Sixty years since the immersion of the village of Zapalnia in the waters of the “Zhrebchevo” dam and 130 years since the consecration of the local church “St. Ivan Rilski” will be celebrated at a community meeting by former residents and descendants. This is what Ivan Petrov, who is from the village and whose childhood memories are connected with it, said in an interview for BTA.
The meeting is scheduled for September 10 at 11:00 a.m. and between 80 and 100 people are expected to attend. Petrov said that in the past, village meetings were held on September 9, when a national holiday was celebrated. Organizers hope to gather as many people as possible. Most of them settled in the town of Tvarditsa, where they founded the so-called Zapala district, also in Kazanlak, Sborishte, Nikolaevo, Stara Zagora, Orizari village, etc.
I have fleeting memories of the village, said Ivan Petrov, whose ancestors were craftsmen. His parents and other peers who are the living history of Zapalnia will attend the meeting. Our aspiration is to pass this history on to the future generation, he said. And he added that the attendance is decreasing every year and fewer and fewer of the young descendants of the former village are coming to the meetings.
He himself was one of the initiators of the emergency repair and strengthening of the so-called “Sunken church” near the “Zhrebchevo” dam. In 2020, the walls, door arches and windows of the building were strengthened.
The story of the sunken village
Stoyan Markov, the deputy mayor for European projects of the municipality of Sliven, told about the history of the village, the beginning of which dates back to the 15th century, in an interview for BTA. He is a descendant of residents of Zapalnia on both his mother’s and father’s side. The village was submerged in the year he was born – 1965. When he was three months old, everything remained under the waters of the Tundzha River, which mainly fills the dam. The beginning and the end of the village are indicated by the inscription on a memorial plaque placed after the sinking of the village “Zapalnya Village, settled in the 15th century, evicted in 1962”.
The story of the name of the settlement is interesting. Above the former Sub-Balkan village, in the skirts of the so-called Rose Valley, carries a bad omen since its founding. With unexpected arrivals of the Tundzha River, it was often submerged, and a large part of its inhabitants perished. The survivors after the “floods” founded a new village and named it Apazlu (translated from Turkish – pain, suffering), and subsequently the name became Bulgarianized to Zapalnia.
The village was known for having the best oil rose plantations in the country and had more than 120 gülovi cauldrons. After its submersion, the houses, the community center, the village pub and the beautiful rose gardens of Zapalnia remained at the bottom of the dam. A local legend says that the gold of a rich producer of rose oil remained buried under the waters, which has not yet been discovered.
The only thing left of the sunken village is the church, which has become a real attraction for tourists and a favorite object for photographers. In early spring, the temple is almost completely underwater, and in summer, when the waters of the dam recede, it floats. The church was built in 1891 by craftsmen from Trevna and consecrated in 1892 by the Metropolitan of the Sliven Diocese Gervasiy, Stoyan Markov also told. It was erected on a hill, higher than the village, where the Zapalnia cemetery was also located. When it became clear that the village would be submerged, people took the icons and church utensils and carried them to the church in the town of Gurkovo.
According to Markov, the then authorities offered the priest serving in the church to destroy it, but he refused. Local people look at the floating temple with nostalgia and sadness, he said. The church is an important part of the village submerged in the dam, which refuses to submit to nature and disappear. She is left to show us that faith and spirit die last.