FOR FREEDOM AND PERFECTION. The Life of Yané Sandansky
Mercia MacDermott





From the leafy streets and gardens of the Beshik, Rila cannot be seen to full advantage, for Dupnitsa lies too close to the mountain, and the houses, trees and lush green foothills obscure the towering peaks. Those who travel south from Sofia, however, see an entirely different view: breathtaking in its immensity, Rila stands like a gigantic wall across the southern horizon, and Dupnitsa seems no more than a handful of pebbles flung against its base. Then Rila was indeed a wall—a prison wall—for the frontier between the free Principality and the Turkish Empire ran along its higher ridges, where the ice glittered like broken glass, and inhospitable rocks did duty for the traditional iron spikes. There, beyond Rila, lay Macedonia, one of the fairest lands on earth, torn from her kith and kin, languishing in alien bondage, and trusting in the young heroes who had sworn on daggers and revolvers to deliver her.


Those who pass beyond the barrier of Rila are immediately challenged by Pirin. Indeed, it is from the heights of Rila, across the Vale of Razlog, that Pirin is best seen panoramically in all her beauty and magnificence, clothed in snow and sunlight—proud, inexorable, inviolate. At their closest point, only a narrow valley and a stream divide the two mountains, yet each has its own peculiar character and appearance. Pirin is a sharp, angular massif, where not only the peaks but even the foothills take the form of cones and pyramids. Eternal and unchanging, Pirin has as many forms and faces as the mythical zmeyové [1] who inhabit her dark caves and bottomless lakes. In threatening weather, when the clouds are beaten down below the dark summits, Pirin resembles a chorus of silent, watching women, with sable robes and veils of floating gossamer. Gilded at daybreak, or stained with sunset crimson, she becomes a cluster of broad-bladed spears, recalling the great deeds of Spartacus and standing ready to impale the tyrant and the knave. Storm-lashed and sullen, or imperiously serene against the blue infinity of the sky, Pirin is essentially an untamed, rebel mountain, ever reaching upwards, ever urging the brave to emulate Prometheus.


To bring the fire of freedom down from heaven into the hearts and homes of all those who dwelt in the dark kingdom of Abdul Hamid—this



1. The zmey (pl. zmeyové) is a mythical creature, something like a dragon, with wings of fire and golden scales, and an ability to change its shape at will.





was the self-imposed task of the Internal Organization and its sworn adherents.


Yané knew that this task would be neither easy nor soon accomplished, for he had totally accepted the Organization’s thesis that the people must liberate themselves, and that this would require prolonged and patient preparation. Since he was intending to educate rather than fight, his cheta consisted of only eight men, including himself. In his memoirs, Yané mentions the level of schooling attained by several of his men—an indication of the importance which he assigned to this question. Almost certainly Gotsé had had some part in the formation of the cheta, because at least two of the men were from Samokov, where, on Gotsé’s initiative, secret revolutionary circles had been formed in the school for iron-workers, as well as in the college run by American Protestant missionaries. Moreover, the area in which the cheta was to work was the frontier area around Gorna Dzhumaya and Razlog—the area closest to the Principality and therefore most threatened by the officers’ impatience. Yané describes his mission thus: ‘I carried out propaganda along these lines: for the Organization to come out independently, for the population to feel free, by cutting itself off from the Turkish authorities and by concentrating power as far as possible in the hands of the Organization, so that the population could in practice see a little freedom, feel this freedom and come to love it.’ [2]


Here one can surely hear echoes of Chernyshevsky’s appeal: ‘Say to all: this is what will be in the future; the future is bright and beautiful. Love it, strive towards it, work for it, approach it, bring as much as possible of it into the present: the brighter and better your life, the richer it is with joy and pleasure, the more you will be able to bring into it from the future.’ [3]


In the course of three months, Yané visited a number of villages around Rila and Pirin, including Bistritsa, Marulevo, Gradevo, Sŭrbinovo (now Brezhani), Mechkul, Kresna, Senokos, Vlahi, Oshtava, Oranovo, Zheleznitsa, Pokrovnik and Moshtanets. Everywhere he set up committees and collected membership dues.


Everywhere the cheta was well received, but, right from the beginning, Yané had to come to terms with something which at first disturbed and shocked him, namely, the need to deal ruthlessly with traitors, in a situation which required him to choose—not between killing and not killing—but between killing certain persons or risking their killing others.


Andon Kyoseto—a veteran member of the Organization, who was frequently given the task of carrying out death sentences, and who was then working in the Strumitsa Region—has described Yané’s first steps as a leader of the Internal Organization, and, in particular, his first real encounter with the grim realities of the struggle. While Yané was still Governor of the Prison and Chairman of the Macedonian Society in



2. Miletich VII, pp. 16-17.


3. Chernyshevsky: What Is To Be Done? Chapter 4, Part XVI, The Fourth Dream of Vera Pavlovna, Section 11.





Dupnitsa, he had written to Andon, advising him to be less cruel, and not to kill priests and teachers, who could be useful to the Organization, but to rely on intensive propaganda rather than terror. Yané also sent the Central Committee in Salonika a similar letter, which was eventually also sent to Andon. Andon had replied: ‘Yané, I received your letter, but I do not accept advice from people outside Macedonia. . .’ Not long after, Andon was invited to go to the frontier near Leshko to meet Yané and his cheta. The two men, who were meeting personally for the first time, talked together at length, and again Yané advocated less terror and more persuasion. This time, Andon told him that he did not yet understand the conditions under which he would have to work in Macedonia, and added: ‘Always remember my advice—don’t reveal yourself at once to everybody, because you will be betrayed. The Organization is not yet strong everywhere, and there are people who do not properly understand what is being required of them and what they have to do.’ Yané, however, still seemed to think that he knew best. He went to a village, collected the whole population together, spoke to them all, swore them into the Organization, and went on his way. He had hardly reached the next village when he was indeed betrayed. Turkish troops came after him, and he was obliged to retreat into the mountains. Andon continues: ‘Then Yané understood that the affairs of the Organization require revolutionary measures as well as agitation. I soon learnt about what had occurred. The Organization’s post was functioning normally, and I wrote to him: "Eh, Yané, do you remember what I told you. . .?" Yané learnt his lesson, and began to root out spies and traitors and to punish them in order to protect the honest and the innocent.’ [4]


At the same time, he tried to analyze and understand what led people to become traitors in the first place, and he took preventative measures along the lines which he described to K.D. Spisarevsky in the presence of Gotsé Delchev: ‘I have long since come to the conclusion—and my daily work among the people has taught me as much—that traitors, spies and



4. See Memoirs of Andon Lazov Yanev (Kyoseto), TDIA, f. 771, op. 1, a.e. 102, pp. 43-45. Andon Kyoseto gives the date of his meeting with Yané and his cheta as 1900. Yané himself does not mention going to Macedonia with his own cheta before April 1901; however, his memoirs are far from detailed, and he may have gone earlier, as several other contemporaries suggest. Dimitŭr Arnaudov (one of Yané’s close comrades), in his unpublished biography of Yané, says that in 1900 Yané was already doing illegal work in the Serres district. Arnaudov’s manuscript is kept among the papers of Ivan Harizanov in the State Historical Archives in Sofia (TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 1). Kostadin Burzachky, who married Yané’s cousin, Slavka, daughter of Spas Harizanov, describes how, on 30.XII.1900, Yané came to his wedding, together with his chetnitsi, and joined in the dancing and other festivities, firing guns into the ceiling (shooting was a traditional feature of Bulgarian weddings). Several times Yané called out: ‘Sister Slavka, this is my last celebration, my last joy!’ Next morning early, the cheta left for Macedonia. (See Burzachky’s unpublished memoirs in the possession of the artist, Nikola Vulchev, who married his daughter, Radka.)





stooges come from the ranks of people without work, homes or skills. Give work to a poor man, assure him a living, and there’s no more devoted worker. The idea was mine, and it has yielded excellent results: we don’t give any money from Organization funds, not even to a poor man, but we buy him tools so that he can work, or we open a little shop for him. The Organization keeps an eye on him, and, if we’ve struck an honest man, we increase our aid to him. If he proves dishonest, we send him to Kingdom Come. And that serves as a lesson to others who might be thinking of taking advantage of the Organization. Once he’s assured of a living, there’s no more devoted member of the Organization. The authorities cannot make a spy or a traitor out of him; he can’t sell himself easily, because it’s hard for the authorities to bribe him. Thus the Organization has turned good proprietors into good revolutionaries—and it is proud of them.’ [5]


Right from the beginning, Yané set out to build the Organization on the broadest possible basis. In the Pirin village of Krushevo (now Dzhigurovo), he made a point of meeting the local Patriarchists—Bulgarians, who continued to recognize the Greek Patriarchate after the establishment of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870, and who were usually at daggers drawn with their Exarchist fellow-countrymen. Yané addressed the Patriarchists of Krushevo, and told them that he did not care whether they were Patriarchists or not: he simply wanted them to be good members of the Organization. Whatever the reason—whether it was Yané’s personal charm, which was considerable, or the unusual display of religious tolerance, that won them over—the Patriarchists of Krushevo became staunch members of the Organization and remained so, averring that they were doing it for Yané. [6] In the years to come, constant efforts were made to recruit ethnic Greeks, and even Turks, for the Organization. The results were disappointingly meagre, but the efforts continued.


Everywhere, in his speeches to villagers secretly assembled in houses, churches or schools, Yané urged his listeners to collect money and buy guns, but the appalling poverty which he saw on all sides soon convinced him that in most cases he was asking the impossible. There was now little hope of real help from the new Supreme Committee, although the societies continued to send in their contributions, believing that the Organization would benefit, and Yané’s anger kindled against Sarafov, whom he considered to have squandered good money. [7] Sarafov, though skilled at collecting funds, was quite incapable either of economizing or of accounting for public money, and he took the view that, since he had provided the money, he could spend it as he pleased. Such an attitude was totally alien to the thrifty Yané, who, though not particularly squeamish about how he obtained money for the Cause, nevertheless regarded such money,



5. Memoirs of K.D. Spisarevsky, BIA NBKM, f. 626, 1.3.106, pp. 50-52.


6. Memoirs of Stoyan Stoyanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 2, p. 61.


7. Miletich VII, p. 16.





once acquired, as the sacred property of the Organization, to be treated as such. Faced with the need to buy guns, and with the absence of funds, Yané began to ponder over ways and means, and to toy with the idea of kidnapping someone for ransom.


Financial problems had already forced members of the Organization to do many things which would normally have been repugnant to them. The young men in the Samokov revolutionary group had, for example, stolen a sack of coffee and a bicycle from the American college. [8] Gotsé himself had made several attempts at kidnapping rich men. In two cases, one involving a Turk and the other—a Greek, he had managed to abduct his victims, but both had escaped before the ransom had been paid, because Gotsé was too soft-hearted to confine them sufficiently strictly. During the period of co-operation with the officers, a joint scheme had been made for the kidnapping of Nikola, the son of Ivan Geshov. [9] Gotsé, Gyorché Petrov and Sarafov had all been in the plot, and Gotsé’s fiancée, Yanka Kanevcheva, and another girl were to play the role of demimondaines in order to lure Nikola out of Sofia. Another member of the plot was Krum Chaprashikov, a tobacco merchant from Dupnitsa, who was a friend of Nikola’s and his fellow student. Nothing came out of the plan because the Geshov family suddenly departed for Paris. [10] During 1901, a group of young men, led by Timo Angelov, [11] nicknamed ‘The Prince’, began making counterfeit silver coins in the courtyard of Yané’s home. The coins were placed mainly by Alexander Dyulgerov—a teller in the Bulgarian Agrarian Bank—and production continued for about eighteen months. [12]


Since neither collections among the population, nor illegal action produced money in the quantities required, several leading members of the Organization, including Gotsé, Yané and Hristo Chernopeev, met in Kyustendil during the summer of 1901 to discuss the financial situation. Yané boldly proposed kidnapping Prince Ferdinand himself, on the grounds that it was fitting to use the Prince’s money against the Prince—a reference to the fact that Tsonchev, the principal source of the Organization’s troubles, was generally thought to be an agent of the Palace. Ferdinand was a frequent visitor to the Rila Monastery, and Yané proposed seizing him at a bend in the road near the hamlet of Pastra, on the way to the shrine. [13] Gotsé, however, was against anything so drastic, and it was



8. Den, Sept. 11, 1945. Article by Ivan Harizanov.


9. Ivan Evstratiev Geshov, a right-wing Bulgarian politician, banker and writer, was Prime Minister from 1911-1913.


10. Den, Sept. 11, 1945. Article by Ivan Harizanov.


11. Timo Angelov, a graduate of a technical school, was also a maker of bombs. He was killed in 1903 when a time-bomb which he had assembled in Plovdiv exploded prematurely. See memoirs of Mihail Gerdzhikov, recorded by Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 25, pp. 2-3.


12. Medzhidiev, Opus cit., pp. 88-89; also Den, Sept. 11, 1945. Article by Ivan Harizanov, also TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 4, p. 3.


13. Den, Sept. 12, 1945. Article by Ivan Harizanov.





decided that, if anybody was to be kidnapped, it had better be done not in the Principality, but on Turkish territory.


It was at this time that Yané and Hristo Chernopeev began to work together in a partnership that was to last for many years. Chernopeev’s real name was Chernyu Peev, but it had somehow turned into a composite surname when he joined the Macedonian movement. Unlike Yané, he was not Macedonian-born, but came from a village called Dermantsi, near Pleven in northern Bulgaria. He completed only three years of post-elementary education in Pleven itself, and then became a soldier, first in the Pleven Regiment and then in the Lom Regiment, remaining in the army, with one break, for about ten years. Pleven is a town where even today a person is very much aware of Bulgaria’s liberation from the Turks. Everywhere there are reminders of the mighty battles that took place between the Russian liberators and the armies of Osman Pasha. As a child of nine, Chernopeev had lived near Pleven in those momentous days, and, as a schoolboy and a soldier, he must have listened to many a heroic tale. When the cheti of 1895 were organized, he was deeply moved by what he saw as an attempt to continue the process of liberation, and he wanted to resign from the army in order to participate in the cheti, but it was too late. However, he met Boris Sarafov, who briefly joined the Lom Regiment on his return from Macedonia, before being posted to Rusé. From Sarafov, he learnt more about the Macedonian movement, and on Sarafov’s instigation, he formed a circle of privates and non-commissioned officers, whose task was to collect arms and supplies for the Macedonian Committee. When he finally left the army in August 1899, with the rank of sergeant-major, Chernopeev handed over quite a collection of weapons to the Officer’s Brotherhood in Lom for shipment to the Sofia Committee. During the period when Sarafov headed the Supreme Committee, Chernopeev met leaders of the Internal Organization, and, abandoning his wife and children, went to Macedonia, where he joined a cheta in the Gevgeli-Enidzhe Vardar area and toured the villages, instructing and organizing the peasants. In 1900, he and his men fought the first major engagement between the Organization’s cheti and the Turks, after the latter had encircled the cheta in the village of Bayaltsi. Chernopeev finally fought his way out, but with the loss of half his men, including Gotsé’s younger brother, Mitso.


Chernopeev was a man with few, if any, personal ambitions. He did not share the officers’ illusions of grandeur, and, when they began to force the pace, Chernopeev broke off relations with his one-time mentor, Sarafov, and put himself at the disposal of Gotsé Delchev, who sent him to the sensitive frontier area of Gorna Dzhumaya to urge the population not to accept persons sent by the Supreme Committee. [14]


Here he met up with Yané and two other men who were also strongly



14. See Chernopeev’s memoirs. Miletich VII, pp. 58-59.





convinced of the need to oppose the officers. One of them was Sava Mihailov, born in the village of Machukovo, near Gevgeli (1877), and educated in Constantinople and at the High School in Salonika. On graduating, he was appointed teacher in Kavadartsi, where he joined the Organization. Later, he taught in other places, including Tikvesh, Negotino, Gevgeli, and finally Gorna Dzhumaya, where he became leader of the Organization’s district committee, entrusted by Gotsé with the task of defending the Internal Organization’s territory against possible incursions on the part of the officers. [15]


The second man was Krŭstyu Asenov, a great bear of a man, of whom it is said that he personally carried a bell up into the belfry of the church in Leshko, when the peasants, who were trying to do it secretly, had failed because of the bell’s great weight. Not only did Krŭstyu Asenov possess legendary physical strength, but he also came from a legendary family, for his uncle was Hadzhi Dimitŭr, whose death in battle with the Turks, in 1868, forms the subject of the most famous poem in all Bulgarian literature, in which Hristo Botev triumphantly proclaims that ‘He who falls in the struggle for freedom, he does not die. . .’ Asenov was born in Sliven, a town famed for its many haidut heroes, and he himself was wild and belligerent even as a boy. He was expelled from school for drawing a knife against a policeman who was beating someone up, and thus he lost the stipend which he received as the nephew of a famous man. He finished his education in Varna, and enrolled for a time at Sofia University. He remained, however, a true son of haidut Sliven, a true heir of Hadzhi Dimitŭr. Once, when still a schoolboy, he had taken his comrades up to the Blue Stones—spectacular crags in the Stara Planina (Balkan Range) above Sliven—and had asked them to look at the southern horizon. He had then taken out his knife and made them swear to liberate Macedonia. Now as a grown man, without having completed his course in Sofia, he went to Gorna Dzhumaya, sent by Gotsé to Sava Mihailov, and was appointed teacher in the village of Leshko, a few miles to the south-west. [16]


In the summer of 1901, the danger from the officers was still more hypothetical than actual, and the main problem was money for arms. Indeed, without arms, they could not hope to prevent Supremist incursions. Chernopeev and Yané first considered kidnapping a rich Turk from the village of Simitli, some miles south of Gorna Dzhumaya. The Turk had been recommended to them by local peasants as being very wealthy, but when the two voivodi went into the matter, it appeared that the man was not really so very rich after all, so they switched their choice to Suleiman Beg, son of a pasha in Gorna Dzhumaya. Once again nothing came of their plans. On the crucial days, Suleiman was apparently ill and stayed at home, and the operation had to be abandoned in view of the impossibility



15. See Sava Mihailov’s memoirs. Miletich VII, pp. 85-86.


16. See article by Ivan Rupov, Uchitel-revolyutsioner, in Pirinsko Delo, 18.IV.1962. Also Anton Strashimirov— article in Revolyutsionen List, No 5: 27.X.1904.





of keeping the necessary twenty or so chetnitsi hidden in the town indefinitely. [17]


Many a man in Yané’s place might, by now, have given up the idea of raising money by ransom. So many attempts had been made by so many people, and all had been unsuccessful. Yané, however, had within him a streak of implacable obstinacy, which would not allow him to admit defeat while even the faintest spark of hope remained. Determined to kidnap somebody, he turned his thoughts away from Turkish notables to the American Protestant missionaries who had opened schools, colleges and chapels both in the Principality and in the Turkish Empire. The Protestants were particularly active in Bansko, a large village at the foot of Pirin, and several of its leading families had been converted to the new faith. [18]


Bansko was, in many respects, an unusual village. Indeed, it looked more like a little town than a village, with its wide, clean streets, its large church and impressive belfry, its solid, two-storeyed stone houses, and its well-appointed school, where Gotsé had, for a time, been head-master. Bansko was the most important settlement in Razlog—a triangular upland valley, 3,000 feet above sea-level, enclosed by three mountain ranges, Pirin, Rila and the Rhodope. Officially, Mehomiya was the administrative centre of Razlog, but the area’s richest and most important merchants lived in Bansko. The inhabitants of Bansko were wide-awake, well-informed people, and most of the men had been more than once to Sofia, Plovdiv, Salonika and other places far away from their village. Before the Napoleonic Wars, Bansko merchants used to buy up all the cotton grown in the Aegean lands around Drama and Serres, and would sell it as far afield as Vienna. The trade with Austria had long ago ceased, but Bansko kept its alert, outward-looking attitude. The absence of resident Turks and the proximity of Pirin added to the independence of the Banskalii (people of Bansko). They were unconventional in many ways. Nobody wore black at funerals; the relatives would go in their best attire, and the young women—in their wedding dresses. Funerals were followed by much feasting, both at the home of the deceased and in the cemetery. In general, the Banskalii—both men and women—loved eating and drinking: they openly ignored church fasts, and ate meat at all times of the year. While most Bulgarian families would keep a pig to be slaughtered at Christmas, every Bansko family kept two or three, or even as many as ten pigs. In



17. Accounts of the attempt to kidnap Suleiman Beg can be found in Yané’s memoirs, Miletich VII, pp. 17-18, and in the memoirs of Dimitŭr Kyoseto, recorded by Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 22, pp. 55-58.


18. Protestant converts were not very numerous, partly because the Bulgarians are a markedly unreligious people, and partly because the Muslim occupation had invested the Orthodox Church with a national character, so that the ordinary Bulgarian associated Orthodoxy with nationality and felt that if one became a Protestant or a Catholic, one somehow ceased to be Bulgarian.





small Bulgarian towns, to this day, private animals are taken out to pasture by hired herdsmen, who, in the evening, bring them back to some central place from which the animals—usually cows and sheep—find their own way home, each to its own yard, and at sundown Bansko would be crammed with pigs, grunting, squealing, barging and shoving. It followed that every Bansko family had vast stores of sausages, salami, salted pork and other delicacies provided by this multitude of pigs. The Banskalii were also well supplied with fresh trout from the undefiled rivers and lakes of Pirin, which endowed the village with a superabundance of perfect water, and kept its fields and meadows as green and attractive as gardens. They were, however, great drinkers of things other than water, and Bansko was full of taverns, where the men congregated to talk over glasses of rakiya or light red wine from Kresna, often bringing their own home-made salami, etc., to eat with their drinks, although there was always plenty of food available in the taverns. The women, too, emulated the men, as far as modesty would permit. They could not, of course, enter a tavern, but they would gather in each other’s houses, from time to time, to enjoy a glass or two. [19]


Bansko was also a village of secrets. From the streets little could be seen of the houses, tucked away behind walls that were taller than a man: clouds of pink and white blossom, or tree-tops bending under fruit, glimpses of brilliantly coloured rugs hung out to air on high balconies decked with geraniums, smoke coiling up from elegant white chimney-pots roofed with tiles—and that was all. Even the comings and goings through the massive gates that punctuated the otherwise unbroken walls were no reliable source of information, for the Banskalii could roam all over their town without going out into the streets, simply by passing from courtyard to courtyard through internal doors. There were even secret passages and houses like fortresses, with embrasures and fire-proof chambers, and multiple entrances and exits giving maximum advantage to defenders.


Yané was already acquainted with Bansko and the Banskalii. He had been there earlier in the year with his cheta, and had found that little preliminary work was necessary, since the committee founded by Gotsé in 1896 was still functioning. Several of its members were Protestants, and it occurred to Yané that, with their assistance, some important American, such as Dr House, senior missionary in Salonika, might be lured to Bansko and kidnapped. He therefore took his men to Razlog, and camped in the forests on Pirin. Yonkata Vaptsarov [20] came up from Bansko to meet them, and, when Yané learnt that there were Turkish soldiers in the village, he left his cheta in the safety of the mountain, while he and Chernopeev went down into Bansko with Vaptsarov.



19. Much of the information about Bansko is taken from Vasil Kŭnchov, Izbrani Proizvedeniya, vol. I, 1970, pp. 283-297.


20. This Vaptsarov was the father of the poet Nikola Vaptsarov.





Yané’s discussions with the local Protestants convinced him that the idea of luring Dr House to Bansko was a non-starter, but he learnt that another American missionary, Miss Ellen Stone, would actually be in Bansko at the time required.


Miss Ellen Stone was a missionary of long-standing. Born in Roxbury, Massachussetts in 1846, she had come to Bulgaria in 1878 to work in the American girls’ school in Samokov. Later she had moved to Plovdiv, where she taught hygiene, reading and Protestantism to women in their homes. In 1898, after a short visit to the United States, she was appointed by the American Board of Missionaries to Salonika, where she was in charge of evangelistic work among women, a job which involved frequent travel. In the fateful summer of 1901, she had gone to Bansko to conduct a short training course for Bulgarian teachers in Protestant primary schools and for ‘Bible women’, a task in which she was assisted by Mrs Ekaterina Tsilka (née Stefanova), who was Bulgarian and a native of Bansko. Mrs Tsilka’s husband was an Albanian Protestant minister; both had studied in American mission schools before going to New York, where Gregory Tsilka had graduated from the Union Theological Seminary, while Ekaterina had studied both at the Northfield Seminary and at the Training School for Nurses at the Presbytarian Hospital. The couple had met and married in the United States and had returned to the Balkans to propagate their Protestant faith. When the summer course was over, Miss Stone would be travelling back to Salonika, while the Tsilkas would be returning to their little congregation in Korcha.


Yané decided that Miss Stone was a person of sufficient consequence to substitute for Dr House. Chernopeev even welcomed the change: ‘Dr House had always been a friend of the peasants; when we heard that he had decided not to come our way, I, for one, only half regretted it. . . I didn’t mind Miss Stone so much. She often preached against us, telling the poor peasants that God would right their troubles, and not the "brigands". All harmless stuff—nobody took it seriously, but it made the business less difficult for us to gulp down.’ [21]


Curiously enough, after much discussion and some hesitation, the plan to kidnap Miss Stone also found favour in the eyes of the Bansko Protestants, whose loyalty to the Organization and its aims took precedence over their loyalty to their Church, and who now offered to keep Yané informed about Miss Stone’s movements.


All these inquiries and discussions took about a fortnight, during which time the cheta, under the temporary command of Nikola Dechev, was waiting in the forest. Dechev finally became tired of waiting, and sent Yané an angry letter in which he said that unless he and Chernopeev returned from Bansko that very evening, the entire cheta would leave for



21. Sonnichsen, Albert: Confessions of a Macedonian Bandit. New York 1909, p. 259. Sonnichsen had the opportunity of speaking personally to Chernopeev.





the Principality. Yané and Chernopeev indeed came that evening, but accompanied by seven or eight armed peasants. The whole company withdrew higher into the mountains and began to quarrel. Yané and Chernopeev took issue with Dechev over the tone of his letter, while Dechev criticized them for keeping the cheta waiting so long without word. In the end, eleven of the chetnitsi opted to return to the Principality, and proposed taking their weapons with them. Yané, however, had foreseen this possibility. He was prepared to let them go, but he was not prepared to allow a single gun to leave Macedonia, and he immediately ordered the peasants to surround the dissidents and to disarm them. He then sent the eleven back to the Principality with one of the Organization’s couriers to guide them.


Only five of the original cheta now remained—Yané, Chernopeev, Dimitŭr Kyoseto, [22] Stoil Prosyakov (a relation of Yané’s) and Dimitŭr Inev, from Samokov. Yané and Chernopeev told the other three about the plan to kidnap Miss Stone, and it was decided that they should wait in Vlahi until the time was ripe. They started out for Vlahi by the shortest way—over the main ridge of Pirin, but when they were already high up, under the peak of El-tepe, a courier came from Simeon Molerov, one of the leaders of the Organization in Bansko, with a letter in which Molerov asked them to return, since some of the chorbadzhii—the richer and more influential citizens of Bansko—were against the kidnapping.


The cheta retraced its steps, and again camped above Bansko. Yané called the chorbadzhii to a meeting, and four of them came to point out the terrible risk to the village that the kidnapping would entail, and to express the opinion that, ‘instead of pencilling our eyebrows, we would be putting out our eyes’. Seven years earlier, Gotsé had encountered similar opposition from the chorbadzhii of Bansko, who had told him that they could not tolerate a headmaster who spent his time trying to set the world on fire. [23] Gotsé had replied: ‘Eh, brothers, God give you life, and you yourselves will bring brands to this fire.’ Evidently, the chorbadzhii had not yet quite reached that stage, and Chernopeev silenced their protests by saying: ‘Very well, if each of you gives us 5000 liri, we’ll give up the idea.’ This proposal was even less welcome, and finally the chorbadzhii gave their grudging consent, providing that Miss Stone was kidnapped after she had left Bansko, at a place sufficiently far from the village and other inhabited places to avoid incriminating the local population.


Having obtained the consent and co-operation of the Banskalii, Yané



22. The account of the split in the cheta is taken from the memoirs of Dimitŭr Kyoseto, recorded by Ivan Harizanov, TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e .22, pp. 58-60. Yané himself does not give any details, but merely says that eleven went back to the Principality, leaving the five mentioned by Dimitŭr Kyoseto. Miletich VII, p. 18.


23. Peyu Yavorov. Sŭchineniya, vol. III, Sofia, 1965, p. 175.





collected some more men, [24] and stationed his cheta on the road along which Miss Stone was due to travel on her way home to Salonika. The place which they chose was, indeed, miles from any Bulgarian settlement— a heavily wooded narrow valley, where the road from Bansko to Gorna Dzhumaya followed the course of the brook which divides Rila from Pirin. Here, at the narrowest point, the so-called ‘Supported Rock’ [25] (Podpryanata Skala) jutted out into the stream, thus obscuring the way ahead.


Here Yané and his men were joined by Krŭstyu Asenov, who had come from the Principality with four companions. [26] And here, when the cavalcade of Protestants, thirteen in number, arrived all unsuspecting in the late afternoon of September 3 (August 21 old style) 1901, here Miss Stone was duly kidnapped.


The whole party of Protestants was driven at great speed up the steep mountainside, which was so thickly wooded that sometimes the chetnitsi had to cut back the bushes and branches, so that the horses could pass. When they were sufficiently far from the road and the Turkish guardhouse, which was at no great distance from the scene of the kidnapping, they halted on a little meadow where there was a spring. Here Miss Stone and Mrs Tsilka were separated from their companions and taken away, while the remainder of the Protestants, including Mr Tsilka, were detained for a few hours on the meadow by part of the cheta, so that they could not raise the alarm, and were then released unharmed. Their guards then went to Babek in the Rhodope, i.e. in the opposite direction to that taken by Yané, and allowed themselves to be seen, with two of their number dressed in women’s clothes, in order to create confusion in the minds of the authorities.


Mrs Tsilka had been taken, not for ransom, since as a hostage she was of little value, but for reasons of kindness and propriety. For all his toughness and resolution, Yané had his finer feelings—Chernopeev, indeed, described him as having ‘the instincts of a French dancing-master’ [27] —and he was determined to treat Miss Stone with the maximum possible consideration. It had been decided that she would feel less uncomfortable in an all-male company if she had a female companion, and Mrs Usheva, the oldest ‘Bible woman’, had been singled out to be her chaperon. When, however, Mrs Usheva was taken with the cramps and fainted away at the sight of the chetnitsi, Yané realized that she was quite unsuitable for the



24. Yané names them as Nano, Todor, Hristo and Kolé—all from Gradevo; Lazo, from Pokrovnik, and Chimé, from Bistritsa.


25. The Rock was thus called because custom required that passers-by should place a straw or twig under the overhanging cliff. Superstition had it that unless this was done the rock would collapse. The Rock no longer exists in its original form, since part of it was removed to make way for a proper road.


26. Grigor Shumanov, Alexander Dŭrvodelsky (Mecheto), Stanish Gramadsky, and Alexander Iliev.


27. See Sonnichsen, Opus cit., p. 261.





role, and, rather than take one of the three young teachers and risk having aspersions cast upon the morals of himself and his men, he took Mrs Tsilka as the only other matron in the group.


Thus the scene was set for a nightmare adventure which was to last almost six months and which, as the days went by and the complications multiplied, must have been an even worse ordeal for Yané than it was for Miss Stone herself. While his captives resigned themselves to their fate and put their trust in God, Yané had to wrestle with problems and perils that demanded of him almost superhuman ingenuity and endurance. One wonders, as Miss Stone herself did, whether he would have entertained the idea for an instant if he had known what he was letting himself in for. Much later, in a moment of candour, he actually confessed to Mrs Tsilka that he regretted having kidnapped them, and that he would never again resort to such means of obtaining money, no matter how much he needed it for the realization of his ideals. [28] As it was, he stuck to his plan with characteristic tenacity, refusing to admit defeat and meeting each new difficulty and danger with glacial calm and patient efficiency.


Right from the beginning there were unforeseen problems. Miss Stone’s party left Bansko later than expected, owing to the death of a friend. Because of the presence of Turkish soldiers in the village, it had been impossible for the peasants to provision the cheta, and thus, after their two days’ wait at Podpryanata Skala, the men were so ravenous that one of their first actions after the kidnapping was to search the missionaries’ baggage for food—the only item they stole—and to gulp down all kinds of products made from good Bansko pork, forgetting that they had disguised themselves as Muslim bandits, with blackened faces, dirty turbans, knotted kerchiefs, etc. In fact, they soon gave up the pretence of being Turks. As Yané himself succinctly put it: ‘On the way we talked Turkish, but we didn’t know Turkish, so already, during the night, we decided to speak Bulgarian.’ [29]


By chance, a real Turk, or rather, an Albanian Muslim, had come by at the very moment of the kidnapping. After he had fired on the chetnitsi, he was seized and taken up to the meadow with the others. Yané and Chernopeev questioned him, and it was established that the man had committed many crimes against the Bulgarian population, including robbery, rape and murder, [30] and Krŭstyu Asenov, unable to contain



28. From memoirs, written by Mrs Tsilka in 1911-1912, in English, and preserved for many years in a house in Bansko. They were translated into Bulgarian and published in the Sofia newspaper Otechestven Front by Maya Vaptsarova, whose grandfather, Yonko Vaptsarov took part in the kidnapping. See Otechestven Front, 22.IV.1982 (Part 7 of Mrs Tsilka’s memoirs).


29. Miletich VII, p. 19.


30. Dimitŭr Kyoseto says that Vaptsarov, who had accompanied the cheta to identify Miss Stone, told them that the man had killed Bulgarians, See TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 22, pp. 63-64. Chernopeev told Sonnichsen that the man, a farm watchman,





himself, stabbed him to death while the whole party was still there. The incident not only terrified the Protestants, who did not realize that it was unforeseen and unconnected with their fate, but it also served further to undermine the fiction that the kidnappers were Turks.


On the second night of their Odyssey, Yané injured his foot (he himself says that he dislocated some small bones) and was limping badly. By far the worst complication, however, was the revelation that Mrs Tsilka was five months pregnant. At first, Yané did not appreciate the full implication of the news. He was confident that a ransom would be obtained long before the birth was due, and therefore he refused to release his captives prematurely, in spite of all their pleas. Money was badly needed, and the operation had to proceed according to plan.


The question of the ransom was raised by the three leaders after a couple of nights’ travel by moonlight had brought them to the village of Sushitsa, where they hid their captives in a house of some kind. The sum that was being demanded—£25,000 (Turkish), i.e. 101,000 dollars—staggered Miss Stone, who hastened to explain that they were not princesses or millionairesses, but humble working women, and that the American Board, on principle, paid no ransoms, so as not to set a precedent. But to Yané and his comrades, the idea that a citizen of so vast and rich a nation might not be a person of consequence seemed too improbable to accept. For the first five or six days, the women constantly gave way to tears, and finally Yané, wishing to reassure them, decided to tell them the whole truth, namely, that their captors were revolutionaries and not bandits, but the news failed to comfort the women, who saw no prospect of being ransomed either way.


As soon as possible after the kidnapping, Yané reduced the size of his cheta, keeping only Chernopeev, Krŭstyu Asenov and a few men. [31] On the one hand, the women—unable to resist or run at any speed—were easy to guard. On the other hand, their very helplessness and lack of stamina created problems. Hampered by their long dresses, they had to be lifted onto their horses, and where the terrain was so steep or rough that they could not keep in their saddles, they had to be constantly assisted or even carried.


From Sushitsa, they moved to Padezh, and crossed into the Principality, led by Dyado [32] Ivan, one of the Organization’s experienced couriers. On the very frontier, while they were ascending a steep hill, the girth of Mrs Tsilka’s horse snapped, and she fell heavily, with the pack saddle on top of her, and appeared unable to rise. There was much alarm and confusion; Miss Stone insisted on dismounting to help her; one of the men



fleeced the peasants, who had frequently requested the Organization to kill him. He had, moreover, raped two Bulgarian girls. See Sonnichsen, Opus cit., p. 260-261.


31. Yané mentions only Dimitŭr Kyoseto and Alexander Dŭrvodelsky, while Dimitŭr himself mentions these two, plus Stoil Prosyakov and Dimitŭr Inev (Samokovliyata).


32. Dyado means ‘Grandfather’ and is used as a courtesy title for older men.





offered her medicine for fainting, while Mrs Tsilka herself, on being raised to her feet unhurt, but quivering like an aspen from shock, burst into almost hysterical weeping. For the cheta, it was a moment of even greater tension than for poor Mrs Tsilka, because they knew that the frontier posts were near at hand, and that any noise could lead to their discovery and arrest. Fortunately for the cheta, the sentries failed to hear the commotion, and the party arrived safely in the village of Frolosh, where they took refuge in the house of Dyado Mircho.


Miss Stone had, in fact, realized that they were in the Principality. When her guard, Dimitŭr Kyoseto, denied it and assured her that they were still in Turkey, she pulled out a compass and pointed out the directions of Kyustendil and Dupnitsa, saying that she could tell from the state of the forests—which were young and thick—that they were in Bulgaria and not Turkey. Dimitŭr reported her correct diagnosis to Yané, who, much surprised by her knowledge, burst out laughing.


From Frolosh, they went to Tsŭrvishté, still in the Principality, and the whole group hid in the house of Stoïl Mutafchiev, while Yané went down into Dupnitsa. There he stayed with the Harizanovs and consulted Dr Pavlov, a Russian, about his foot. There was, however, little the doctor could do about an injury which required rest and immobilization of the part affected. Yané had the choice of abandoning his enterprise, or continuing in pain. He chose the latter, no doubt exacerbating the injury and delaying recovery, for he mentions in his memoirs that for three months he could hardly walk. [33]


While he was in Dupnitsa, he met Nikola Maleshevsky, and, from him and the local telegraphists, [34] he learnt that, as it was generally supposed that the kidnappers were Bulgarians and not Turks, the Bulgarian Government had alerted the police and militia in the frontier zone, and that it would be dangerous for the cheta to remain in the Principality. Yané returned to Tsŭrvishte with two more men, Spiro Petrov, from Prilep, who was known as the Nightingale because of his fine voice and love of songs, and Stefan Mandalov, a former pharmacist, known as the Doctor. Dimitŭr Kyoseto went to Frolosh, and sent Dyado Mircho’s wife along the Organization’s channels to shout to the herdsmen on the other side of the frontier that their cattle were in the village and that they should come and fetch them. This was, in fact, the code message for a courier to come and guide the cheta across the frontier. Dyado Ivan, who had taken them to the Principality, now came and took them back into Macedonia.


Here they continued to move about, mainly between the villages of Selishte and Pokrovnik. In Selishte they stayed in an isolated house on a



33. Miletich VII, p. 19-20.


34. The telegraphists in Dupnitsa had long been Yané’s comrades and supporters. They had, for example, informed him of the telegrams sent to Sofia by the opponents of Mladost in 1897, and thus Hristo Markov and the other ‘accused’ were forewarned of the authorities’ offensive.





hill. It belonged to Georgi Mitov Mihov (Gyochkata), one of Yané’s trusted supporters, and the only other house in the vicinity belonged to Georgi’s brother Ivan. The latter temporarily accommodated the whole family, so that Georgi’s house could be used exclusively by the cheta and the women. [35] Built largely of stone, the house consisted of four smallish rooms and a veranda over a ground-floor wine cellar and stabling. An outside wooden staircase linked the front garden with the veranda, from which doors led directly to the kitchen and one of the rooms. This room had excellent visibility and was used by the voivodi. The women were confined in a back room, which could be entered only through the kitchen. It had one small window looking out into a walled yard behind the house, beyond which there was an oak wood and open country. The position of the house made it almost impossible for anyone to approach unnoticed, and, at night, the women were taken for walks in the wood so that they could stretch their legs and get some real fresh air. In Selishte, the three leaders made the women write letters to persons who could act as intermediaries in arranging the payment of the ransom. Miss Stone decided to write to Kostadin Petkanchin, a leading Protestant in Bansko, and to Dr Peet, Treasurer of the Turkish Missions of the American Board. The letter to Petkanchin was sent through the Organization’s channels, but the couriers did not dare deliver it personally and left it on his doorstep. Petkanchin took fright and showed it to the authorities. This was not surprising, since after the kidnapping many people in Bansko and Babek were arrested, and all the houses in the area had been searched. Thus eleven days of the twenty days deadline mentioned in the letter passed without any progress being made. Then the women were made to write a new letter, this time to Dr Haskell, a missionary in Samokov, and the letter was personally delivered to him by Krŭstyu Asenov. Dr Haskell immediately set off for Constantinople, where, after his arrival on September 28, 1901, he saw Charles Dickinson, the United States Consul General, who had been appointed U.S. Diplomatic Agent in Sofia and arrived there on October 4, 1901.


There then began a seemingly interminable period of involved inquiries, negotiations and diplomatic activity. It is not clear who Yané had fondly imagined would ransom the women within a matter of weeks. He was certainly not prepared for all the delays and complications which turned the weeks into months, and the months into almost half a year. Theoretically, Turkey should have paid, since the kidnapping had occurred on Turkish territory, but the Empire’s finances were in a deplorable state, and the authorities were more inclined to send troops after the ‘bandits’ than to pay any ransom. Most diplomats held Bulgaria responsible, and the



35. From oral evidence given by Filip Davidov, present owner of the house, to the author in 1982, during her visit to the house. Davidov’s mother, Katerina Georgieva Gyochkova, was a child at the time of the kidnapping and saw the women through a knot-hole in the door. The hole still exists.





ambassadors of the U.S.A., Great Britain and Russia joined the Turkish Government in bombarding the totally innocent Bulgarian Government with demands for energetic action against the kidnappers. James MacGregor, the British Chargé d’affaires, blamed Boris Sarafov, and believed that the cheta was hiding in Rila, while Dickinson was convinced that it was the work of the Supreme Committee, which he regarded as stronger than the Bulgarian Government, and he also considered that the Russians were in the plot, with the secret aim of getting the Treaty of Berlin annulled. During the months of uncertainty and fruitless negotiations, Dickinson ignored his instructions and behaved so arrogantly towards the Bulgarian Government that it came to the conclusion that his mission was to discredit it, and he was eventually declared persona non grata in March 1902. Neither the American Board nor the State Department was keen on paying out money, lest it set a precedent, [36] and, in any case, the State Department could not spend money without the consent of Congress. Thus, the money had to be raised by private subscription, a slow and difficult task.


By October 26, Dickinson knew that he had at his disposal 66,000 dollars, i.e. £15,000. The problem now was to make contact with the kidnappers. During October, the Russian diplomatic agent, Bahmetiev, started his own investigations, and, through a bookseller, met Lazar Tomov, a member of the Organization, who was then a student in Sofia. Through him a letter was sent via Nikola Maleshevsky to Miss Stone from her former pupil, Kastirova, who was a friend of Bahmetiev’s American wife. Krŭstyu Asenov brought the letter on October 29, when he returned from Samokov where he had delivered a second letter from Miss Stone to Dr Haskell, extending the dead-line by a few days. In her letter, Kasfirova asked Miss Stone to write a few words on the paper and send it back. This she did, and she also wrote a letter to Dickinson, describing the cold which was now upon them and the inconvenience of her situation and begging him to do everything possible to secure her release. Yané also allowed her to write to her aged mother and her family. All these letters, together with an authorization for the bearer to receive the full sum demanded for the ransom, were given to Asenov and Chernopeev, who passed the letters on to Lazar Tomov and went back to Sofia with him.


On November 5, Krŭstyu Asenov went to see Dickinson; on November 8 Chernopeev saw him, and on November 13, both went. Dickinson offered them a maximum of £10,000, but was later informed through an intermediary that the cheta was not prepared to accept. Then Dickinson offered an ultimatum—either they take the £10,000 within the week, or nothing. On November 26, he left for Constantinople, where his conduct of the affair came in for much criticism from John Leishman, the U.S. Minister.


The women waited eagerly for Asenov’s return, hoping to hear good



36. Miss Stone was the first American to be kidnapped outside the States.





news. He came on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, but deliberately kept out of sight, because the cheta had decided to celebrate the American holiday as best it could. A turkey had even been procured, and was cooked in accordance with the women’s instructions. As Miss Stone commented: ‘The day passed more cheerfully than we would have believed was possible.’ [37] On the following day, however, they were told the bad news, and the spokesman added: ‘We shall take you so far away that not even a bird will know where you are, eight hours (about 25 miles) from anywhere. We’ll keep you five years, if necessary, but we’ll have the money.’


Although, right from the start, the women’s piteous questions about what was going to happen to them produced reassuring answers, ‘Nothing, nothing, don’t be afraid,’ and, although the chetnitsi were as courteous and considerate as possible under the circumstances, it was necessary from time to time to create a certain atmosphere of fear in order to ensure instant obedience, silence in dangerous places, co-operation in writing pleas to be ransomed, and so forth. Yané apparently found it difficult to play-act and to threaten frightened women whom he had no intention of harming, and, at letter-writing sessions and discussions about the ransom, it was usually left to Chernopeev to present the trio as desperate cutthroats who would not hesitate to shoot them if the money was not forthcoming.


Yet, in spite of these periodic distressing ‘scenes’, the picture that Miss Stone herself paints of the men’s treatment of them is one of touching concern. The turkey for Thanksgiving Day and the withholding of the bad news until the holiday was over were just two manifestations of this concern. Soon after their capture, Miss Stone was presented with a bunch of wild flowers by one of the chetnitsi, an act which greatly heartened her. A Bible was also taken from the luggage, so that the two missionaries might have the comfort of their religion. They were always offered the best of whatever food was available, and were often asked what they wanted, although there was seldom very much choice. In Selishte, where bread was baked in a clay dish with a metal lid, placed in the hot ashes of the open kitchen hearth, the flour was previously passed through a very fine silk sieve twice, instead of the usual once, in order to ensure purer and better quality bread than the family normally ate. [38] On one occasion Yané sent a chetnik in search of eggs, but there were none to be had—not even for ready money. The man refused to give up, and when he saw a yard full of hens, he told the owner to summon some women to drive the hens into a room, where the chetnik—revolver in hand—together with the family, stood over the birds for several hours



37. Miss Stone’s memoirs in McClure’s Magazine, June 1902, p. 107. Miss Stone’s memoirs appeared in this magazine in the issues for May, June, July and September 1902. The issue for August 1902 contains memoirs written by Mrs Tsilka. These memoirs are not the same as those published in Otechestven Front.


38. Oral evidence from Filip Davidov.





until they began to lay! [39] When the weather became cold the chetnitsi gave up their own warm cloaks to shelter the women and to make beds for them, and, as Mrs Tsilka’s pregnancy advanced, they became ever more tender in their care and concern for her, in spite of the appalling conditions imposed by the need to hide in huts and cellars by day and to travel secretly from place to place by night. The women were captured in thin summer dresses, without even a change of underwear, and it became necessary for the cheta to provide them with the wherewithall to make themselves fresh linen and warmer clothes. First, thin material was provided for new blouses, handkerchiefs, etc.; then heavy home-spun for winter garments, and, finally, cloth suitable for the baby’s layette. Evidently Yané had somewhere obtained female advice over these supplies, for, in addition to the bare necessities of cloth, shears, needles and thread, they were also given thimbles which fitted, buttons, and even braid with which to decorate their new winter dresses! [40]


It was not only the growing cold and inconvenience that assailed them. Danger from enemies of various kinds was ever present, and their travels were one endless, nerve-racking game of hide-and-seek. In spite of U.S. requests to the Turkish Government that there should be no pursuit of the cheta by troops, troops were sent. In Selishte—this time in the house of Toshe Mirchev—Turkish policemen actually slept in the room next to that in which the cheta and the women were sheltering, but they were effectively rendered harmless by the host, who plied them liberally with strong rakiya. The Bulgarian Government continued to maintain maximum vigilance along Bulgaria’s frontier with the Turkish Empire to prevent the cheta from taking refuge in the Principality. And finally the Supreme Committee’s cheti began to pursue and harry the kidnappers in the hope of preventing Yané from obtaining the ransom.


Since there was no sign of any financial agreement being reached, Yané and his comrades now had to think of where they could safely spend the winter, for to travel over snow, through leafless forests, was to court discovery. It was suggested that they might go south to the Ardzhan Lake near Kukush, where the thick reeds offered excellent cover, but in the end they decided to build two huts—one for the women and one for themselves high in the mountains, about two hours from the village of Sushitsa. They spent a few days in the new huts, but although the women had a fire inside their hut, and were wrapped up in the men’s cloaks, it was still bitterly cold. However, in this distant place, Yané was able to permit the women to go outside during the day, something for which they were deeply grateful, since, for reasons of security, they were generally confined in dark rooms. They were even allowed to join the men around a fire over which a sheep was being roasted; not only that—a sack filled with leaves



39. Otechestven Front, 15.IV.1982.


40. McClure’s Magazine, June 1902, p. 101.





was put behind their backs to break the force of the wind, as they watched the roasting. [41]


Soon, however, it became clear that the place was both too cold and too dangerous, and the long night journeys began again.


It was a sad comment on the rapidly deteriorating relations between the Organization and the Supreme Committee that the most terrifying moments of the whole Odyssey, including the only gun-battle, occurred when Supremist cheti joined in the hunt for the women. The main threat came from Doncho Zlatkov, an inveterate haramiya, whom the Organization had tried to reform and re-educate, but in vain. At one time, he himself had expressed a desire to join the Organization, but, in view of his previous record and notoriety as a brigand, he was not accepted, and, out of pique, he allied himself to General Tsonchev and set about undermining the Organization’s authority in the villages. His own stamping-ground was in the Petrich area, but he was bent on extending his influence into the villages around Gorna Dzhumaya, by exploiting the impatience felt by the peasants at the delay in the supply of guns for which they had already paid. In fact, the money had been temporarily diverted to defray the unexpectedly large expenses of Yané’s cheta and its captives, but, for reasons of security, only a very few members of the Organization knew that the money was being used as the proverbial sprat to catch the mackerel. Many others fell victim of Doncho’s insinuations and began to entertain doubts about the Organization. Another factor working in favour of the Supreme Committee was that some village leaders in the area had embezzled funds entrusted to them and, fearing what might happen when the Organization caught up with them, basely transferred their allegiance to General Tsonchev.


Since Yané’s cheta was fully occupied with the women, Sava Mihailov undertook the task of explaining to the village leaders the dangers of Supremist policy and the folly of receiving into their midst people who could seriously harm the cause of freedom. [42]


In this increasingly tense situation, news came from Strumitsa that the Organization had intercepted a courier carrying a letter to General Tsonchev from Doncho, who had captured Alexander Iliev [43] and managed to lay hands on codes used by the Organization. It was also learnt that Doncho had actually killed Iliev. Chernopeev and Asenov went off to investigate, but soon more bad news arrived from Sava Mihailov in Gorna Dzhumaya: a Supremist cheta, sent by Saev from Dupnitsa to help Doncho, would shortly be arriving in the village of Selishte. Chernopeev and Asenov set out to deal with this cheta, but on the way they heard that Doncho himself was coming with the large force, hoping to gain



41. McClure’s Magazine, June 1902, p. 108.


42. See Sava Mihailov’s memoirs, Miletich VII, pp. 88-90.


43. Iliev had been recruited for the Petrich cheta, and, on his way south, had taken part in the kidnapping of Miss Stone.





possession of the women. In an effort to gain time, Chernopeev began to parley with Doncho, but no agreement was reached. Then a second message came from Sava Mihailov, saying that the Supremist cheta would be passing through Selishte that evening. Chernopeev, Asenov and their men, reinforced by village militia, intercepted the Supremists, disarmed them and sent them back to the Principality unharmed.


In the meantime, an appalling situation had arisen. Yané with his few remaining men—Dimitŭr Kyoseto, Anton Kyoseto, Karavasil and Stefan Mandalov [44] —had taken the women down from the mountain to an outlying part of the village of Troskovo, where they waited some time for the village leader, a man named Spasé, to provide couriers to take them on to a new refuge. When nothing happened, Yané sent someone to investigate, and the man came back with the chilling news that Doncho had arrived with a huge entourage of armed men, [45] and was actually staying in Spase’s house. [46] His intention was to seize the women and deprive the Organization of the ransom, and he had promised £20, a Nagant revolver and a Manlicher rifle to every man who joined him in this enterprise.


Yané received the blow with calm resignation. Strangely enough, for all his reading of materialist literature and his rejection of religion, [47] he was deeply superstitious and remained so all his life. He never allowed signs and portents to divert him from his chosen course, and yet he believed in them. His actions were determined by the new ideas which he had embraced, and yet, in the darkest recesses of his subconsciousness, there remained the ancient beliefs which he had imbibed with his mother’s milk in Vlahi. ‘I had a kind of premonition that Doncho would come. I had a dream, and I was certain that something would happen.’ [48]


Faced with what must have seemed certain disaster from every point of view, Yané refused to give in. He positioned his men at various places in the house and around it, and, under cover of darkness, he and a chetnik crept up to Spase’s house to spy out the land. Several of Doncho’s men jumped out at them, and they barely managed to escape. Then Doncho, in his turn, sent spies to the house where Yané was hiding. Two women arrived on the pretext of borrowing kerosine from their neighbour. Yané caught them, and, after he had questioned them sternly, they admitted that their husbands were with Doncho and that the latter had sent them to see if the cheta was there, so he detained them. They then heard shouts



44. Dimitŭr Kyoseto mentions the presence of Nikola Chaveev and Grigor Shumanov in addition to the four named by Yané in his memoirs.


45. Yané gives the number as 78, Dimitŭr Kyoseto as 150. In either case, Yané’s cheta was outnumbered by at least 10 to 1.


46. Sava Mihailov says that Spasé had not handed over to the Central Committee the money collected on behalf of the Organization, and thus was easily persuaded to co-operate with Doncho. See Miletich VII, p. 90.


47. When Miss Stone began to talk to the cheta about God and Christianity, Yané said: ‘We broke with God long Ago.’ Memoirs of Dimitŭr Kyoseto, p. 65.


48. Yané’s Memoirs, Miletich VII, p. 21.





about cattle and so forth, which were code-words and indicated that the place was surrounded by Doncho’s men, and shots were fired. Yané moved Miss Stone and Mrs Tsilka into an inner closet for safety, and prepared for a seige. All night long shots were exchanged, but Doncho, apparently unaware of how very few men Yané had, held back from an all-out assault on the house. A little before dawn, Yané attempted an escape, but just as the women were being lifted onto their horses, a shot sent the whole party racing back to the house. When it was light, the enemy tried to lure them out by sending a man with a flag of truce to say that Doncho had left. The son of the owner of the house, however, recognized the man as one of Doncho’s men disguised as a peasant, and the man was shot dead. In the minutes of suspense which followed, Miss Stone and Mrs Tsilka decided that, if the worse came to the worst, they would rather be killed by Yané’s men than fall into the hands of Doncho or the Turks. [49]


Doncho, however, lacked the courage to go through with his plan, and finally left the village. Yané’s party set out again, and they had not gone very far when they met Chernopeev and Asenov, who were speeding to their aid with about forty members of the Organization from the village of Leshko. Yané told them what had happened, cursing and spitting through his teeth at every word, as was his wont when he was really angry. Evidently, Doncho had got wind of their coming and had thought it prudent to withdraw, and he did not trouble them further. Miss Stone later commented: ‘What a wonderful day that was to us when captors and captured alike rejoiced in their salvation from the horrible fate which threatened all night.’ [50]


The ‘salvation’ was, however, relative and short-lived. There was still no agreement on the question of the ransom; Mrs Tsilka’s confinement was a matter of weeks away, and they were still fugitives, forced to hide in dark places by day and to travel through the darkness by night. For all of them the burden was becoming intolerable. The women were oppressed by the uncertainty of their position, by the lack of daylight, by boredom, by their cramped quarters and the general inconvenience. The men were growing weary and despondent, fearful about the coining birth and the blame that would fall upon them should anything happen to the innocent mother and her child.


For Yané the burden was heaviest of all. To make the innocent suffer was wholly against his nature, and yet, in order to buy arms to defend the thousands of women in Macedonia who were daily exposed to death and dishonour at the hands of the Turks, he forced himself to harden his heart and to inflict suffering upon two helpless and totally innocent beings whom fate had delivered into his power. He had known from the start



49. McClure’s Magazine, June 1902, p. 109.


50. Ibid.





that it would not be pleasant for any of them, but he had never imagined that the affair would drag on so long. From time to time, he would send some of his men away to rest and relax from the strain, but for him there was neither rest nor respite. Upon his shoulders lay the responsibility for everything, from finding suitable thimbles to guaranteeing the lives and health of his three captives, and sometimes the strain was almost unbearable. ‘I’ve seen the perspiration stand out on his bald head, with winter frost about us,’ Chernopeev later said. ‘I’ve seen him go off by himself among the trees and clench those big hands of his and grind his teeth.’ [51]


At length, reason demanded that the deadlock be broken, and Yané sent Chernopeev and Asenov back to the Principality to re-open negotiations with Dickinson, instructing them to settle for whatever they could get. Again, this proved easier said than done. Since the U.S. authorities greatly disapproved of Dickinson’s handling of the affair, the State Department had agreed to a plan to send a commission consisting of Dr House (Senior missionary in Salonika), William Peet (Treasurer of the American Board in Constantinople), and A.A. Gargiulo (Translator at the U.S. Legation), to Macedonia with an offer of 66,000 dollars, i.e. £15,000 (Turkish). In spite of this attempt to keep Dickinson out of the negotiations, it was an agent of his, who finally made contact with the cheta, and, about New Year 1902, reached an agreement with Krŭstyu Asenov for the payment of £14,500 (Turkish), i.e. 63,000 dollars.


But the agreement came too late for poor Mrs Tsilka, who, on January 4 (December 22 old style) gave birth to her baby among the casks in a little structure used for wine-making near the village of Sŭrbinovo. The cheta was being pressed even harder by Turkish troops, despite the U.S. Government’s requests to the contrary, and, the night before the birth, they were obliged to ride for ten hours through deep snow. Sometimes the terrain was so rough that the women had to dismount and walk, and Mrs Tsilka was half dragged, half pushed up steep slopes, by three chetnitsi, one on either side and one behind, who tenderly encouraged her, while she begged them to leave her and let her die. Yané was unwilling to stop for more than a day, even after so arduous a journey, but when he realized that Mrs Tsilka was already in labour, he sent to the village for midwives, and an old woman came out to their miserable refuge in the frozen vineyard. The kindly presence of this woman—the first they had seen for months—was of great comfort to the prisoners, although Mrs Tsilka, trained in a New York hospital, could not help laughing, despite her dire predicament, at the spells and superstitions which were an essential part of this midwife’s stock-in-trade.


The birth of the baby was followed by a brief idyllic interlude of joy and celebration. Everyone shared in the excitement and wonder of



51. Sonnichsen. Opus cit., p. 261.





the new arrival, and, for a few hours, everything except the baby was forgotten. Wine was drawn from one of the casks so that the men could drink the health of the tiny being, born, like the Christ Child, in straw on a frosty, starry December night. One of the men even compared Mrs Tsilka to Mary, when they were all allowed into the comfortless, little room to congratulate the mother and bless the baby. ‘No,’ replied another, ‘this is a martyr; no woman has suffered as she has.’ [52]


And Yané—mentally and physically exhausted by the unremitting tension of the past four months, by his anxiety over the confinement, and by his feelings of guilt—Yané more than anyone else was totally transformed by the appearance of the little one, who, by some strange quirk of fate, was given the name of the sweetheart whom he had foresworn— Elena. [53]


In her memoirs, Mrs Tsilka describes how Yané came, uncharacteristically abashed and diffident, to see the new-born child: ‘Two or three hours later the chief himself appeared. He was tall, heavily built and dark. His eyes were fierce at other times, but now they were downcast. He said nothing; he stood in front of the fire and seemed deep in thought. Every time the baby cried or grunted he was startled; he was not used to that sort of thing. Everybody in the room was silent except the baby. To break the oppressive silence Miss Stone picked up the infant and handed it to the chief (this is just like Miss Stone). At first he appeared confused and embarrassed, but as he watched the little helpless morsel in his strong arms, a smile passed over his face. I was anxious, I watched his expression, I read his thoughts, I waited for results. And sure enough, his smiles lasted longer, he bent his head closer to baby’s face. He was no more a brigand to me, but a brother, a father, a protector to my baby. He now made up his mind to have a good time, so he sat down by the fire and began to warm baby’s feet.’ [54]


After giving orders for special food to be found for the new mother, Yané returned, and, telling Miss Stone and the midwife to go to sleep, he sat up all night, keeping the baby warm: ‘The chief sat near the fire with his back turned to me, and his head nodding with sleep. Baby was sweetly resting in this man’s strong arms. I looked at him. I examined him well. There was the revolver on his side, there the fatal dagger, and there, too, the little baby gently cuddled in those ironlike arms. I both smiled and wept for joy. I thanked God for the gentleness in this man. . . Morning came, the chief was no longer shy. He patronized the baby. He called her



52. On this touchingly bizarre occasion, Miss Stone acted as hostess, and conversed and laughed with the visitors, making them feel ‘perfectly at home’. For their part, the men had gone to the trouble of washing their hands and faces and sprucing themselves up. See Mrs Tsilka’s memoirs, McClure’s Magazine, August 1902, p. 297.


53. Mrs Tsilka named the child in honour of Miss Stone and of her own mother, who was also called Elena.


54. McClure’s Magazine, August 1902, p. 296.





by many pet names. She was "the little brigand, the daughter of the cheta", but his favourite was Kasmetché (good luck). He did all he could to make us happy and comfortable. He kept the fire going, he boiled barley, cooked chicken, and made himself as useful as he could. This same man forgot all about danger outside. This wee thing had stolen his heart. He was thinking and talking of nothing else but of the little Kasmetché. He laughed, he joked, he appeared as happy as though it were his own baby.’ [55]


The idyll was short-lived, and soon they were once again on the move through the cold and darkness of a midwinter night. Only now the problems were even worse than before, and the women were once again overcome by despair and misery. Mrs Tsilka could neither walk nor ride, so the men made a box in which she could lie. The first box proved too heavy for the mule, and the cheta had to risk staying for another night and day in a place which they deemed extremely dangerous. Finally, on the third day after the birth, they set out with Mrs Tsilka in a re-made, lighter box, strapped to one side of a pack-saddle. Luggage and blocks of wood had been strapped to the other side to balance it, and the heavily laden animal had to be helped by the chetnitsi, who put their shoulders under the load, as they struggled up and down precipitous, rocky paths, shaking and jarring the sorely tired mother. Georgi Kotsev mentions that he heard from Iliya Marushin, in whose father’s house the group stayed in Vlahi, that the unfortunate mule died on the day after their arrival there. [56]


The danger of being discovered by enemies was greatly increased by the baby’s cries, which would break upon the still mountain air, to be hastily stifled with little bags of sugar. The women went in constant fear lest these cries be their undoing, lest the Turks press them so close that Yané would be forced into killing the baby in order to avoid capture. According to several sources, the cheta did indeed discuss whether or not they should kill both the baby and the women. Chernopeev was inclined to entertain the idea, for he feared that, even if the baby did not unwittingly betray them, the women, when released, would surely reveal the identity of their captors. Yané took the opposite view: not only was he convinced that, in spite of everything, the women would in no wise betray the secrets which they had learnt, he also rejected out of hand the very idea of such pre-emptive killings, as something totally incompatible with the prestige of the Organization and with their own consciences as revolutionaries: ‘If we kill them, we shall be killing both ourselves and our Cause in the eyes of the people; so let us all die, but let us not bury our Cause.’ [57]



55. McClure’s Magazine, August 1902, p. 297.


56. Memoirs of Georgi Kotsev, p. 66.


57. The quotation is from Anton Strashimirov, Kniga za Bulgarite, p. 97. Ivan Harizanov, basing himself on an account given by a chetnik, states that Yané and





Fortunately, thanks to Yané’s skilful leadership, no one had to die. After a painfully slow and gruelling all-night journey, the party was obliged to hide at dawn in an isolated house between Ezerets and Oshtava, where they stayed resting for a couple of days. Yané’s constant care for his captives is reflected in the instructions which he gave to local committee members, including Yané Grigorov (a priest in Oshtava), Spas Ivanov, Nikola Svetetsov and others: ‘You will see to it that this woman is cared for like a princess. Not a hair must fall from her head. Not for a single minute is she to remain hungry or thirsty. You will provide her with every comfort, as far as circumstances permit, of course. You, Spas, will be responsible for the housekeeping. The rest of you will be responsible for guarding her person. If a bird enters this house, it must not be allowed to get out alive—still less a person. The American lady is of great importance to us, and, if we succeed, it will be of great advantage to our Cause. All suspicious characters loitering in the vicinity of the house are to be liquidated.’ [58] On the first day, Mrs Tsilka was ill with chills and fever, but she was better on the second, and they were able to make the two-hour journey to Yané’s native Vlahi. This time, however, they abandoned the box, and substituted bags of straw which were lighter and more manoeuvrable. As an extra precaution, a flock of sheep belonging to the Grigorov family was driven in their wake to obliterate their tell-tale footprints.


They stayed in Vlahi—in the Drakolovo quarter—for nine days without moving. Even there, however, security demanded that the windows of the house be boarded up, so that the captives lived in perpetual night. The washing of the nappies was a terrible problem, since they could not be put out in the sun for fear of detection, neither could they be dried by moonlight, but only inside, by the fire, and whoever was on guard duty—often it was Yané himself—had to help with the task of drying, because every evening the luggage had to be ready and packed in case they were forced to flee. The men soon adapted themselves to their new role as nursemaids. Whenever possible, hot water was provided for bathing the baby and for laundry work. When the baby developed a stomach disorder (apparently from a surfeit of sugar), and Mrs Tsilka demanded castor-oil, even this was found and duly administered. Yet, despite Yané’s desire to provide



Chernopeev had a violent quarrel over whether the women should be killed in order to protect the Organization, a quarrel which could have ended in a permanent rift between the two. However, knowing Chernopeev’s explosive character, Yané handled him with tact and restraint, and Chernopeev admitted that Yané was right. (Pirinsko delo, 10.IV.1955). Georgi Kotsev, Opus cit., p. 74, also gives a version of this discussion. Like Anton Strashimirov and Harizanov, Kotsev was not present but obviously heard about it from others. Kotsev’s version is similar in spirit, i.e. that to kill the women would be tantamount to killing the Organization, and adds that Yané also said: ‘Let those who despair go. I shall continue the thing to the end, even if I am left with only one comrade.’


58. Memoirs of Nikola Svetetsov, collected by Kuzman Dimitrov Petrov.





the captives with ‘every comfort, as far as circumstances permitted’, the conditions in Vlahi were primitive in the extreme. The weather was arctic, the food—a monotonous diet of bean soup and bread-and-milk, and all of them had become infested with lice which no amount of washing could extirpate. The baby cried continuously, while the women complained of the unbearable itching, and frequently wept from misery and depression. [59]


On January 12, Krŭstyu Asenov arrived with a letter for Miss Stone from a former pupil of hers, and a copy of a letter from Dickinson’s intermediary to Dr House, informing him of the agreement reached over the ransom, and requesting the women to write on the reverse side information about matters known only to themselves and Dr House, as proof that they were still alive.


At this point, Yané decided to leave the women in the charge of Chernopeev and to go with Asenov to Bansko, where Dr House had already arrived, ahead of the other two members of the commission. The women viewed Yané’s departure with apprehension, for they had come to trust him, and they were still somewhat afraid of the other, less familiar chetnitsi, especially Chernopeev, whom they had secretly christened ‘Bad Man’, because of his leading role in the unpleasant ‘scenes’. In marked contrast, their code-name for Yané was ‘Good Man’, because, on the very first night, when, in the hope of softening the hearts of the ‘brigands’, Miss Stone had spoken of her aged mother, her brothers, and of the love of God for His children, Yané had answered, ‘Yes, we are all God’s children’— an unexpected remark which had partially dispelled their fear. [60] Within the limits imposed by circumstances, he had never given them cause to regret their choice of name. From the beginning, Yané had impressed Mrs Tsilka not only with his broad shoulders and powerful frame, but also with his face, which she describes as being good-natured, as well as stern, as radiating calm and extraordinary strength of character. [61] In her memoirs, she avers that he invariably treated them with kindness and courtesy, and, if any of his comrades failed to do the same, he would always intervene. More than once, when the situation was particularly tense and difficult, and the men were growing nervy and impatient, she overheard him scolding them and urging them to be more polite. [62] In spite of the fact that Yané was the author of all their sufferings, the two women regarded him as a man of compassion, on whose succour and protection they could rely.


Yané and Asenov arrived in Bansko on January 16 or 17. Sava Mihailov was also with them, since he had been forced to flee from Gorna



59. Memoirs of Alexander Dŭrvodelsky (collected by Georgi Momchilov in 1964, and kept in the possession of the Dŭrvodelsky’s son).


60. Otechestven Front, 13.IV.1982 (Part 3 of Mrs Tsilka’s memoirs). Also McClure’s Magazine, May 1902, p. 11.


61. Otechestven Front, 9.IV.1982 (Part 2 of Mrs Tsilka’s memoirs).


62. Ibid., 13. and 15.IV.1982 (Parts 3 and 4 of Mrs Tsilka’s memoirs).





Dzhumaya to avoid arrest. [63] Dr House had been in the village since January 8, residing in the house of a Protestant named Ivan Grachanov, doing missionary work and waiting. Even now, the deal could not be concluded, because Dr House had to wait for the other two members of the Commission—Peet and Gargiulo—and to obtain their agreement to the final arrangements, including the payment of the ransom before the release of the captives. Yané and his comrades had known only about Dickinson and Dr House, and they were much put out by the delay and the need to consult still more people. Miss Stone herself, informed of the delay, shared their indignation, and she and Mrs Tsilka wrote angry notes to Dr House about the protracting of the negotiations.


Finally, Peet and Gargiulo agreed that the payment should precede the freeing of the women, and that they should hand over the money against the receipt written earlier by Miss Stone, relying on ‘the word of honour’ of the bearer. The actual handing over of the money was in itself a tour de force—a fitting climax to an epic undertaking. Leishman, the U.S. Minister, had great difficulty in obtaining any co-operation at all from the Turkish authorities over the payment of the ransom, i.e. that there should be no ambushes, no pursuit of the cheta, etc. The money—all in gold and weighing about 2 cwt (105 kilos)—was brought in chests by train to Demir-Hisar, and thence by caravan, escorted by a sizable force of Turkish cavalry. By the time it reached Bansko on January 26, the village was blockaded by 250 soldiers, all intent on capturing the kidnappers, and it was placed in the Protestant Centre under close guard.


On January 31, the commission was invited to supper at the house of Petkanchin, one of the leading Protestants. The host informed the Turkish commander of the projected party, saying apologetically that they could not invite him as well because the dishes would be made of pork, and the company would be discussing church affairs. What the Turk was not told was that Yané and his comrades would be among the guests. It was decided that the money would be handed over on February 2, and on Yané’s suggestion, a comparable amount of lead was prepared and was secretly substituted for the gold, which was taken first to the Grachanov’s house and then out of Bansko, where Yané and about fourteen of his men were waiting to receive it. [64] In due course, the unsuspecting Turks were informed



63. An anonymous letter, accusing him and several others of being implicated in the kidnapping, had been found by a Turkish officer, who asked a young Bulgarian to read it to him. The boy pretended that he could not read, and hastened to tell one of the accused, Nikola Chaveev, who had in fact taken part in the kidnapping. Mihailov was also informed and decided to join the cheta. See Sava Mihailov’s memoirs, Miletich VII, p. 90.


64. Exactly how the substitution of the lead for the gold was effected is not exactly clear. Ivan Diviziev (Pirinsko delo, 17.V.1972. Kak bili predadeni parite po aferata Mis Ston) says that the Protestant pastor, Georgi Kondev, announced a public meeting in the Centre, and a number of those who went carried the lead in their pockets, sashes, etc. The Todev Inn, where the Turkish commander was staying was then set





that nobody had appeared to receive the ransom in Bansko, and that the caravan must proceed to another possible rendezvous with the kidnappers. It was not until February 12 that the Porte was officially informed that the ransom had been paid. [65]


Continued Turkish troop movements and heavy mist delayed the release of the women for three more weeks, during which they had to suffer more night journeys through wind and snow, and more interminable days of confinement in dark, damp rooms full of smoke. Finally, Chernopeev, who had taken them from Pirin across the Struma into Maleshevia, was able to arrange for them to be freed early in the morning on February 23, outside a village near Strumitsa. None of the three were any worse for their ordeal, and they were soon reunited with their friends and families.


Yané had been right in his belief that the women would not betray the secrets which they had learnt. Neither during questioning by the Turkish authorities and by journalists, nor in their published memoirs, did they mention any names or give any information that could throw light on the identity of the kidnappers and those who provisioned and sheltered them during the six-month epic. And, if Chernopeev had imagined that Miss Stone was lacking in sympathy towards the Organization at the start of their adventures, such sympathy was certainly not lacking at the end. When she returned to the United States, not only did she not say a word against her captors, but she was even criticized by the American Board for her speeches against continued Turkish rule in Macedonia. [66] According to Ivan Ingilizov, a member of the committee in Strumitsa, one of Miss Stone’s first acts after her release was to go to the Protestant church in Strumitsa, where she said: ‘Let us pray for those brothers in the forests who are working for the freedom of their brothers, and who took greater care of us than our own parents would have done. They risked their lives to protect us.’ [67]


Thus ended the celebrated ‘Miss Stone Affair’, which was, above all, a stupendous feat of organization and endurance on the part of Yané and his



on fire, and, when all the soldiers rushed to his aid, the substitution was made. The snag about this version—and all others with a similar content—is that, according to both Dr House and the correspondent of the Daily Graphic, the fire occurred on a different night. (January 30-31 according to the Daily Graphic of Feb. 5, 1902.) Other possible explanations are that Gargiulo, who was staying in the Centre, somehow persuaded the guard to withdraw, or that there was a secret entrance.


65. After Miss Stone’s release, there was considerable disagreement among the missionaries themselves, as well as in official U.S. circles, about who was to reimburse those who had contributed to the ransom fund. Miss Stone herself thought that Turkey should pay. Finally, Congress voted the necessary funds. The Senate had accepted legislation to this effect in 1908, but the House of Representatives did not do so until May 21, 1912, thus blocking repayment until this date.


66. Some contemporaries mention that Yané received a letter, or letters, from Miss Stone, and was very much pleased that she had written.


67. TDIA, f. 1508, op. 2, a.e. 22, pp. 29-30.





men. It may be objected that to subject innocent people to such ordeals was a cruel and wicked thing. Viewed in isolation, perhaps it was; yet the alternative for Yané was to stand by, inactive and tut-tutting, in a land where it was a common practice for beautiful girls to have a cross tattooed between their eyebrows, where it would be visible even with an all enveloping Muslim veil, so that they would not be stolen away for Turkish harems. Miss Stone once clashed with Yané on the question of the innocent suffering, in the early days of the Affair, when the women were threatened with death if the ransom was not forthcoming within ten days: ‘If the full amount of ransom cannot be raised in this short time,’ she told Yané, ‘you cannot proceed to murder us, women who have done you no harm. It would be a shame and a reproach to Turkey.’ ‘Why shame and reproach to take the lives of two women,’ Yané cried in fury, ‘when unnumbered women and children in Turkey suffer nameless outrages, and are put to death daily!’ [68]


Chernopeev made much the same point to Sonnichsen: ‘I am indifferent for myself—but—the others—most of them died for their ideas—never had so much as a lira in their ragged pockets. But they were only brigands. God! What greasy hypocrites they are! The smug diplomats and editors and the clergy, with their hanging jowls and rotund bellies. Yes, brigands, we are. They allow our women and small babies to be outraged and slaughtered, and when we ask them for help, only to stop it, in the name of Christ, they give us soft lying words, and then when we give one of their women a few months’ worry and discomfort, which we more than share with her, only to give us the means to save a million women from death, or worse, we are brigands. Because it was one of their women, they didn’t worry about poor Mrs Tsilka, no, it was only Miss Stone. For that, we are brigands, outlaws, criminals. No, damn such a civilization. It isn’t real.’ [69]


The hard-won gold was taken to the Principality and was temporarily entrusted to a number of people, including Asenov’s sister and Dimo Hadzhidimov, because Yané wished to give the money to Gotsé and no one else. When Gotsé, apprised of the situation, returned to Sofia from an organizational tour of western Macedonia, the ransom was handed over to him, and was disposed of by a commission set up for the purpose and headed by him.


Yané himself in no way benefitted from the ransom. He gave £2 and a Nagant revolver to each of his men as a reward for their pains, but he himself, Chernopeev and Asenov did not take so much as a halfpenny, although the three of them were virtually destitute. Asenov, for example, having left some £4,000 in gold with his sister, had to borrow money from his mother to continue his journey. Gotsé knew this, and he also knew that it was useless to try and persuade them to accept any part of the



68. McClure’s Magazine, June 1902, p. 104.


69. Sonnichsen, Opus cit., p. 266.





money, for to do so would, in their own eyes, turn them from revolutionaries into brigands and besmirch their honour. Gotsé, therefore, simply by-passed them and sent £5 each to Chernopeev’s wife and Yané’s father. The latter, though living in great poverty, was reluctant to accept the money. He came late at night to Ivan Harizanov’s house to ask whether he should accept the money which Nikola Maleshevsky had offered him on orders from Sofia, and was much concerned lest Yané should be angry with him for accepting. [70] Ivan Sandansky knew his son well; he knew his fanaticism where money was concerned and his uncompromising attitude towards personal gain at public expense. Yané would stop at nothing, if he thought it would further the cause of liberation, but he would never consent to benefit from such actions himself, neither would he accord his own family any privileges or special dispensation.



70. Den, 23.IX.1945. Article by Ivan Harizanov.


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