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Regina Grinberg

My grandmother's husband, grandfather Yakov Kalmi, rarely came to Shumen. His familial roots are in Ruse, and I remember him from my visits to that city. He was always singing songs. He was a 'sarafin' when he was young, and he got quite rich. [Editor's note: a 'sarafin' was a kind of a money dealer. He or she exchanged various currencies. At that time, in addition to banks, private individuals such as these could obtain a bank license and make such financial operations.] After the wars, namely the [First] Balkan War [4], the Inter-Allied [Second Balkan] War [5] and World War I [6], he sold lottery tickets. During the Holocaust he made notepads, working right up until his death in 1948. I recall that one day he gave me a lottery ticket and told me that I would win something. I did indeed win something.
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Leontina Arditi

I know little about the military experiences of my relatives. I was told that my grandfather when he was a soldier, although wounded, saved a man. He dragged him 16 kilometers at the front during the Balkan War [see First Balkan War] [3].
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ester josifova

My father took part in both Balkan wars from 1912-1913 and in World War I from 1916-1918. He was awarded several medals for his military exploits. He sang very well and he used to lead the soldiers into battles with a song. He had always been devoted to Bulgaria and when he got a notice that he would be interned from Sofia in 1943, he and a group of ex-Bulgarian army soldiers, who had taken part in the wars, took their medals and went to the palace of King Boris III to return them. That was how they wanted to express their disappointment in the policy the king and the government pursued towards Jews, and especially the people who had defended Bulgaria in the long hard wars. In my father's opinion King Boris III respected the Jews deeply, but he didn't have the courage to oppose the German policy during World War II. When the Jewish delegation arrived at the gates of the palace they were told that the king was absent and they couldn't meet him. The truth was that the government didn't allow the king to have this meeting.
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David Elazarov

My father's name was Solomon David Elazar. He was born in 1880 in Kjustendil. He had secondary education. In the Balkan War [see First Balkan War] [1] and in the Inter-Allied War [see Second Balkan War] [2] my father fought as a supply officer, because he was an educated man. I remember that he wore a beard and a fur cap. At that time all men wore fur caps and most of them had beards and moustaches. Moustaches were almost obligatory. In fact, on the oldest photo that I have of my father, which was taken during World War I, he also has a moustache.
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I am from my father's second marriage. My mother, Vergina Elazar, nee Bohor, wasn't rich. She worked in an atelier. This was her first marriage. Because of the wars, there was a big group of women who couldn't marry. My mother was among them. She married relatively late - when she was 30 years old. And it was very fortunate for her.
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Mazal Asael

My father was born a short time after the liberation of Bulgaria from the
Turkish yoke in 1878 and there wasn't a Jewish school then so far as I
know. I guess that he went to a Bulgarian primary school. He had been a
hired laborer before he got married. My father probably fought in the
Bulgarian army during the Balkan war in 1912. During WWI he was captured in
1918, but I don't know where.
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Gracia Albuhaire

My father fought as a soldier in the Balkan War [see First Balkan War] [4] and later in World War I. It was such a misery with no food in wartime. My mother was left in the shop but there were no goods, no money, and she went bankrupt! The shop was closed and this was when we became very poor. My father had no profession and he didn't know where to start. He was thin and feeble. His participation in wars had brought nothing positive to him. He was in the army supply train and he even caught the Spanish disease - this was a kind of severe influenza, which usually had a lethal outcome in those times. They brought him home and he was saved literally in the last minute. That was the time when an indescribable misery visited our house. When I was one and two years old, we used to be the poorest family in town.
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Anna Danon

I think my father had fought in all the wars [Balkan wars and WWI]. He was captured by the Italians during one of them. He often told us stories. He was very witty and amusing, always telling jokes. His elder brother, Iakov Isak, a pharmacist, was a military officer while my father was a simple soldier in the same army detachment. My father always tried to get away, and once he caused a great havoc. One day at firing practice they were given blank cartridges. Somehow my father found a live one. When the practice began, the sergeant major immediately realized from the sound that somebody had used a ball cartridge. They checked, and found out that it had been my father. He was punished and brought to the officer for the joke. My father told us that when Uncle Iakov saw him, he hit him so hard that one of his boots remained between my father's legs. But that was my father - 'zulumdjia' [a troublemaker].
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Roza Anzhel

Then my father went to war [7] and he used to send letters then, too. I even have a photo which shows him standing in front of the gun in Tulcha, which I donated to the Synagogue museum. They even gave me a receipt that I had donated it. Let the people see that the Jews went to war and fought as well. I have dim memories of his stories about the war. It was a hard time for them, their clothes were torn to pieces, their shoes, too, their feet were freezing.
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Rafael Beraha

My father was a sick man. From 1912 to 1918 he fought as a soldier in the Bulgarian army on the Macedonian front against the French and the Senegalese [who were also parts of the French Army]. That was in the years of the Balkan Wars: 1912-1913 [see First Balkan War [2] and Second Balkan War [3]] and in the years of World War I [see Bulgaria in World War I] [4]. He came back with rheumatism from the trenches. Besides, he was wounded by a Senegalese shell on the Macedonian front. I remember very well that when my father would take his clothes off, my child’s fist couldn’t cover the wound, which he had got from the opening and removing of the shrapnel.
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Two of my uncles – Bohor, the eldest, and Rafael, the youngest, after whom I’m named – died in the Odrin battles in 1912, during the First Balkan War. In fact, Rafael died of cholera near Odrin. They were in the 23rd Shipka Division. Their names are written on the memorial in Kazanlak.
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Raina Blumenfeld

My father had a brother who was killed in the Balkan War [the First Balkan War] [3]. One of his sisters went to the city of Plovdiv to work as a maid for a wealthy family, but the son of the landlord raped her and she, incapable of bearing the disgrace, drowned herself in the Maritsa River. Thus, four brothers and two sisters remained in Sofia, where they lived together in the same yard. Their small houses were positioned close to each other in a common yard.
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Shimon Danon

My father had a medal for bravery from the Balkan war [1912-1913]. Can you imagine a Jew having a medal for bravery, when everywhere Jews were denounced as the most cowardly people – and a ‘faint-hearted’ Jew used to be a byname? My father was a corporal in a battery – 6 men for 1 gun – that was surrounded during the war at the pass of Odrin [in Turkey]. The sergeant major in charge pulled out his sword and cried: ‘Onward - for mother Bulgaria!’ in order to show patriotism, and the Turks killed him. My father was left alone with the 6 soldiers, who wanted to surrender. My father saw that night was falling and tried to raise their spirit. He told them to hold on until it got dark. He examined the area and saw that there was a covered ravine to which they could possibly withdraw. He took the responsibility for the battery and gave orders to carry out the withdrawal. Some had to keep up fire while the rest stripped the gun and divided it amongst each other. And they succeeded in withdrawing to that ravine; and thus, he saved the 6 soldiers and the weapon. He was awarded with a medal for bravery in front of the whole regiment. It was noted that in spite of his bravery, the sergeant major had shown a rather meaningless patriotism – unlike my father, who had done a truly courageous deed by saving the battery and the 6 men, who certainly would either have been captured or killed, if it hadn’t been for him. Because of this medal my father was a little more privileged in comparison to other Jews. When everyone, including me, wore yellow badges, my father wore a yellow button, which was meant to show that the fascist country was somehow obliged to him.
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Eshua Aron Almalech

My father was born in 1885. He was orphaned very young. His father died in 1898 and his mother Roza Almalech soon after him (in 1901). At the age of 16 he started working as an accountant in a Bulgarian company in Stara Zagora and was attracted to the socialist ideas. The Bulgarian Socialist Party was set up in 1892. But there was a congress in 1903, at which one part of the party proclaimed itself left-wing socialists [these were the future communists] and the other right-wing socialists [these were the future social democrats]. My father was present at that congress and joined the latter group. He took part in the two Balkan wars and in the First World War as an infantryman in the 12th Stara Zagora infantry regiment of the Bulgarian army. He told me that he used to shoot in the air, thinking that if he didn’t kill anybody, he would not be killed either. He married my mother Zelma Michael, nee Behar, in 1919 after he returned from the war.
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Sofi Eshua Danon-Moshe

Afterwards, until the age of thirty he fought in different wars. I don’t know what he did in the intervals. All I know is that he didn’t have much time. He was decorated with the military cross because he had saved a battery. He took part in the three wars: First Balkan War, Second Balkan War and World War I. He used to often talk about that occasion but I don’t know during which war it actually took place. While his division was retreating, he saw some abandoned weapons and without having any military rank, being just an ordinary soldier, he gave command to his division, ‘Stand still! Take the weapons!’ and that’s how they saved the weapons. When they returned he was congratulated on his actions.

He told me what they ate in the army. They lived in great misery, in freezing temperatures. He once told me how our army was freezing on 31st January and how close he was to freezing himself. But they formed pairs and succeeded in warming one another with their breath. And I remember how he was saying that it wasn’t cold all the time: on 1st February suddenly everything melted and there appeared rivers of water, and so everything melted. So it was an incidental, momentous freezing of our whole army. And how they waited for a truce, do you understand? They go to war and wait for a truce between the sides so that they could go home. And he sang, he sang a lot: ‘We fought bravely at Bulair, killed a lot of Turkish scum. Now we’re coming back, back…home.’ [Battle of Bulair: a heroic battle that took place on 26th January 1913 between the Bulgarian Seventh Rila Infantry Division and the Ottoman 27th Infantry Division. The Bulgarian army was victorious.] He used to sing that song after falling into a particularly sentimental mood. And when he sang it I understood what a dream, what a yearning it was for them. My father had made some real friends in the army, Bulgarians. I remember that every Easter, our Pesach, some Bulgarians visited, they were his friends, but I can’t remember their names.
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