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  • Writer's pictureStefan Ivanov

St. Dimitar church in Hisarya

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

A story about St. Dimitar church, where the April Uprising was announced, for the brave people of Verigovo, Sindzhirliy, Levski, Benkovski and for the flag of Volov's detachment

It all started with my strong desire to visit and photograph the oldest church in Hisarya "St. Dimitar”, located at the end of the Verigovo district on Raina Knyaginya Street.

I set the place in navigation and drive on, without even suspecting what awaits me.

On this sunny and warm, late Saturday afternoon in April, I arrived in front of the temple.

"Here was the church where the April Uprising was announced on April 21, 1876."

The huge old oak gate stands proudly in front of me. Next to it is the Botyuva Fountain, which gushes cold, mountain water for thirsty throats.

I walk along the massive high stone wall to the old bell tower. It seems to be old - perhaps it is also a witness to those turbulent and brave times, to glorious revolutionaries, brave decisions and proud men.

I don't stop photographing.

I'm coming back.

I find an inscription on the gate, which has somehow escaped me so far and which states that if we want to see the church, I can call the house on the right.

I look to the right, a small, neat little house and an old grandmother doing something in the yard.

"Good afternoon!" I said and the old grandmother's face greet with a smile. I'm talking about what I'm here for and that I'm looking for someone to unlock the gate. The old woman immediately left what she was doing, said she would only get dressed because it was cold inside the church, and limping, leaning on a small crutch and holding the keys in her hand, took me on another incredible adventure in those memorable times, in which the Bulgarians dare to rise up and stand up proudly - the days of April, the summer of 1876.

This is Grandma Stoyna - 85 years old, smiling, a real Bulgarian woman!

The distance from the door of her house to the gate of the temple is a few meters (just across the road), but she managed to tell me with incredible trepidation about her son abroad, about her grandchildren, about how she herself visited them several times, about how much she misses them, and how they are constantly heard and seen "on Facebook", there - from their house in Hisarya.

I listen carefully and do not interrupt.

I wondered, "Aren't we in Hisarya?" Without realizing the story and revelation that awaited me.

"I miss you so much! They tell me, "Grandma, stay here with us!" But I can't. I am used to the land, to the village.”And although an excellent student (she graduated with honors), she remains to work here.

She unlocks the lock and the old gate opens.

We walk slowly along the narrow alley leading to the temple.

I beg her to take some pictures of her. She refuses - well, she hadn't "dressed herself properly." "Another time, my child," she said.

He shows me where the first school was founded in 1856 and set on fire during the April Uprising.

I walk around the temple and photograph it from everywhere.

Then we go inside, she sits wearily and begins her story. I listen in amazement and record these memorable words over the phone.

"After the announcement of the uprising in Koprivshtitsa, here in Verigovo, Benkovski arrived and read "the Bloody Letter" in front of the church."

Saying this, she just trembles with excitement.

Her father-in-law was a priest here. His grandfather was priest Petko Stoynov (supporter together with Kolyo Popdimitrov). He went to work at Levski in Karlovo, where he was captured by the Turks. He was dragged to the Maritsa bridge in Plovdiv, where he was hanged. His wife, Grandma Ivana, took his skull, which is buried here on the altar of the temple.

Again she - grandmother Ivana, once a skillful girl from the village of Sindzhirliy, sewed and embroidered the flag of the Volov's detachment. The flag bearer is Grandma Ivana's brother.

The church also announced the joining of the Sindzhirliy people to the revolt, which revolted together with the neighboring villages. Priest Dimitar (father of teacher Kolyo) rang the bell on the fateful day and sent his son to Volov's detachment.

"During this time, the people of Verigovo are already completely ready - rifles, gunpowder, rusks. The whole village rises - with the children. The men harness the oxen to the cars, filled with all their belongings. Women with children on strainers - on their backs. They set off for Koprivshtitsa on foot through the Balkan to help the insurgents. To fight! The whole village is being exported! To the left one! Priest Dimitar burn his house in fire so that there would be no going back. Many people in the village of Sindzhirliy follow this example and also set fire to their houses so that they have nowhere to return."

I'm listening carefully!

What times! What people!

"Until now, they say, a Turk could not went after dusk trough the village."

"The next day, however, the Turks arrived and set fire to the whole village - everything was burned!"

The people of Sindzhirliy arrived in Koprivshtitsa, but from there they were returned to the village of Klisura - they needed help there. But the Turks are waiting for them on Zli Dol and kill them all. Only a handful of people survive and the flag carrier - a very brave man - manages to save the flag.

Here she shows me the flag lying opposite us.

"Together with a group of people from Koprivshtitsa they are leaving for Romania. They stopped in the village of Byala, near Ruse, where they were attacked by a Turkish loss and managed to capture some of the group. They managed to save the flag by handing it over to a shepherd. The shepherd carries the flag to a local church, where the priest guards it. Much later - Grandma Stoyna says with tears in her eyes - people come from Byala and want to see the flag, kiss it…

From Byala they carried the flag to Shumen in the house-museum of Panayot Volov. From there, the flag left for Sofia, where it was kept until 1944 in the fund of the Ethnographic Museum, when it was burned during the bombing of Sofia during World War II.

Currently, at the initiative of the donor Boyno Markovski, today the flag of the Shumen apostle, a merchant of Gyul oil, has been restored, consecrated and every true Bulgarian can see it here in the temple, kiss it and worship it.

During this time, her husband, Grandpa Petko, began mowing the lawn in the churchyard.

At last, Grandma Stoyna tells me to wait as she slowly climbs the stairs. He entered her house and after a while showed up, handing me a reprinted article from August 11, 2011 in the newspaper "Shumenska Zarya", where, along with the exclusive story about Volov, about the "Shumen flag", about which I have already told you and to which I touched, for Levski, he also came here, to this very sacred place for Bulgarian freedom, for the "Verigovski Apriltsi" (Volov chooses from here the most representatives-delegates for the first Grand National Assembly in Oborishte, as well as his rebels), a valuable book written in 1996 by two patriotic people of Hisarya about the horrors and fires after the defeat of the uprising, is a photo of her.

This is Grandma Stoyna - a true heart Bulgarian woman!

This is the history of St. Dimitar church, a witness of those long-gone and so brave times!

And you, my dear friends, do not miss to visit and see all the photo moments from the epic story of Grandma Stoyna!

How to get to St Dimitar church in the Verigovo district?

Have a nice and charming walk around!

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