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To Snejana Ianeva with Deference and Love...

To Snejana Ianeva with Deference and Love...

Nikola R. Kazanski

You ought to be silent when it hurts

Or else they smash you over there

Marina Tsvetaeva

Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.

Neil Gaiman

It is said that Bulgaria is a small country,situated in a very complicated place.

Or simply speaking for it weighs with theapothegmGods may do what cattle may not or more commonlyevery cobbler must stick to his last. That‘s why I’ll cast my eyes about only on my limpid library plash.

But they say also that it is not allowed to write things similar toMy Pushkin likewise Anna Akhmatova or Marina Tsvetaeva. I do absolutely disagree with this and so I shall venture to write MySnejana Ianeva with, of course, the French reservationtoutes proportions gardées.

For goodness’s sake I was not even among those lucky fellows over 40 (!) Bulgarian librarians sent by Snejana on training in America. But nevertheless I am from the town of AlekoKonstantinov (1863-1897) who wrote To Chicago and Back.I do remember when, as a tutor of Professor Greg Harris from Harvard, in the framework of the Bulgarian FulbrightCommission, I had a direct contact with his father – former U.S. Marine Corps officer. During the conversation he asked me What is this AlekoKonstantinov? and I replied spontaneously Well,he is something between Mark Twain and O. Henry… To the astonished glance of the father at his son, the latter retorted jestingly But Nikola isstillthe librarian of the Academy…

I’ll try to write a parallel life story for my personal satisfaction…

Snejana and I we do have, initially and fatally, a good dealin common – the both of us are NOT from Sofia. Only those who were like us could comprehend what it is all about. And this was once upon a time when the right of residency in Sofia was an exclusive privilege and much more than a noblerank.

Otherwise we are born just before the Stalin’s death. She on an International Women’s Day and I on an International Day for Monuments and Sites. 18th of April is perilously close to the birthdays of Hitler and Lenin but there is nothing one can do about that. Allegedly the tenet

TheSon is not responsible for the Father was valid, butnot in reality. I personally was fully accountable for my elder brother (non-returner, émigré-defector). As a consequence, I’ve done my military service in the Labor Corps, the place for compulsory service of former criminals, as well as ignorant young folk from the national minorities. This was a gross and flagrant violation of the law in force at the time according to which I, as a university graduate and having a crystal clean police record, should be assigned to a Military school for reserve officers.

Well, never mind, who cares…

We have grown up inparochial towns of about 20 thousand residents but both of themalso with quite emblematic history.

Svishtov was a trade and Bulgarian national revival seat where came into being the first Bulgarian library and cultural club in 1856 and Dimitrovgrad was an important junction of the trans-EuropeanOriental railways of Baron Hirsch and was a symbol of the modern Bulgarian industry. But it was also the town of my favorite poet PenyoPenev (1930-1959) with his providential Days of Retreat where was declared the paragon:

 

The Man is Man if and only if

He is on the road again!

We are brought up in intellectual families with largeprivate libraries. Especially my father (Professor in French and docteurѐslettres) is originated from the village of Kazanka not so far from Dimitrovgrad.

We are of course straight A students with excellent marks and graduated also from a second university major in library studies, bibliography and scientific information at Sofia University.

The foreign languages are not at all alien to us, but her cathedral was English, while I hesitated between French, Russian and other so-called Western languages. By vital necessity however I exerted myself in the English…

We have come into office as rank-and-file librarians in the biggest academic libraries in Bulgaria – the Central Library of Sofia University and the Central Library of Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Exceedingly fast for the then conservative times we became the youngest heads of departments of Periodicals and International exchange of publications respectively.

All the same we do have a “small” problem with the visit to foreign countries outside the “socialist camp” which is result as well of our position in the spirit of the ominous verse by Marina Tsvetaeva(1892-1941) in 1938:

In this Bedlam of nonhumans –

I refuse to live!

With this pack of wolves of yours –

I refuse to howl!

The fall of the BerlinWall was existential for both of us and Snejana herself had even the chance to witness in person this crucial event.

After a great number of successful competitions for training abroad and immediately after winning a professional competition in 1992,Snejana took office at the US Embassy in Sofia and even became Director of the American Information Resource Center. This is a quite rare case in our country where everythingis determined by political expedience or kinship ties, and more often by both simultaneously.

After that our ways continued in the same direction but while she rambled confidently in the highest home and international library circles, I tried to maintain the prestige of library profession in the academic realm. For this contributed my specializations (always by competition and not by office) in the national and academic libraries of England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Turkey, etc.

Whatever one has said about the contributions of Snejana Ianeva to the development and the advancement of libraries in Bulgaria during the last 30 years it will be always insufficient, mostly fragmentary, and partial.

 

She has been, really and truly, as a hundred-armed Shiva or multiple-armed Kali, who incrediblysucceeded to tackle lots of extremely difficult problems in the quite entangled library domain, which has always been a second fiddle in Bulgaria.

First, she established a long-term connection with the most technologically advanced American theory and practice. Many Bulgarian librarians, mainly from the province, which has always been deprived from opportunities in comparison to the capital, went to specializations and exchange programs. Being born outside the circles of the privileged in Sofia, Snejana understood and felt the depth of this serious problem.

Thanks to her numerous contacts and competent professional relations we have now in Bulgaria the most remarkable large-scale project of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “Glob@l Libraries Bulgaria”. For that project only she deserves a monument… Besides that, under her leadership more than a dozen American centers and reading rooms were created at the public libraries all over the country.

As President of the Bulgarian Library Association, she was elected and took the baton from worthy predecessors, but her unstoppable energy and leadership charisma lead to results that were unthinkable before. She established and strengthened the contacts with such important professional organizations like the American Library Association, The Association of European Research Libraries, and of course the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and UNESCO.

Thanks to her the postponed for ever (ad kalendas Graekas) Law of Public Libraries was finally adopted - something extremely difficult to achieve in a country like Bulgaria.

She started and developed such useful professional initiatives like the National Library Week, Green Libraries, awards and distinctions for the best librarians and many others.

Without delay she encouraged the adoption and use of the newest and most sophisticated information technologies in the libraries in her capacity of the Director of the American Information Resource Center.

Last but not least is her not-publicized participation, but worthy contribution to such international projects like the new Library of Alexandria. An important result of that is the position of President Peter Stoyanov as a member of the Bord of Alexandria Library, a great honor for any country.

There are legends about her honesty, fairness, and professional dignity, but let us leave these to be told in the memories of the people as time goes on.

During those very intensive decades my contacts with Snejana were not very frequent, but always filled with important content and remembered as memorable moral lessons. On one side one felt the sincerity and warmth of a competent colleague, on the other the indisputable authority of a capable leader. This last quality was very characteristic of Snejana Ianeva. She had a God given gift as a leader. There were no obvious or hidden forces behind her, only her personal natural charisma.

I remember with bitterness that the infamous totalitarian system had (at least on paper) very high criteria for librarians, like university education, graduate degrees, postdoctoral specializations, knowledge of more than one western language (Russian was a given), computer literacy etc.. At the same time there were no criteria to be a library director – even university education was not required, not to speak of the others. This totalitarian administrative absurdity of course was not incidental. It was the foundation of the tribal atavistic power, which led consequently to its own inglorious fall into non-existence, but that came as always at the expense and in detriment of the common people.

The times of democratic change at least gave an opportunity to natural leaders like Snejana to take their rightful place in society. And it was a great chance not only for all Bulgarian librarians, but for the library system. As the saying goes “God looked upon us with both eyes…”

Snejana with her natural curiosity loved to travel. She was in her element on water. She loved ships and boats. After all her Zodiac sign is Pices….

I, myself besides Italy and the Portuguese fado love the fairy tale countries and even managed to visit Persia (Iran) and Anatolia (Turkey).

When I am brooding over and over about Sneja, very often to my mind comes the fateful stanza of Pushkin:

Holy Virgin remains woeful

Over the eternal stream…

And I will finish with the verses of Anna Andreevna Akhmatova:

Not under foreign skies protection

Or saving wings of alien birth –

I was then there – with my whole nation –

There, where my nation was, alas!