Leskovets Village

Leskovets village is just 6-7 km from the municipality center Pernik. The stone fountain on its small square is decorated with a bas-relief of a survashkar with a mask and bells. Even that sole fact prompts that the locals like the Surova feast best and identify themselves with it; they consider it a characteristic of the village.

In the memories of the old people, there are many cheerful stories about the “old times”, when they, as children, throughout the night ran along the survakari group. One of them remembers that the survakari always brought two donkeys with them to carry on their packsaddles the bags with gifts – beans, meat, flour, fruits, rakia (brandy). On their way to the neighboring village of Batanovtsi one of the donkeys refused to cross the bridge over the small river and the group was forced to turn it upside down and drag it to the other bank. The men, disguised as a wedding procession sang throughout the whole road, so that they could be heard from the near villages, while the survashkari did not take off their masks and the heavy bells throughout the whole night, so that no one could recognize them. In the 70s of the last century, the masks were made of feathers and wings, because near the village there had been a poultry farm and this facilitated the manufacturing of the masks. Nowadays the masks are made of leathers and horns. The two brothers Jan and Vladi, Malin and Gosho Tsvetanskin produce them. One of those masks is on the festival postmark; another may be seen on the pages of the album “Bulgarian ritual masks” and many like them are taken far away from the borders of Bulgaria.

In the recent years, there are only 82 inhabitants in the village, but the survashkari group is numerous, because people from Leskovets, who live elsewhere, also take part in it. The guests who come from near and from far away also put masks on their heads and tie belts with bells for the feast. The children already do not run along with the group, but are part of it. The participants gather one or two weeks before Surova to determine the personages. It is hard to find young men for the “bride” and the “groom”, because everyone wants to wear a mask. The group has not just one, but three leaders (bolyubashii) who are dressed as voivodes.

In the evening of 13 January the survashkari play around the fire, the village enjoys them and people passing by chance are eager to touch some of the masks and to put on one of them thus becoming a part of the feast… Then the group visits the village of Bogdanov dol or welcomes the group from there.

On the morning of 14 January, the village streets again resound with the sound of bells. The masked men set off from the Lower Neighborhood, enter and play in every yard and the hosts bring food and gifts for them. The owners of villas also expect them with love. For them welcoming of the survashkari is not only an honor and a joyful experience, but also a part of the village romance. The local inhabitant Georgi, who has only once put on a mask, but is the best host and traditionally always waits for the group with mulled rakia (brandy), tells: “There is a more distant house in the Upper Neighborhood. A few years ago, the survashkari got there, but it seemed to them that there was no one in the house, and because they were already very tired, they went back without entering. They came to the town hall saloon and began undressing. Well, but Vanko’s wife (from the house they skipped) came running to the saloon and begged them to come back and enter their house. The survashkari disguised again, tied the bells and went back to the Upper Neighborhood at the end of the village… this is Surova!”

After the feast on Surova and the festival in Pernik, the Leskovets survashkari group organizes a celebration with music, chain dances (hora) and an abundant banquet, on which they invite all locals. And the village mayor says: “For the people of Leskovets Surova is not just a feast, it is a cause that unites the whole village”.

Recorded in 2018