Stefanovo Village

Stefanovo village is located only 10 km away from Radomir. It has around 350 inhabitants and a great part of them mask and play on Surova, as their predecessors have done. The custom is from “time immemorial”. Until the 80s-90s of the last century, no women participated in the survashkari groups and the children furtively ran along the masked men. In the recent decades, women and children are the most enthusiastic part of the group. In it there should be “a bride and a groom”, “a brother in law”, “a bear with a bear keeper”, “a priest”, “a standard bearer”, “a gypsy man and a gypsy woman”; there is also “a doctor”, “a nurse”, “a policeman” and musicians. For a few years now, “the bride” is Velin, who lives in Radomir, but is delighted to disguise, to decorate with the bride’s posy, and to go with the group. In the 60s and 70s of the last century, most of the survashkari were only with faces painted in black or with torn socks on their heads and put inside out caps, dressed with fur or pieces of cloth. Today they wear masks from natural materials – wood and leather. Mario, for whom the manufacturing of masks is an art challenge, gathers strange wooden pieces from the willows by the river, makes some final changes to them and with pleasure offers a mask as a gift to everyone who wants to play on Surova. Once, the survashkari visited all the houses in the night of 14 January. Nowadays the group sets off early in the morning starting from the most remote neighborhood. The women from the vocal group are also up early. They prepare tea, coffee, bread, banitsa (cheese pie), and tripe soup, so that when the survashkari end visiting the Gorni Rakovets neighborhood and pass across the square on their way to the lower part of the village, they could take off the masks and have a rest for a while, getting warm and having a snack.

All the houses in the village wait for the survashkari with joy and impatience. In each house “the bride” kisses the hand of the host, he gives her a banknote and the hostess puts meat, peppers, pickled vegetables, honey, fruits, wine and rakia (brandy) in their bags. On the last feast, they were gifted with a few lamb heads, which is unusual and provoked much laughter, jokes and frolic. In the houses with recently deceased they also welcome them. Only the main characters enter the yard, the musicians do not play, no one dances, but the hosts know, that the visit of the masquerade group brings well-being, they are grateful for it and also give abundant gifts. Accompanied with much emotion is also the visit to the town hall. All survashkari visit the mayor and play for him, and his donation is specially observed and commented.

On the evening of 14 January after visiting all the houses, the survashkari take off their masks, light a big fire on the square, and start a hot-tempered celebration with all the local people to the accompaniment of the bells. The survashkari, locals and guests join the horo (chain) dance and play until late at night. The dishes with bread and banitsa (cheese pie) pass from hand to hand and the jests with wine and rakia (brandy) raise the spirits ever more.

On the next morning, the masks are carefully stored in the cultural house saloon awaiting the participation of the Stefanovo survashkari  in the International festival of masquerade games and the next Surova, when each survashkar will put on his mask and the games will start again.

With the money, which the survashkari have received from the grateful hosts, the group buys new bells and accepts all the invitations for participating in festivals in Bulgaria and abroad in other near and remote countries.

Recorded in 2018

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