History on the Balkans is strongly characterized by ideological and ethnical wars. By the end of the 19th century, following 500 years of the Ottoman Empire, each nation sought a national revival covering its largest possible, historically founded extension.
With the construction of railways, the leading industrial nations were moreover given access to the lesser-developed east of Europe.
My grandfather Stilyan Mihaylov was born in 1885 in the city of Samokov, Rila Mountain, Southwest Bulgaria. He ran away and did not inherit the pots full of gold pieces which his aunt, a nun who had been on a Hajj, staying in the Samokovski Convent, had dedicated to him; the nun supported her favourite nephew during his studies at the mechanical technical school in Sofia.
The family had their roots in nearby Macedonia. The young man transported weapons for the Higher Macedonian-Edirne Revolutionary Committee whose seat was in the family home on 89 Vladimirska Street. Already as a student the young man became involved with the socialist movement. He was in touch and worked for Anton Ivanov and Georgy Dimitrov, he concealed Krum Velkov, who was also his relative, and assisted his emigration.
My uncle Stojko Tchavdarov was born in 1888 in the village of Yenikoi, Aegean Thrace – today Northern Greece. He was the ninth child of poor parents and worked as a herdsboy to earn the living of his family. From the hilly coast of the Aegean Sea the boy contemplated every day the wondrous view of the land, the sea and the sky fused into one, into the image of the heavenly beauty. In 1900 he went to the junior secondary school in the newly built regional centre, the city of Dede Agach, on the railway Edirne – Thessalonike.