Priboy Village

Priboy village is only 8 km away from the town of Radomir. The unique mediaeval “Virgin Mary” church with murals from the 16th c. attracts many art connoisseurs in the village. And the secretary of its culture house (chitalishte) assures that it is not necessary to go so far back in time in order to be amazed by some elements of the local traditional culture, preserved from the remote past up to our days. One of them is the feast Surova performed every year on 13 and 14 January.

The inhabitants of the village are already only about 130 people, but behind the masks perform more than 80 survakars. In the course of the whole year, participants and spectators on equal terms collect materials for the masks and the costumes. The nearby farm also helps them. After September, in the hall of the culture house becomes rather busy and cheerful. Everyone, coming back from work or from school, joins the survakars company and starts nailing down laths, stretching leather on them, putting horns or stringing up teeth. The ideas for the unique masks’ appearance spring up spontaneously – along with the jokes and the jests, in the conversations, in the memories. Every participant in the group provides his bells on his own. The more numerous they are and the more harmonized, the greater the will to show them in the performance. Some of the sets weigh about 70–80 kg, but this cannot be an obstacle for their owner to carry them all night long and to attract the amazement and the ovations of the locals and the guests. It is so attractive to be behind the fearful mask with a fur costume and with sets of bells, that it is difficult to find volunteers for the roles of the “bride” and the “bridegroom”, the “brother-in-law”, the “bear-keeper and the bear”, the “priest”. It was so cold one year, that the water in the “priest’s” metal pot was frozen and he could not sprinkle “for good health”.

The feast belongs to the whole village, all of its inhabitants like it and take care for its safeguarding. Several of the elderly women knit socks for the group, others sew the shirts and the fur-coats, and still others look for some old costumes for those who perform the survakars’ wedding ceremony… On the evening of 13 January, when they light the fire in the village center, all of them gather around it – locals, relatives from the nearby towns, and guests. The foreigners, who have bought houses in the village, on those dates, do their utmost to be at home and to welcome the masked participants, to receive their wishes for welfare, to treat them and to present them with various gifts. Their amazement at the custom activities remains in the past, today they wait for it with joy, participate in it and make it part of their life.

In Priboy, as elsewhere, where the masquerade at Surova is still living, whole families take part in its performance – parents, spouses, children, grandchildren… For that reason, all of them are sure, that even if the custom shows a tendency to die out in a certain year, in the next one it will flourish again with new vigor, more impressing and more splendid than ever.

Recorded in 2019

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