Meshtitsa Village

The village of Meshtitsa is situated 7 km to the north of Pernik on the road Pernik – Breznik. About 3–4 km to the east of the village are the western slopes of Lyulin Mountain and the village of Divotino. The well-known “brigade” railroad Pernik – Voluyak passes between the two villages.

Zhana Yordanova is the President of the culture center’s (chitalishte) board in Meshtitsa. She is married in the village and has come from another region of the country. She did not have any contact with the masquerade tradition before coming to Meshtitsa. Now she shares her experience connected to Surova as follows: “The sound of the bells changes me. You merge in that Surova magic, about which the locals speak. You see how people’s faces change, when those several days come. In the evening of 13 January the fire is lit, around which the local people gather and dance chain dances – horo. Usually some other survakari group is visiting. And when you see the survakari – that group of 95 people, starting from the one end of the village with lit torches… It is very exciting!”

In the past, the survakari from Meshtitsa manufactured their masks and costumes from animal leather and horns. There was a period, when they used rags for their costumes, and the masks were from feathers and birds. From the last year, they again started using leather and horns. All the participants in the group of the bell-wearers have bought the whole sets of bells. The survakari group has two bolyubashi – the one is the leader of the bell-wearers, and the other – of the “wedding”.

Years ago, an elderly survakar from the village, grandfather Malin, told how the hosts welcomed the masked in their homes, how they gifted them. He remembered that the gifts were given in the following sequence – first the hosts gave the apples, then the walnuts, and at last a jar of honey. Today people give the survakari money, meat, rakia (brandy), bacon, apples and walnuts. There is almost no house, where nobody is waiting for them, even when the feast is in a workday. The raised funds are used for the needs of the survakari group, but in the years, they also allocated money for charity purposes.

Zhana Yordanova shares as well: “Our main group are young boys, who start preparing their masks as early as November. They gather down in the “bear’s place”, which is situated in the basement of the chitalishte (culture center). They go in and talk about the feast. The fact that they do it means that the magic of Surova is going on. And I hope that this magic will continue. I see it in the little children’s eyes, who are 3–4 years old… Exactly they will be the ones, who will continue the Surova tradition. We have whole houses who participate in the custom. Generations of people – grandfather, father, grandchildren, and even in several houses we have also grand-grandchildren. The elderly people transmit the costume to the son; the son brings his son as well. After so much time, I start understanding those who jangle from the age of two. I say to my friends: “There is no way to feel it! When you are not from the region, for you it is only a carnival.”

Recorded in 2019.