A century and a half ago, not only men, but also women found themselves “infected” by the idea of liberating the homeland in Tarnovo during the renaissance
And although they do not go out into the Balkans with a bare sword in hand under the green flag, they also help in organizing the future revolution – each according to their abilities.
The names of some of these proud and majestic Bulgarian women have been preserved in the memory of generations of Tarnovo residents, in fact mainly thanks to the fact that they have been street names for years. One of those seemingly forgotten Bulgarian women who wrote her name in the struggle for liberation is Bona Ganeva Stancheva, or Byala Bona.
She was born in 1830 in the family of Gancho Vitanov, an innkeeper and participant in the Velcho conspiracy. After the death of her parent, Bona and her husband Stancho continue to take care of the inn, which also brings them the main income. The inn was also the most preferred place for foreigners coming to Tarnovo. The Russian writer Vasiliy Nemirovich-Danchenko also stayed there during his tour in Bulgaria. This is how the inn was described half a century later in the “Municipal Gazette of Veliko Tarnovo” from 1935. “In the 1960s, this inn was the best arranged in our city. In addition to places to sleep, it had an inn, a pub and a cafe. All the merchants who came from outside – Greeks, Turks, as well as foreigners – French and Italians, to buy cocoons of borage seed, stopped at the Boninia Inn.”
ALONG WITH THE INN, SINCE THE 60’S OF THE XIX CENTURY, BIALA BONA HAS BEEN CLOSELY ENGAGED WITH THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE AND THE REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITY IN THE OLD CAPITAL.
Unafraid, she visited the captured Komitas from the gangs of Philip Totyu, Hadji Dimitar and Stefan Karadzha in prison and brought them warm clothes and food. In addition, she knew how to predispose those coming to the inn to eat and drink with local Turkish dignitaries and learned some secrets from them, which she communicated to the members of the Tarnovo Revolutionary Committee. Thanks to this valuable information, she was able to be the first to learn about upcoming actions and arrests of the Ottoman authorities and to thwart the arrest of the local committees. According to the information preserved to this day, during the April epic, Byala Bona secretly sheltered in her inn five of Pop Khariton’s Chetniks, who managed to escape alive from the battle at the Dryanovsky Monastery. And for one of them, Pope Petar Draganov from Duskot, he even managed to provide a tesquere, with which he crossed the Danube in Wallachia. For some time, the chief apostle of the Tarnovo revolutionary district Stefan Stambolov hid in the inn of Byala Bona, before he left Tarnovo and found refuge in Samovodene after the betrayals, revelations and arrests of revolutionaries in the region. As a member of the “Women’s Community” society, together with other community members such as Evgenia Kisimova, Mariola Vasileva, Anika Kostova, Kiriyaki and Anika Panayotovi, etc. Byala Bona joins the campaign to collect food, clothes and money from the arrested insurgents. During all these years, the Turkish authorities must not have suspected Byala Bona, as several times her inn was turned upside down.
But somehow she always managed to learn of the impending uninvited visitors and managed to get rid of her dangerous guests while the raids lasted.
Several times the innkeeper was accosted for conversation in the inn, but never once was she detained. During the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-78, in July 1877, with a large part of Tarnovo citizens, Byala Bona welcomed the Russian liberators from the advance detachment of Gen. Joseph Gurko and the Bulgarian militia a few kilometers from the city in the Dervenya area. Byala Bona’s participation in the organized liberation movement gave the writer Parvoleta Prokopova reason to call her “Tarnov’s Baba Tonka” in the book “Sparks from the Revival”. After the Liberation, Bona Stancheva continues to run her father’s inn and enjoy the love of Tarnov residents. The representative of the Russian Red Cross, Prince Alexander Naryshkin, who is actually the chief agent of the Russian Slavic charitable societies in the Principality of Bulgaria, is staying in her inn. On the recommendation of his friends from Tarn, Lyuben Karavelov also stayed at the Byala Bona inn when he came to the old capital.
Dobri Ganchev, Ferdinand’s future teacher in Bulgarian, testifies to this.
“Mrs. Karavelova gave him a room in her hotel. He respects and honors him very much. And in the evening she makes a big alush-verish next to him. Friends come to see him, drink, feast. Stefan Stambolov is his regular visitor. Others who frequented Bela Bona’s inn were Georgi Zhivkov and Giorgio Momchev. We stayed at the lady’s until late in the evening. Until Karavelova fell asleep and invited us to go.”
And this is how he describes the inn of Byala Bona and Konstantin Irechek, who also stayed there during his visit to the old capital. “It is stuck to the slopes of the rock. The tavern with several shops faces the street. Cars are parked inside a narrow yard. Behind the yard are simple wooden cabins for travelers, a poor bed but no vermin, a crooked table, on which is a simple rustic mirror, a tin candlestick, a green brandy water bottle, a half-broken chair, a copper basin, and a hook for hanging clothes.’
Like all Bulgarians, Bona Stancheva welcomed the decisions of the Berlin Congress and the partition of the Bulgarian lands with great bitterness and pain in her soul. And she protested against this unfair decision in her own way – by renaming her inn “United Bulgaria”.
The prestigious inn of Byala Bona, once located on the Samovodski market, has long since ceased to exist.
An information board was placed on the facade of the house built in its place years ago. A street in the “Cholakovtsi” quarter is also named after the famous innkeeper. Unlike other female revivalists from Tarn, for whom no portraits have reached us, there is a photo of Byala Bona. And it is quite possible that a modest bas-relief could be made from this photo to accompany the already existing sign.