Slakovtsi Village

About 10 km to the south of Breznik is the old settlement of Slakovtsi, which is mentioned in written documents from 1576. The archaeological finds from the region evidence that the area was inhabited from the high antiquity. In the recent years, the permanent inhabitants of the village are about 230 people.

The active work of the culture house (chitalishte) maintains a living remembrance about the rich cultural traditions. The most impressing among them is not only a memory, but also an active living practice. This is the feast Surova, which is held every year on 13 and 14 January. The oldest resident in the village remembers that in his childhood the survakars gathered in the kitchen of the church and in spite of the clergyman’s discontent, months on end spent their evenings there preparing the masks of the group. From then on up to our days, their masks have unique forms and imposing dimensions.

In order to provide bird’s wings and feathers, the young people secretly stole a hen or a turkey from the yards of their relatives. When the performance started, the old people went after the group and joyfully recognized their own birds on the masks, being pleased that they have contributed to their beauty. The Secretary of the culture house recounts that her most vivid memory from her childhood is the ringing of the bells, which every evening resounded in the village during the whole of December until the feast itself. On the eve of the feast, the masked played together with the survashkari from Selishten Dol in both their own and in the guests’ village. The same they do today.

In the day of Surova the group inevitably went around all the houses, the hosts cheerfully treated them with the ritual food, gifted the “bride” and the “bridegroom”, wrestled with the “bear” for good health, and then went out after the masked. Thus, at the end of the tour, the whole village followed the masquerade group. The common merriment then transferred to the square, where the survashkars blackened with ashes the little children’s and the young girls’ faces. Then they took off their masks in order to be recognized who is who, and all danced together the survashkars horo (chain dance).

Today the feast has preserved all of its beauty and enthusiasm. The power of tradition brings to the masquerade group young people, women and their children, friends and acquaintances from the towns. In the evening of 13 January, in the center of the village gather all of the locals and many guests to enjoy the performance and take part in it. The fire burns out late in the night, but in people’s hearts remain its sparkles to be transferred to the next generation…

Recorded in 2019

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