The MITHRA Gazette
Ed. VII, May 2013
Celebrating The Day Of Bulgarian Culture
In this issue:
Alex Petrova's Talent Recognized
2. The Boyana Church: A Symbol of Bulgarian Spirituality
Petrova's Talent Recognized
(Alex) Petrova is one of the two young talents who were awarded Mithra's scholarships last year. Mithra
International is very proud to announce that Alex, an eight-grade student at the National School of Musis in Sofia, Bulgaria,
won a bronze medal at the The Orpheus' Gift National Youth Competition for Music and Dance. The competition was held in
March 2013 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The goal of the forum is to provide a venue for young talents in the field of music and dance.
Alex participated with a traditional Bulgarian chants from Shopluka, the region where Sofia is located.
Congratulations, Alex! And good luck in your next endeavors!
|Alex Petrova, A Bronze Medal Winner at "Orpheus' Gift"
The Boyana Church - A Symbol of Bulgarian Spirituality
in a serene park among century-old sequoia trees is one of Bulgarian “crown jewels” – the Boyana Church.
Hidden in the foot of the Vitosha mountain the Boyana Church has survived for over ten tumultuous centuries. It is an example
of the medieval Bulgarian orthodox church architecture and is composed of three parts built in the late X – XI centuries
(east wing), XIII century (central wing) and XIX century (west wing). Although chronologically the Boyana Church belongs to
the Middle Ages, spiritually it is a breathtaking example of the early Renaissance art preceding the great Italian Renaissance
masters by 200 years. It owes its world fame to the magnificent frescoes that cover the entire interior surface of its walls
and dome. Although there are several layers of murals from different time periods, those with the greatest artistic value
date back to the twelve hundreds. They form a second layer over the paintings from earlier centuries and represent one of
the most complete and well-preserved monuments of the mediaeval art of Eastern Europe. While reflecting the Byzantine canon,
the images have a special spiritual expressiveness and vitality. The soft lines of the architecture are harmonious with the
stunning features of the personages and their internal world. Words can hardly describe the eternal beauty of the frescoes.
It is only the eyes and the soul that sink in the Boyana Church atmosphere and carry it away for ever.
|Dessislava, Wife of Sebastokrator Kaloyan, Ktetor of the Boyana Church
frescoes are an early example of the icon-painting style which was later adopted in mural painting. They paved the way to
the icon-style murals that became widespread in the Serbian, Russian and Mount Athos monasteries during the XIV to XVI centuries.
Due to their stupendous quality the Boyana Church is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
|The Boyana Church, East Wing
Please, click to see a short clip about the Boyana Church.
Ed. VI, February 2013
In this issue:
Mithra International Foundation Scholarship Awards
Just before Christmas, on
December 18, 2012 Mithra International Foundation awarded its first scholarships. In 2012, the scholarships were in the category
“Bulgarian and Classical Music”. After a careful selection by a special committee, Alexanrda Petrova and Samuil
Travlev, students at the National School for Music “Liubomir Pipkov” in Sofia, Bulgaria,
were presented with one-time scholarships of BGN 400.- for their achievements. The scholarships were presented by Dr. Christian
Takoff, Managing Director of Mithra International’s branch in Bulgaria, Ms. Angelina Pashmakova and Ms. Dimitrina Koleva
of Mithra International.
Thirteen-year old Alexandra (Alex) is an eight-grade
student at the school and specializes in Bulgarian traditional music from the region of the Pirin mountain, Bulgaria. Alex
first started singing at the age of three with the children group “Bon-Bon”. (http://vbox7.com/play:60939333). At the age of six, Alex was admitted in a pre-school piano class at the National School of Music in Sofia. Due to
a family hardship, she had to withdraw from the school for several years. However, her talent was appreciated again when she
was re-admitted in the school last year, passing the entrance exams with flying colors.
Samuil is a piano performance student in seventh grade. He has won multiple awards at national and international competitions
in his age group. In 2011, Samuil also attended a master class with Prof. Alexander Hinchev. Currently, Samuil is preparing
for the spring New Bulgarian Music Festival at which he will be performing.
Ed. V, October 2012
In this edition:
Meet Mithra International's
New Member of the Board of Directors
Recognized for Its Philanthropic Endeavors
|Ms. Tania Laakmann
International Welcomes Aboard
We would like to welcome Ms. Tania Laakmann to Mithra’s
Board of Directors.
Tania is a member of the Association of the Bulgarian Artists. She holds a MA in
Textile and Fashion from the National Academy for Fine Arts in Sofia and a PhD in Fashion Design. She has been a professor
at the Varna Free University where she discovered the pleasure of sharing her knowledge and experience with young people and
motivating their creativity and love for design. For 18 years Tania has been the lead instructor at the National Innovative
School in Sofia.
In 2005 Tania founded her own company, Tiara Style, thus making a dream come true. “I have always been attracted by
the idea of eco-production. For me, it is an inner feeling and a view on the world we all live in.”
Tania’s public appearances include a number of fashion shows, projects,
participation on different committees and charitable work. She is also the art director of the first Bulgarian film-fashion
show. In 2011, Tania approached Mithra and offered her assistance with the artistic aspect of Mithra’s promotional materials
and fundraising activities. Her experience as an educator and artist is invaluable for Mithra’s endeavors. We wish Tania
a lot of energy and inspiration while achieving the high goals set for Mithra.
Mithra International Recognized
for Its Philanthropic Endeavors
In the summer of 2011, Mithra International joined Executive Women International (EWI) - Detroit Windsor Chapter. EWI is a
philanthropic organization established in San Francisco in 1938. Currently, EWI consists of more than 2000 member companies
with 2300 representatives in nearly 70 Chapters located in major cities in the United States and Canada. Recognizing the changing
roles of women in business and society, EWI has become a premier organization for networking and leadership development for
today's business professionals and their firms.
|2012-13 EWI Detroit-Windsor Board Induction
Mithra International and EWI share the same passion for literacy, education and philanthropy.
For years, EWI has been organizing Reading Rallies in the Detroit-Windsor area. Annually, EWI presents its Angel Awards to
non-profit organizations that share EWI mission to campaign for literacy. The funds for its charitable activities EWI raises
at different events.
In recognition of her charitable
work, EWI invited Mithra's President, Ms. Dimitrina Koleva, to join the Board of Directors of the Detroit-Windsor Chapter.
Ms. Koleva is the current Director of Ways & Means, EWI fundraiser program.
Edition IV, May 2012
24: The Day of Bulgarian Culture
|A wall in the hallway of R. Clemente Academy
On May 24, the Day of Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture, it has been
an established tradition to talk about the spiritual victories, cultural revival and educational progress Bulgaria has achieved
through centuries of existence. In our short article dedicated to May 24 this year we would like to share with you the wonderful
experience Mithra International’s representatives had at a school in Detroit, Michigan.
The Roberto Clemente Academy is located in Detroit, Michigan. It is named after
the American baseball legend who became a larger than life figure in his native Puerto Rico and Latin America through his
philanthropy. "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't do it, you are
wasting your time on Earth”, Clemente said. Determined to follow Roberto Clemente’s example, teachers, students
and parents all work together towards a better future. The Academy has a predominantly Hispanic population. Some of the
youngest students have difficulty understanding English when they make their first steps in school. However, with the help
and loving support of their teachers and the community the students at the Roberto Clemente Academy strive to achieve excellence
in everything they do.
On May 2, 2012, the Academy and the non-profit organization “Bridgepointe”
of Detroit organized “Around the World Day” at the school. Dimi Koleva of Mithra International was invited to
present Bulgaria at the event. Together with Ms. Tania Laakmann and Mr. Ivo Kirkov, visiting artists from Bulgaria who also
teach art and design at the Sofia National School and the New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria, Dimi Koleva went to
Roberto Clemente Academy. There, they were welcomed by Ms. Freddy Hanmore's class of first-graders. The children were
already acquainted with Bulgaria and were working with paper in white, green and red – the colors of the Bulgarian
national flag. Dimi showed the young students pictures of her native Bulgaria. She introduced them to the essential rose
oil – the most precious Bulgarian product. The children were able to smell the magnificent aroma of the famous Bulgarian
rose. Then, they learnt about the Cyrillic alphabet – Bulgaria’s most important contribution to the world’s
culture and civilization. The children were able to see an authentic Bulgarian traditional woman’s costume, courtesy
of the Bulgarian Cultural Center in Detroit, as well as the traditional wooden rose vials. Finally, the students located
Bulgaria on the globe – a tiny spot in Europe of the same color as the United States.
|Tania Laakmann looks at pictures by R. Clemete students
|Dimi Koleva and Ivo Kirkov
|Dimi Koleva shows Bulgaria on a globe
“Mithra International’s mission is to promote Bulgaria and its rich cultural heritage. When Ms. Sue Simcox
of Bridgepointe contacted me and proposed me to join the “Around the World Day” at Roberto Clemente Academy, I
saw an opportunity to introduce the students to Bulgaria, a country about which they may never hear otherwise. Tania, Ivo
and I were amazed by the preparation work their teacher, Ms. Freddy Hanmore, had done: the colors of our national flag were
all around to be seen, there was a powerpoint presentation with pictures from Bulgaria running, there was a wall board with
photos and children's poetry from Bulgaria... There was even a surprise waiting for us at the end of the class. My heart
was full of love for these young friends of Bulgaria and pride of being Bulgarian.”
As a token of friendship the students had made bead bracelets, most of them in
the white-green-red colors. Taking their goodbyes they gave the bracelets to their Bulgarian guests. A little boy approached
Dimi and said: “When I grow up, I will come to Bulgaria.” “I will be there for you”, Dimi answered.
|Tokens of friendship
|Friends of Bulgaria
|More tokens of friendship
Edition III, May 24, 2011
24: The Day of Bulgarian Culture
Every year on May 24 Bulgarians celebrate the Day of Bulgarian Culture and Enlightenment. This
year we dedicate the May 24th edition of MITHRA Gazette to the St. Seven Holy Men (Sv. Sedmochislenitsi), the holy brothers
St. St. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples, St.
St. Kliment, Naum, Gorazd, Angelarii and Sava.
In this edition
Learn about the Cyrillic alphabet
and the St. Seven Holy Men.
|St. Seven Holy Men
The Cyrillic Alphabet and St. Seven Holy Men
In the middle of the 9th century,
a new script, that of the Slavs, appeared on the Balkans and in Europe – the Glagolitic alphabet.
Based on then existing scripts as the Hebrew, Coptic, Ethiopian and Samaritan, the uniqueness of the Slavic one came
from the letters created for the specific Slavic sounds. It was the life deed of the holy brothers St. St. Cyril and Methodius.
Being high ranking Byzantine diplomats with Slavic origins they made it a mission of their life to establish Christian preaching
in the Slavonic language. They used the Glagolitic alphabet for the first translations of the holy books into the Slavic vernacular.
One of the greatest achievements of Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher (Cyril) and Methodius was their brilliant defense of
the right to use the Slavonic as a liturgical language of the Christendom
together with Greek, Hebrew and Latin in the Vatican. With Pope Adrian II’s
blessings the Slavonic gospels were consecrated in a ceremony in the Sta. Maria Maggiore basilica in Rome.1]
After Cyril’s early death in Rome and Methodius’ later death in Moravia, their disciples, who worked in Moravia at the time, sought refuge from the fierce persecution of the German priests in Bulgaria, the most
ancient of the Slavic states. The Bulgarian ruler Boris I-Michael enthusiastically accepted them and provided them with everything
they would need for their scholastic life. Known for the conversion of his people to Christianity, Boris I-Michael saw the
new Slavonic alphabet as an opportunity for ethnical identity and a barrier to foreign influences in his young Christian state.
Under his rule and that of his son and successor Tzar Simeon, the disciples of Cyril and Methodius
found a nurturing atmosphere in Bulgaria. Thus, welcoming the followers of Cyril and Methodius
Bulgaria continued the deed of the holy brothers and became the cradle of the Slavonic script.
The best known disciples of the holy brothers were Kliment (Clemente),
Naum, Angelarii, Sava and Gorazd. It is believed that St. Kliment (St. Clemente of Ochrid) participated in one of
the early missions of the holy brothers with the Khazareans in 859-861. Later, he joined them in their mission to Great Moravia
as a disciple. In 868, St. Kliment and St. Naum were ordained priests by Pope Adrian II in Rome.
After finding a safe place in Bulgaria, in 893 Kliment
was ordained Bishop of the South-West Bulgarian diocese of Kutmichevitsa which included the area of Ochrid. Thus, he became
the first bishop preaching in Slavonic and set the foundations of the new Bulgarian clerical hierarchy. Most importantly,
being a prolific author and translator of the holy books, St. Kliment was very successful in establishing a second Bulgarian
literary center in Ochrid in addition to the one in Preslav, the capital city of Bulgaria at that time. The scholastic center
in Ochrid is considered the first Slavic university established in late 9th century.
St. Naum devoted most of his life to his scholarly work in the Preslav literary center. He followed
St. Kliment to the diocese of Kutmichevitsa where he preached until his death in 910. He died in a monastery founded by himself
in the outskirts of Ochrid.
Little is known about the other disciples of
St. St.Cyril and Methodius. Moravian by birth, St. Gorazd was appointed Bishop of Moravia by Methodius. After being ousted
by the German clerics in Moravia, St. Gorazd arrived in Bulgaria. It is believed that
he preached in South-West Bulgaria together with St. Sava. There is a monastery after his name
in present day Albania where his relics lay today. St. Angelarii accompanied St. Kliment on his journey
to Bulgaria. Exhausted from the hardships of the exile he died soon after his arrival in Bulgaria. In recognition of the holy brothers and their disciples
the Bulgarian church named them “The Seven Holy Men” (“Sedmochislenitsi”).
Despite their respect
for their teachers, St. St. Cyril and Methodius, and their great deed, the Glagolitic alphabet, the disciples devised a second
Slavic alphabet in Bulgaria, the Cyrillic. The latter was destined to become the alphabet of Slavic peoples. After
having been used by the St. St. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples through their activities in Great Moravia and Panonia,
the Glagolitic alphabet was replaced by the Cyrillic in Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria, the use of the Glagolitic alphabet lasted only until the end of the 12th c.
However, it was documented in a plethora of manuscripts. Just a few to mention are the Assemani Gospel Lectionary, the Zograf
Gospel, the Codex Marianus, the Psalteium Sinaiticum and the Euchologion Sinaiticum of 10–11th c. In Europe, the Glagolitic was used in Croatia until the middle of the 17th century.
According to Prof. Dr. Axinia Djurova, the reason for the development of the Cyrillic alphabet by the holy brothers’ disciples was that Bulgarians considered
the Glagolitic an esoteric script. Bulgarians were more familiar with the Greek uncial script used prior to adopting the Slavonic
alphabet. Due to its similarities with Greek the Cyrillic was easier for the Bulgarians compared to the Glagolitic which bore
similarities to the less common Hebrew, Coptic, Ethiopian and Samaritan alphabets.
Cyrillic, the new Bulgarian alphabet, was most probably created in 893 when the Preslav convocation officially
adopted the Slavonic language. Graphically, the Cyrillic is based on the Greek uncial script. It practically is a combination
of the letters of the Greek alphabet with additional characters specifically designed for the old Slavonic phonemes. Some
Glagolitic characters were also added. The rapid replacement of the Glagolitic with Cyrillic at the Preslav scholastic center
was due to the longstanding traditional usage of the Greek uncial script for the administrative, clerical, ecclesiastical
and cultural needs in the capital of the First Bulgarian Tzardom Preslav.
From East Bulgaria almost without exception it was the Cyrillic that penetrated the Russian and the Serbian
lands. As a result of the refuge offered to the disciples of St. St. Cyril and Methodius in
Bulgaria, the preservation of the Slavonic script and the development of a high Slavonic literature, the
Golden Age during the rule of Bulgarian Tzar Simeon is compared to phenomena like the Byzantine humanism,
the Carolingian Renaissance and the Muslim revival. The famous British Prof. Arnold Toynbee refers to
the creation of the Slavic alphabet and scholastic tradition in Bulgaria's own language as a spark of creative
genius of the Orthodox society. He names Bulgaria “the second center” (after the Byzantine Empire)
of the Orthodox civilization. (Toynbee, A Study of History, London 1972, 185).
The creation of the Slavonic script and the apostolic mission of
the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius is considered so important for the development of the European culture that Pope John
Paul II named the holy brothers guardians of Europe. Today, the Cyrillic is one
of the three scripts of the European Union together with Latin and Greek.
Acknowledgements: This article
is primarily based on the research of the world renowned slavist, Dr. Axinia Djurova. It was compiled and edited by D. Koleva.
Edition II, March 2011
Celebration of Spring in Bulgaria
is February. In the United States everybody is curious whether Punxsutawney Phil,
the groundhog, would see its shade on Groundhog’s Day thus predicting how far the spring is. In Bulgaria,
the arrival of the long-awaited spring is celebrated on March 1st. Bulgarians affectionately call the day “Baba
Marta” (“Old wife Marta” from “mart” which means March in Bulgarian).
According to the tradition, Baba Marta is
quite a temperamental old lady who changes the weather in March depending on her mood: if she smiles – the Sun shines;
if she is sulky – the skies turn grey and there could be even a snow flurry. Some people say that when she cleans her
home and her down pillows and covers, snow starts falling. It is believed that Baba Marta is a cleanliness freak and would
enter only clean and tidy homes. Thus, following an ancient custom Bulgarians do their spring cleaning in the month of February
to get rid of all bad, old and unnecessary buildup from the past year and to avoid irritating Baba Marta.
If you are in Bulgaria on the first day of
or during the month of March you will see everyone wearing a white-and-read symbol (white stands for joy, and read –
for good health). This tiny or humongous (depending on the person’s or their loved ones’ taste) piece is called
“martenitsa”. On March 1st, Bulgarians are prepared to give martenitsa-s not only to their family and
friends but almost to everyone they meet on the day with the traditional wishes for good health and lots of joy.
In the country, people decorate their young domestic animals: lambs, kids, foals, as well as their fruit trees, the
handles of the doors, the vineyards. Traditionally, a martenitsa is presented to a lady with a small bunch of snowdrops and
crocuses – the first flowers that show above the snow of the winter months.
Martenitsa-s are made of red and white weaved wool, silk
or cotton yarn and can be additionally decorated with beads, small coins or colorful threads. In some regions garlic, snail's
shells, horse's tail hairs are added to the white and read yarn. The latter indicate the origins of the martenitsa: in
pagan times it was an amulet against evil spirits and demons.
In different regions of Bulgaria people wear martenitsa for a certain period according
to local custom. Usually when they see the first signs of spring, a blooming tree or a stork, they would take off their martenitsa
and tie it to a blooming tree thus marking the transition from winter to spring.
|Children tie their martenitsa-s on a blooming tree in the capital city of Sofia.
Although Bulgarians believe
that Baba Marta and martenitsa-s are a uniquely Bulgarian way to celebrate the coming spring, there is another nation which
has a similar holiday. On March 1, Romanians celebrate “Mărţişor” with white-and-red mărţişor
and bouquets of snowdrops.
The month of March in
Bulgarian folklore is related to the Nature’s rebirth in springtime. Thus, on the first day of March Bulgarians welcome
the spring with the hope that it will bring beauty and abundance in their lives. Happy Baba Marta!
|This martenitsa was made by Bulgarian children from the City of Balchik.
|St. Cyril and St. Methodius
May 24th: Bulgaria Celebrates the Day of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius
Every year on May 24th Bulgaria celebrates the lives and work of the holy borthers St. Constantine-Cyril and
Methodius, the creators of the first Slavonic alphabet and body of literature. May 24th is also known as "The Day
of the Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture" on which Bulgarians honor their co-patriots' achievements in the
field of culture, art, science and education.