I will travel nearly 5000 miles, from Toronto to Sofia, to be in small rooms. Sometimes it’s a bedroom. Sometimes it’s a living room. Often, it’s both. In the winter, it is too cold. In the summer, the heat is unbearable. The room is in a village, in a small town, in a big city. There is barely an echo because the room is filled with too many things. Bulky wood armoires and shelves built for another era take up all the space. Doors creak, ceilings are cracked and colors have faded. Everything has aged and everything belongs.
Except for my shiny recorder. It stands out. A 2011 digital Olympus make. I buy it within hours of landing. It can record a thousand consecutive hours — more than I will ever need. I am here to meet the last of the men and women who passed through the Bulgarian gulag. There are a few hundred of them left. Twenty-two have agreed to talk to me on this trip. They call themselves « repressed », (репресирани). There are repressed agrarians, repressed anarchists, repressed social- democrats, repressed Trotskyites, and many other repressed who don’t belong to any political organization.