A little over a month ago - on March 28, 2023 - Dr. Mercia McDermott, who loved Bulgaria and us Bulgarians so much, left us forever. Photo from the front cover of the Bulgarian edition of her latest book Mercia MacDermott Once upon a time in Bulgaria. Manifesto Press, 2016 / Mercia McDermott Once upon a time in Bulgaria. Sineva, 2022

Equal to the characters of his books.
Memory of Dr. Mercia McDermott

"To the Bulgarian people,
who gave me more
than I can
to thank him.”

Book dedication Mercia MacDermott The Apostle of Freedom. A portrait of Vasil Levsky against a background of nineteenth-century Bulgaria. Allen and Unwin, 1967 / Mercia McDermott The apostle of freedom. Biography of Vasil Levski. People's Youth, 1970

Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people have hardly ever had a more faithful friend than Dr. Mercia McDermott. And we will hardly ever have... A friend who loved us unconditionally... A friend who traveled around Bulgaria to wake us up, to remind us of the covenants of our ancestors; as the Apostle did. A friend whom in recent decades we had (almost) forgotten. And it was only shortly before we lost him forever that we remembered him. Except for the city of Karlovo, perhaps, which has Dr. Mercia McDermott as its honorary citizen and which has not forgotten her over the years...

Only one other Bulgarian city - Blagoevgrad - has the famous historian and writer as its honorary citizen, but even when her wonderful biography of Dimitar Blagoev - patron of the city - was published, in English and then in Bulgarian*, nothing was heard from that city .

Until 1989 - while she lived in Bulgaria, Dr. Mercia McDermott received all the recognition she deserved - she taught the young Bulgarians in the capital's 114th high school "Liliana Dimitrova" (1963-1964; 1973-1979); at Sofia University "Kliment Ohridski" he led a course on the history of the revolutionary movement in Macedonia (1980-1989); her books were published in huge circulations and yet had to be reprinted frequently - all of them today have countless editions, because they are quickly sold out in bookstores; for her work for Gotse Delchev, she was awarded the scientific degree "Doctor of Historical Sciences" (1979), she was elected a foreign member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1987); He is a recipient of the Order of the Rose, the Order of Cyril and Methodius, and the Order of the Horseman of Madara. The Bulgarian people gave Dr. Mercia McDermott all their love in hundreds of meetings with students, workers, in town-wide meetings all over Bulgaria. And this love was unanimous, which is so rare for us.

An expression of this truly universal love were the hundreds of kozaks, kiteniki, rugs, Chipro carpets, women's and men's folk costumes and parts of them, copper, ceramic and wooden vessels that were donated to her - finally, after her final return to England she herself presented this vast collection to the Ethnographic Department of the British Museum.

* * *

The Sofia home of Dr. Mercia McDermott was, as it were, a branch of the Ethnographic Museum in Sofia. I, a student in the upper classes, according to an irrevocable Bulgarian tradition, began to take off my shoes so as not to bring street dust on the carpets and rugs that covered the floors and furniture. I was not allowed - it seems that this was the only Bulgarian tradition that the hostess did not respect in her home. Of course, I will never be able to forget this guest visit, which dragged on - the few hours flew by without me even realizing it; I didn't even take a bite of the sweet pie that the hostess had prepared, I didn't even take a sip of the real lemonade offered to me.

In his sweet singsong Bulgarian language, which so strongly reminded me of the Bulgarian pronunciation of our countrymen in Bessarabia, Dr. McDermott talked, questioned me, expressed agreement, admiration or satisfaction, but never displeasure. We talked about Bulgaria - about the past and the future, about the Bulgarian people. I was amazed at her insight when she asked me if I knew the difference between an English and a Bulgarian shepherd. How could I know... How could I know English shepherds, and I didn't even know Bulgarian, and I had only seen sheep on TV. "The English shepherd," answered the hostess herself, "wants to be the best shepherd in all England." And the Bulgarian wants to be prime minister...". Sounds familiar even today, doesn't it...

* * *

All her life, everything that Dr. Mercia McDermott did for Bulgaria, make her equal to the work of the heroes of her books. To some, this statement may seem far-fetched, but it is not - we are clearly aware of this now, when Bulgaria no longer has friends in the world, and is not looking for them... Because for sincere, great friendship, you always need two. Probably never again will Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people have such a sincere and such a faithful friend who loves us so unreservedly. And whom we also love with one accord...

* * *

Today, Dr. Mercia McDermott's books are dutifully standing on the shelves in the NIM library's bookcases (almost) unopened ... because there is hardly a Bulgarian home that does not have them. And who will borrow books from a public library if they have them at home...

Ivan Petrinsky

* Mercia MacDermott Lone red poppy. Manifesto Press, 2014 / Mercia McDermott Scarlet poppy lonely. Biography of Dimitar Blagoev. Sineva, 2017

Front cover of the latest edition of Dr. Mercia MacDermott's first book about Bulgaria - Mercia MacDermott A History of Bulgaria, 1393-1885. Allen and Unwin, 2021 / First edition - in 1962 (left);
Some of Dr. Mercia McDermott's books in the NIM library (middle) - The Apostle of Freedom. Biography of Vasil Levski. Third edition. People's Youth, 1977; For freedom and perfection. Biography of Yane Sandanski. First edition. Science and Art, 1987; Freedom or death. Biography of Gotse Delchev. First edition. Science and Art, 1979;
Back cover of the English edition of her latest book (right) – Mercia MacDermott Once upon a time in Bulgaria. Manifesto Press, 2016, which features foreign student percussionists in the Brigadier Movement in Bulgaria visiting Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov at the Evksinograd Palace in 1948. Young Mercia McDermott, fresh from graduating in Russian Philology at Oxford, is the first bottom left, next to Georgi Dimitrov.

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