The Irishman James Bourchier covers the first gypsy congress in Bulgaria in the Times
In 1905, James David Bourchier attended a gypsy congress – the first of its kind in the history of the Roma tribe. The British journalist covered the high forum in the London “Times”.
James Bourchier was born in 1850 in County Limerick, Ireland. He graduated in journalism from Cambridge. He has been a long-time correspondent for the Times in the Balkans. From 1892 to 1915 he lived in Sofia.
In December, Sofia was adorned with colorful posters for a gypsy gathering. The gathering, which is something like a plenum, will be held under the dome of “Circus Bulgaria”, the announcements read.
On the appointed day, the circus barely accommodated the Roma. A short man comes out of the arena and raises his hand like Danton. The crowd falls silent. “Gypsy gentlemen!” The speaker began. The audience completely stops. “A glorious Coptic tribe that came to this land in unknown times …”, the tribune continues.
The gypsy Danton is the lawyer Marko Markov. He is a highly educated man. A native of Tulcea, he studied at a French-German boarding school, then at Robert College and the Nikolaev High School. He graduated in law from Liège with a doctorate in law.
Marko Markov is a colleague of J. Bourchier. He is a correspondent for the Cologne Zeitung, the Brussels-based Reform and the Bucharest-based Telegraphul. The doctor is a polyglot. He is about to master the gypsy language as well. His speech at the circus is adorned with Latin sayings and French proverbs. O tempora, o mores !, Markov shouted at one point and the dark-skinned audience went crazy with delight.
The speaker suggested to those present that it was imperative to convene a general gypsy congress. The plenum sent letters to all major cities in the principality. Markov personally invited Boucher as an official guest of the congress.
In the afternoon, Aramadan Aliov, the Roma’s mukhtar, climbs on the rostrum. Dark, large, with a patterned turban on his head, with a wide belt and a gaitani setre, he addressed the audience: “Allah yardum ewan! Welcome!” Bourchier starts taking notes.
After the mukhtar, Ali Bilyalov and the Plovdiv delegate Ali Mutishev spoke. He begins his speech with “Yashasin (Tur. Long live) Prince Ferdinand!”
Boucher does not understand the phrase and asks Markov what it means. “Long live Prince Ferdinand!” The doctor translated. Then Markov stands up and takes the floor. It offers a six-member desk plus a cashier and a clerk. They were elected unanimously. Markov does not nominate himself for chairman, the post is implied.
The gypsies, the lawyer said, were either an Aryan tribe from India or Copts, that is, Egyptians. They came to the Balkan Peninsula in 870 during the reign of Emperor Nicephorus of Byzantium. As prime minister in 1901, Petko Karavelov declared them a “lower race” and deprived them of their voting rights.
Because Markov speaks fast, Bourchier takes a shorthand. Here is the end of the speech: “What if, say, the gypsies move out, who will tin the pots in the villages? Who will make us a hammock in the capital? (Voices: Truly.) restore their rights. “Applause.”
The delegates sent a telegram to Prince Ferdinand. They are also preparing two deputations – one for a meeting with the prince, the other for a meeting with the Speaker of the National Assembly.
We are not a lower race, the Roma insist. The election law needs to be amended.
Between meetings, James Boucher asked Marko Markov to take him around the new gypsy neighborhood. He wants to immerse himself in the authentic atmosphere in order to incorporate it in his reports for the Times. Markov showed the delegates a number and translated the word gipsy for them. The dark-skinned people run to the Bulgaria Hotel, Bourchier ‘s permanent home in Sofia, to thank the journalist.
“Gypsies,” Bourchier wrote in the Times, “are named after the Qinggani River in present-day Iran, whose shores inhabited antiquity. Between the 5th and 10th centuries, they settled in Asia Minor and from there to the west. , which gives grounds for Mr. Markov to make them descendants of the pharaohs. “
A great friend of Bulgaria, James Bourchier passionately defended the Bulgarian cause in the great international conflicts of the twentieth century. He sharply criticized the unjust Treaty of Bucharest of 1913 and the Neuilly Dictate of 1919.
After his retirement, James Bourchier planned to stay in Bistrita. He died in 1920 and was buried at the entrance of the Rila Monastery.