Dolna Sekirna Village

Dolna Sekirna is located in the outskirts of the Erulska Mountain, in the southwestern part of Breznik municipality, on the border with Tran municipality.

In the archive of the Regional Historical Museum in Pernik, there are memories about the Surova custom from the beginning of the 20th century. In one of them, it is written: “Once only young men – bachelors were survashkarye. The masked men did not admit old people, women and small children in the group. They accepted me when I was 12. We, the 12-13 years old, were accepted in the group to take the gifts – flour, meat, rakia (brandy), bacon, beans… The first time I was a “salt-boy” – I gathered salt in a bag. There was also a “meat-boy”, “flour-boy”, “bean-boy”… But we, the kids, went along with the group. And among them the most important ones were those representing a wedding. They are dressed as a bride, groom, brother in law, standard bearer, father in law, mother in law, priest. On their shoulders are placed gifts – towels, socks, shirts… All the others are with masks on their faces wearing animal skins with the fur outwards. Later, in more recent times, they started going out with costumes made of rags cut into pieces.

The masks were also from skins or feathers and bird wings, most of them had horns. We also used to put some whole skinned animal heads. Those with the masks, the disguised ones, were called “old men”. The “wedding procession” consisted of 10–13 men and the “old men” were about hundred and more. Some, who had not prepared their masks and joined the group in the last moment could just paint their faces black with soot and represent “gypsies”.

The group is led by the “bolyubasha” and “podbolyubasha” (the leader and his vice leader). Everyone listens to them, because the group has chosen them. The one goes ahead and the other at the back to keep the group together. Once, the inhabitants of the village were more than a thousand, and the survashkari group included 120–140 men!

All day and all night, we went from house to house in the village neighborhoods and later in some of the neighboring villages. First goes the survashkari “wedding”. The “wedding procession” enters every house, “the bride” kisses the host’s hand, he gives her some money. Then “the priest marries the couple”. Those with the skins and masks – “the old men”, play in the yard, people enjoy them, play with them, want to see who is behind the mask, but no one has the right to put it off. The group cannot omit a single house, not a single house, because we go to wish good health and well-being and if we skip a house, the hosts will be offended. Such happiness, such beauty no one else knows anywhere else in the world…”

Today the permanent residents in the village are less than a hundred people, but this feast is alive. Every year on Surova old and young go back to their birthplace to take part in the masquerade games and to experience their amazing beauty. The survashkarye are with new costumes and the masks are remade before every Surova, to be different from the last year and to surprise the connoisseurs. The hosts are waiting for them in front of their house and the happy voices yelling “The Survashkarye are coming, the Survashkarye are coming!” sound throughout the day and the night. An old woman shared that when she could touch the masked men, she feels relief from all her pains. And to the question “Why do you play?” everyone from the group answers: “Because my hearth will explode if I don’t”…

Archive of the Regional Historical Museum – Pernik

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