west we see the backbone of the Haemus mountain, like a slumbering zmey (dragon-like being); to the north, the mountain crouches down and goes out of sight in the Danube; to the south, the Nishava river breaks its way between the rocks; humans walked upon the same watery way, establishing the longest stretching village in Bulgaria - Gintsi.
The school in Gintsi greets us with a lock on its door. Actually, in the beginning we were not sure if this is it - there are no signs that this even used to be a school. The internet also has no information, and the people here don’t remember its name. But yes, this is the building. We find a tight squeeze in and we are able to take a few pictures.
What is its story? Who’ve eyes looked at this mountain? Why is it so bereft? We ask ourselves thousands of questions and try to find the answers to what is left. As teachers, this picture is quite hard to look at. Of course, we ask ourselves the purpose of our actions. Will it also follow the same end - a bunch of words strewn on the floor of some forgotten building.
We push away the portraits of an era gone by and somewhere between the old school books and vodka “Killer” tags, we find the small footprint of a person - in 1975 Snezhana Todorova Petrova, a schoolgirl in the 8th grade, number 13, had tagged her algebra notebook with some beautiful cursive writing.
On exit we notice a small sign, hidden in the left corner - People's Primary school “Cyril & Methodius” - we feel a sense of discovery. The long shadows of the windows remind us that it’s November and that it’s time to go. We’ll be back here in a mere month when the houses are heavy with snow and they will hopefully open their windows for us.
The four of us managed to steal one last weekend, before the end of 2020. Escaping Sofia, the December landscape of the fields outside the city calms us with their wet brown tones. The road north winds between open fields and thick forest. While we switch places with other cars as we overtake them, we all of sudden enter the village of Gintsi.
On the left, there is parking lot, a mayor’s office, and on the other side of the river are strewn many houses above one another. On the right we see a small blue metal shed, with a porch deck made of cement and a silhouette sitting down, with whom we talk. “My name is Stanul Alexandrov Ignatov, but they call me Stancho. I’ve been a bus driver for 27 years.” Stanul smiles genuinely when he learns of our profession. We are teachers and we want to tell the modern story of his village. His frantic eyes spot the air around us, as he patiently hears our questions. The noise of the road is numbed by sweet memories..