The victims of the totalitarian regimes in Europe, including the victims of the communist regime in Bulgaria, are not a topic we often talk about at school, at home, or with friends. Their tragic fate teaches us lessons much bigger than those in the textbooks. It teaches us courage and principles, it tells us about display of weakness but also humanity, it shows us why democracy, no matter how flawed it may be, is the best form of government.

Belene and the islands around the city are among the most beautiful, but also most sinister, places in Bulgaria. We relate them to the repressive communist system in the country. Hundreds died and many were subject to years of repression in the camp in Belene between 1949 and 1989. They did not know whether they would ever see their families again. In recent years, more and more citizens are discovering the city and the concentration camp as a site of remembrance, thanks to the dedicated work of members of the local community.

The summer school “Why should we remember?” organized by the Sofia Platform Foundation with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, gathers annually around 20 youngsters from all over Bulgaria who become part of the community of “ambassadors of memory”. The main themes of the program are the differences between democracy and totalitarian regimes, dealing with the past and its significance for the present and future. A variety of activities address those during the summer school – interactive methods, working with archival materials, visits to important historical sites, discussions with eyewitnesses, expert lectures.


Here you can take a look at the zine that was created by the participants in our 2019 summer school “Why should we remember?” with the help of Krasimira Butseva, photography lecturer and artist, and Julian Chehirian, historian and artist. The zine tells an emotional story, captured in the words and pictures from the participants’ experiences in Belene. The photographs, text and thoughts in this publication are organized solely by the participants in the summer school. 

The summer school “Why should we remember?” is organized by the Sofia Platform Foundation with the support of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.