It is very hard to trace with accurate details the lives of the first Bulgarian emigrants who arrived in North America, because Bulgaria was ruled by the Turks from 1396 to 1878. All Bulgarians that had left their homeland, for whatever reason, and arrived in North America were registered as Turkish citizens. Many of them had even arrived with Turkish birth certificates and identification papers. That was the situation up until 1878. From then on, all emigrants coming from the Bulgarian Principality were registered as Bulgarians. According to the Berlin Congress of 1878 the remaining Bulgarian territory to the south, the geographical region that was then known as Macedonia, is left under Turkish rule. Up until 1912 all Bulgarian emigrants who were coming to North America from this region continued to be registered as Turkish citizens. After the Balkan War of 1912 the region of Macedonia is split up into three smaller territories. Serbia takes the largest territory, Greece the second largest and Bulgaria the smallest. From 1912 to 1944 Bulgarian emigrants who came to North America, from the Serbian or Greek part of Macedonia, with Bulgarian birth certificates and Bulgarian marriage licenses, were registered as Serbian or Greek citizens.
After 1944, by the order of Tito and other Serbian communists, the state of Macedonia is artificially created inside the boundaries of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. People were violently forced to change their family names from Ivanov to Ivanovski, Petrov to Petrovski, Dobrev to Dobrevski. This was done so that the Bulgarians living in Macedonia would have different names in comparison to the Bulgarians that were living in Bulgaria. This change created very strange situations. One brother that lived in Bulgaria had the name Georgi Kulishev while the other brother, from the same family, that was living in Macedonia had the name Lazar Kulishevski. The mass emigration of Bulgarians from Macedonia, who were predominately heading towards North America or Australia trying to save themselves and or their families from Tito's regime, were registered as Macedonian immigrants. The artificially created Macedonian language and Macedonian history had begun to influence the national awareness of the people that were born there after 1944. At graveyards in Macedonia strange phenomena began to occur. After 1944 people are buried with their newly changed family names, Vanche Popovski is buried next to his grandfather who was Ivan Popov.
The first wave of emigration was caused by the merciless defeat by the Turks at the Ilinden uprising of 1903. Entire villages were burned by the Turkish army which had left the villagers with no place to go. Listening to the advice given to them by American missionaries, who were in Bulgaria and Macedonia at that time, they decide to leave their homeland in search for a better life. These first pioneers would pave the way for all future emigrants.
The second wave arrived in 1912 after Bulgaria was defeated by their own allies, which were Serbia and Greece. By the time they had arrived the first immigrant wave had been able to build several Bulgarian churches and organize numerous associations and clubs. They even began to publish Bulgarian newspapers. All of these achievements made it easier for these immigrants to start their life over on the new continent.
The third wave came after the end of the First World War. This is also when Macedonia was forced to become a part of the newly created Yugoslavia. The Bulgarians that were living in Macedonia, whose number was over 1.3 million, were advised to use only the Serbian language and to accept the fact that they no longer lived in Macedonia but that they were living in Southern Serbia. After these events took place the population in this area began to emigrate, in very large numbers, towards North America where many of their relatives, friends or fellow villagers were already living and for the most part had succeeded to establish a normal life.
The fourth wave of Bulgarian emigration came to North America after the end of the Second World War. At the end of the war a secret agreement was made at the Yalta Conference between Roosevelt and Churchill. This agreement would leave Bulgaria and Macedonia to fall under the control of the communist system. The immigrants from this period, which was after 1944, were completely different from all other immigrants that had arrived before them. This was due to the fact that among them there were highly educated individuals including former Bulgarian ministers and other diplomats that were acknowledged around the world. Unfortunately not only do they arrive with their higher education and political experience, but also with their previous political mistakes, hatred come one another and overall dishonest relationships. These factors helped to produce the disease that would lead to future political crises within the emigration community. The name “Motherland Bulgaria" would not be enough for them to reconcile. They quickly divide themselves into different groups, parties, and unions. Overall this would weaken them politically.
These newly formed political groups from the Bulgarian emigration started to fight among themselves either for greater prestige or for a larger number of members. Under the watchful eye of the American government and international institutions they exhausted themselves with petty accusations which lead to a continual downfall of their authority as serious and legitimate organizations.
The fifth wave is brought upon by the fall of communism in Eastern Europe during the year of 1989 and continues to the present day.
Excerpt from "History of Bulgarian Emigration in North America" by Dr. Ivan Gadjev