Chepino Village

Chepino is located 8 km away from the local municipal center Kovachevtsi. Nowadays there are only 40-50 permanent inhabitants in the village but on Surova the population increases ten times. So Dragomir Mirchev, who makes dozens of masks, to suffice for all the men willing to participate in the feast, says:

“Chepino is a small village, but on Surova it is the biggest. Our masks are the best and bring joy to everyone. Wherever we go, they bow to us. This mask, for example, is like untouched, you want to fondle it. My wife as if pretends to be mad at me for being occupied only with this, but she fondles it as well. I make one mask for two weeks. I get the idea, I draw it and I start. First, I should carve a wooden hollow for the face, than I attach corn leaves on the back, but I cut the leaves first to thin fringes. I glue feathers and wings upwards; I glue every feather one by one. On our masks there are thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of wings and feathers. Now I am teaching a young boy from the village to make the masks, so when I will not be able to make them anymore, he will continue and the survashkari from Chepino will always be the best.

Everywhere people are happy with us and like us. Every year on 13 January at the evening on the village square in Chepino several villages gather. We light a big fire and 300-400 people play around it with lit torches. We jump and play until late. The friends and guests as if coming just to watch start playing with us as well. Then everyone – masked and unmasked – go to some of the other villages. There is a fire there too; we play there until midnight as well. All the hills around resound not only with the bells, but with the joy, which flows on that day.

We go back home late at night and in the morning we go around in our own village from house to house. Everyone who has left Chepino and lives somewhere else comes to the village for the feast and prepares a table full of food for us – the survashkari. They welcome us as dearest guests, enjoy and play with us. In every house, “the priest” marries “the bride” and “the groom”, “the bear” mauls people for good health, “the bear keeper” plays the fiddle. Joy! When going out of the yard every host gives us money, meat, rakia (brandy), beans, peppers. It seems as if life in the village is dying, but everything around is full of life on Surova.

We donate the money we gather for a general benefit – we made a renovation of the culture house (chitalishte) club, so that there is a place for the people who stay in the village to gather in the evening; we helped renovating the “St. Nedelya” church, which was quite neglected and on the decline, even one of the survashkari put the bell on it and the others helped with labor as well.

After Surova the masks are all stored at one place – in the hall of the culture house. If an outsider happens to go in, one would remain speechless from their beauty, variety and magic. Many journalists, photographers, television editors, newsmen have come through the years. They stay, look and remain silent in front of the tradition’s power.

Then the village goes deserted again until the next Surova. This feast unites us and makes people better.”

Private archive