The Popstefanov Family
of Bansko, Bulgaria

Katerina Dimitrova Stephanova


Katerina Stephanova Tsilka

Early Life - Pt 1
Early Life - Pt 2
Education - Pt 1
Education - Pt 2
1st Trip to USA-1
1st Trip to USA- 2
Return to Europe
Abduction 1901-2
Touring the USA
Return to Albania
Katerina Alone


Early Life - Part 2

A scholarly summary of the uprising, based on Macedonian source materials, was published in English in 1979.[5]  Specific mention of the 1878 invasion of Bansko was included: 

Parallel with combat operations in the Kresna area, on 8/20 November the Uprising flared up in the Bansko-Razlog hollow.  The volunteers’ cheta of Baniu Marinov (born in the town of Teteven in northern Bulgaria), a former revolutionary and member of the Bulgarian Volunteers’ Corps which was joined by dozens of local insurgents, played an important role.  After bitter fighting, the cheta succeeded in taking the town of Bansko, but the voevoda was gravely wounded.  The village of Bania became the second center of the Uprising in the Bansko-Razlog hollow, where the insurgents from the village of Gorno and Dolno Draglishte, Godlevo, and Debursko concentrated.  They successfully defended themselves for several days.  However, due to certain weaknesses, such as the substitution of Major L. Voitkeevich for Banio Marinov and the numerical supremacy of the adversary, the insurgents were routed.  Hundreds of women, children and old men fell as victims to the bashi-bazuk atrocities.  This forced a large mass of refugees to start for the territory of the Principality [note: Bulgaria].  Among them were Georgi Dimitrov’s parents.  [note: Georgi Dimitrov was Bulgaria’s long-reigning Communist leader.]   

In her own words, Katerina’s personal memoir brought an eye witness perspective to that fearsome time.  She recalled that: 

One Sunday morning in 1879 [actually November 1878] father left home very early in order to be in time for the first church service.  Nearing a square he was surprised to see a crowd of armed men who told him to take his family and run to the mountains, since a big force of "Bashi-bazouks" (irregular Turkish soldiers) was approaching, killing everybody on their way.

Father took my younger brother in his arms, mother held her three-week baby and told me to follow, holding her skirt, and thus we started running toward the mountains. Although the silence was almost complete, we saw many people running, as we did, for their safety.  I felt sleepy and tired from the very beginning, stumbled and fell down, but was immediately up again and running uphill as in a nightmare. 

Thus we ran many hours, until finally we stopped at a place where immediately I fell asleep to wake up only the next morning and see the sun pouring through the trees on a miserable crowd of silent men, women staring at nothing, and children whimpering for the hurts received from stumbling and falling during their flight. 

We stayed in the mountains for two days during which time the Turks had sacked the town and killed many of those who had not succeeded in escaping.  Father lost all his movable property, but that was easily forgotten since none of the family had lost his life.  After several months order was restored and life resumed its usual course for most of the families. 

The flight of the Stephanov family to safety must have been an often-repeated family story.  Katarina’s younger brother, Professor Constantine Stephanove, mentioned it to the English journalist, John MacDonald, and the Englishman included it in his dispatch printed in the March 30, 1903 issue of the London Daily News:

One morning, while we were strolling through the bazaar at Serres, Stephanoff suddenly stood still before an inn gateway, into which a countryman was leading his mules laden with merchandise of all sorts. They stared at each other, the young man and the old. They grasped each other hands affectionately, exchanged a few words and parted. It was Stephanoff's uncle, from Bansko. After ten years they scarcely recognized each other.  With the Zaptiehs about, they did not venture to be more demonstrative. "In 1879," said Stephanoff, "when I was three years old, and when my father and mother and the rest of us, fearing a massacre in Bansko, fled to Philippopolis, it was my uncle who carried me on his back across the mountains. The scar on his lip was made by the knife of one of three Bashi-Bazouks who attempted to rob him and a small company of his fellow-traders returning home from market." So it still is the same Macedonia--only twenty-four years nearer its end.

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Footnotes for this section

[5] Doinov, D. “The 1878-79 Kresna-Razlog Uprising” in Southeastern Europe, vol. 6, pt. 2 (1979), pp. 223-232; quoted material appears on pp. 228-229. Richard M. Cochran, Ph.D. |
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