Life journey


Stefan Albertov Gechev was born on January 29, 1911 in Ruse. He comes from a family of progressive intellectuals. The names of his relatives are associated with the rich history of the Bulgarian Intelligentsia in the XIX and XX centuries.

The family of pastor Stefan Gechov – Lovech, Albert Gechev, Nonka Gecheva and pastor Stefan Gechov, Timothy Gechev, Nevyanka Gecheva, Georgi Gechev and Slavka Gecheva

Stefan Gechev was born in the family of the literary critic and historian Albert Gechev (1881-1916) and the French high school teacher Rada Gecheva.

“I was five years old when my father read the poems by Slaveikov and made me repeat them. I still remember them. If he had not died so early, his university career might have awaited him. But fate … “As a critic … generally speaking, he was for our good, solid realism. I am for the good, solid modern realism.”

…By maternal line, Asen Zlatarov’s mother, my grandfather’s sister, left beautifully written memories that were published. I will not talk about Assen Zlatarov himself. Who doesn’t know him! His son Svetozar Zlatarov also writes. A famous representative of this family is Professor Lyubomir Tenev. My aunt Diana, Nikolay Raynov’s wife, also had literary experimnets. Not to mention their son Bogomil … “

Albert & Rada Guetchevi, 1909

1917-1921, Ruse and Plovdiv

Stefan, Erma and Rada Gecheva 1919.

Rada Gecheva works as a French language teacher at the high school in Rousse. Little Stefan is an excellent student, but despite his mother’s efforts, the French language does not attract him. The language he will later accept and speak as his own.

After the death of her husband, Stefan Gechev’s mother left the city of Ruse and settled in 1921, together with her two children – Stefan and Erma, at the house of grandmother Katya in Plovdiv.



1925 Stefan opens a new window to the world; he begins to write poetry

“I started writing poems at the age of 14 in Ruse. At the age of 15 I had already published several of them in the student magazine Rodna Rech. The card sent to me by the principal said: “Your poems are good, but mostly authentic.”

Sixteen-year-old Stefan lives in Plovdiv with his uncle, the great Bulgarian writer Nikolay Raynov.

“I decided to show my poems to Uncle Nikolay. I left him a few and went out excited. The next day he sat down next to me and said, “Stefcho, you will become a good poet.” There is no need to say which heaven I was in then.”

At that time Nikolay Liliev is the luminary of the Bulgarian poetry.

“I gave him some of my poems and looked forward to his answer.” I read your verses carefully. I would say: Write! Even if you don’t become a great poet, you will understand poetry in all its glory … In conclusion, my advice is … keep writing.“
At that moment, I took his answer as NO. I went home and burned all the notebooks with my poems. A few years later, I ran into him and it turned out that Nikolay Liliev remembered very well what I had written and was surprised that I had stopped writing.”

Tiré du récit de Stéphane Guetchev dans un entretien accordé à la revue littéraire Septemvri, № 4, 1994.

Stefan and Erma Gechevi

1926, Paris

Fifteen-year-old Stefan lives for around two years in Paris, where his mother was sent to specialization. Dora Gabe, Asen Zlatarov, Nikolay and Bogomil Raynov, the great Papazov, as well as many other Bulgarian intellectuals were also there at that time. The Louis’ Lyceum in Paris, where Robespierre had also studied, helps him to perfect the French language and spark his imagination.

Stefan Gechev, Paris, 1926

1929, Nikolai Raynov – Orpheus Lodge

Portrait of Nikolai Rainov 1932, Paris

Academician Nikolai Raynov – professor of art history, a famous writer and distinguished intellectual, was an influential figure in the first half of the XX century. As a child, because of his uncle, Stefan gets the chance to meet with almost all the great Bulgarian intellectuals – Geo Milev, the artist Mavrov, the modernist Georges Papazov and the poetess Dora Gabe, as well as many foreigners, as the creator and leader of Dadaism Tristan Tsara in Paris.
Uncle Raynov dedicates eighteen-year-old Stefan to the Orpheus Lodge, to which he was the creator and leader and in which perhaps the greatest intellectuals of the era participated.

En 1933, pour diverses raisons dont mes études et examens universitaires mais aussi et surtout en raison de ma manière de penser cartésienne, j’ai commencé à prendre mes distances avec la loge Orphée. Au bout de quelques années, j’ai quitté la loge et mon oncle Nikolay.

Interview with Stefan Gechev. Magazine “Septemvri”, № 4, 1991

The years of study

1929-1934, Student in Slavic Philology at Sofia University

When I entered the University of Sofia as a student in Slavic Philology in the fall of 1929, our professors were L. Miletic, S. Romanski, M.Arnaudov, A.T. Balan, St. Mladenov. All these people were a team of talented scientists who laid the foundations for a solid Bulgarian studies… “

Interview with Stefan Gechev. Newspaper “ABV”, № 9, 1992.

In 1934 I graduated from Sofia University. Even at the beginning of my studies, I was drawn to Old Bulgarian literature. My professor in this course, Yordan Ivanov, advised me that if I wanted to create something more serious in this area, I would have to learn both Greek and Modern Greek.

From Stefan Gechev’s book “My greek friends” p.33

Gechev with his professor Yordan Ivanov, 1934

1936, Gechev settled in Athens to study Ancient and Modern Greek

Gechev in the Bulgarian Legation, Athens, 1937

His connection with the spiritual community was so strong that he became very quickly and easily involved in Greek academic circles. In a short time he mastered the Greek language.

I began listening to Professor Veis’ lectures on Byzantine literature at the University of Athens, one of the luminaries, as it was then called, of this science. Soon I introduced myself to him and he showed interest in the young Bulgarian. After a while he called me up and suggested that I do a private volunteer course in Old Bulgarian for some of his students.
Because, he explained, both you need to know Byzantine, and our Byzantines should know Old Bulgarian in order to use the old Bulgarian documents. 

From Stefan Gechev’s book “My greek friends” p.62-64

1938, PhD in Greece

In 1938, in Greece, he wrote his doctoral dissertation entitled “Physiologist”, in which he examined an ancient Bulgarian text translated into Greek. The bibliography takes him to the monasteries of the Holy Mountain (Agion Oros)

Stefan Gechev had his own attitude towards God, the Higher Craft, which governs mind and body. The Bible was always with him until the end of his life. Every night, he read a passage from it as a history book, as a Holy Book – a door to other worlds.

Gechev in Agion Oros, 1938

Diplomatic career

1935, Clerk in foreign languages in the Bulgarian legation in Athens

Gechev in the Bulgarian Legation, Athens, 1935

Fortunately, the little amount of money his mother has provided him with soon ends. This gives the opportunity to the Bulgarian ambassador in Athens Dimitar Shishmanov to find him a job in the Bulgarian diplomatic mission as a clerk,

“You see, Gechev, there is another vacancy in the staff of the legation – clerk in foreign languages. The salary is almost meager, but if you want to stay in Greece to finish what you came for, you can take it.”

And so it happens. But the planned seven months in Greece turn into seven years.

From Stefan Getchev’s book My Greek Friends.

1942 – 1946, Bratislava – Stefan Gechev is a cultural attache (in press)

After September 9, 1944 until May 1945 at the insistence of the Slovak authorities he is forced to leave Bratislava and emigrate to Pistyani because of his support for the government in Sofia. After the war ends he returns to Bratislava and is appointed a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria.

At the end of 1942. “I went to Bratislava. The Germans had decided to make Bratislava a showcase for future Europe. French cognacs, cheese… absolutely everything. I have never seen such splendor. In Germany they were starving, but here they were bringing foreigners to see what Europe would be like, after they win.

After September 9, 1944, in Vienna, Tsankov formed a Bulgarian government abroad. The Germans called me to their embassy. Their counselor asked me, “Herr Gechev, there is already a government of yours here. Who do you stand with?” I replied that the government in Sofia was a democratic coalition and that as a Bulgarian I can only stand with my homeland… After 10 days I received an invitation to leave Bratislava and go to Pistyani, a small town – something like internment… Once in a week I had to sign in for the Gestapo…

In May 1945 I returned to Bratislava. The war was still not over. I received an order from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Czechoslovakia, because there was no Ambassador in Prague yet. So for about 7-8 months I went to both Prague and Bratislava.”

From the stories of Stefan Gechev from the magazine Literary Thought 1991, № 4 and the newspaper Literary Forum, № 31

Gechev (right) with a German adviser in 1943

Gechev (left) with a German adviser in 1944

Gechev (Left) 1946

1947 – 1949, Counselor at the Bulgarian Embassy in Warsaw

Stefan Gechev in Warsaw 1948

Stefan Gechev in Warsaw 1949

“I stayed in the beautiful Bratislava until the end of 1946. Then our Bulgarian ambassador in Warsaw passed by. “Gechev, I need qualified staff, do you want to come with me to Warsaw?” I thought it was a big challenge for me, and I accepted.

So in early 1947 I found myself in the terribly barbarically ruined capital of Poland. Thousands of wretched and hungry people everywhere trying to start their life again. I stayed there until mid-1949, after which I was recalled to the ministry in Sofia.

From stories by Stefan Gechev

Life path 1949 – 1989

Stefan Gechev, 1950

1949 Gechev does not accept to become a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party and is fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In 1949 Stefan Gechev is fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because he is not a member of the party. To the persistent questions from his colleagues he is forced to answer:
“I can’t become a member of the party because I believe in God.”

He could have been a politician with a great career in diplomacy, with numerous editions of poetry collections, caressing the socialist realism and satisfying the artistic orders of the party executives. However, he belongs to another world. No party expediency had entangled him in the game of compromises. This behavior cost him 23 years of isolation. Stefan Gechev has his own understanding for God, “A Higher Providence”, which guides the mind and body. The Bible is always with him until the end of his days. Every night he reads a passage – as a history book, as the Holy book, a door to other worlds.

In 1959 Krastina Gecheva (Titi) enters Stefan Gechev’s life.

Translator, editor and bibliographer, Krastina is the angel that stands next to him in every good or bad moment for the following nearly 50 years of his life…
Until the end!

It’s hard to live in the everyday life of an artist who looks at the world in the fourth dimension, to live with the cosmopolitan who has given up material pleasures. But at the same time you go through the great school… I’m lucky,” – shares Krastina Gecheva (Titi). Stefan Gechev’s friends know best that the poet worships his beloved wife like no one else in the world.

Stefan and Krastina Gechevi
enter into a civil marriage, 1959

1950 – 1956, Editor of the satirical newspaper Starshel

Stefan Gechev works in the newspaper “Starshel”
{in Bulg. i. e. hornet} under the alias Ventseslav Diavatov, 1950

For six years Stefan Gechev works in the satirical newspaper Starshel in a “problem-free” place. He reads foreign magazines and newspapers and gives ideas for caricatures and feuilletons. In 1956, he is fired from the newspaper for daring to say, “It wouldn’t be so bad if that… Stalinist socialism developed… into something else.”  – regarding the events in Hungary.

1957 – 1958 Gechev, playwright in the newly created Satiric theater

“I was kicked out of the newspaper. There was nothing I could do, the order came from above. I had no job for months until the playwright Veso Hanchev – we were close with him – told me once, “Stefan, I talked to the director Sarchadzhiev to hire you with us as a second playwright.” It was salvation for me, I accepted immediately… My idea of such theater was, in addition to plays, putting on satirical scenes and sketches as anywhere else in the world. Sarchadzhiev and I put on two of those. The new director of the theater Danovski, however, refused any kind of innovation. I was forced to resign.”

From stories by Stefan Gechev in the newspaper Literary Forum, № 31, 1998

1959 – 1965, Plamak Magazine

Cover of Plamak magazine.

Stefan Gechev, expelled from the Satirical Theater, is accepted to work as an editor in the literary magazine Plamak. The climate there is hard for him and he is looking for an opportunity to leave.

1966, Stefan Gechev retires

In 1966 Stefan Gechev is granted the opportunity to retire. Staying true to his views, he is to have “the best years of” his life.

“I knew very well that I would not be able to publish any of my work. I would be isolated. I realized this fact, accepted it, and devoted myself… to writing. It was an amazing feeling. It was hard. I wrote daily – poems, novels, plays, I made plans for the things I wanted to write… I wrote, I wrote, I read them to Titi in the evening and we talked for endless hours about the texts smoldering in the dark drawers. But I was free. I wrote without feeling the influence of any external factor… Free.” At some point he will say, “The best I have written, I have written then.”

From stories by Stefan Gechev

Stefan Gechev, 1966

1967, Publication of Gechev’s poetry collection Belejnik

Cover of “Belejnik”

“In the early fifties I had started writing (after 25 years) poetry again. Small verses that some friends liked. In 1966 Blaga Dimitrova, who was then an editor at the publishing house Narodna Kultura, offered me to publish the collection of my poems.”

One small book, eight by fifteen centimeters, with only thirty pages… like a passport. Passport for a trip, free of time and space. A path to other worlds where colors and light are pure, free from the pressure of the subconscious. However, passports in Bulgaria in 1967 were difficult to issue and only after a firm permission by the Party.(as we said and wrote to designate the Communist Party, BKP).

The collection of poems Belezhnik is published in 1967. Fierce articles are published about this unfortunate book. During the session of Politburo of the Communist Party (November 12, 1967) focused on the topic of “Some Phenomena on the Ideological Front”, the secretary for ideological issues will characterize Stefan Gechev’s collection of poems as “a deviation from Marxist-Leninist ideology and communist internationalism.”

That was enough: Venelin Kotsev’s “characterization” was an order. Several contracts that had already been signed for the publication of other works of mine were immediately canceled. Just the publishing house Narodna Kultura canceled three of my translation contracts… It was hard! I knew how to do nothing else but write, more or less. I tried to suggest something here and there, but I was tacitly refused. I realized it was pointless and backed away. I kept writing, knowing that my work would never be published… Isolation for twenty-three years. But I don’t regret it either – I wrote what I wanted and how I wanted, free from censorship, conjuncture, etc.

From the stories of Stefan Gechev from the newspaper Literaturen Forum, No. 31, 1998, from the magazine Literaturna Misal, No. 4, 1991 and from the newspaper ABV, No. 4, 1991.

My Greek Friends

Since I had free time, I decided to fulfill my long-held dream to introduce Bulgarian readers to the magnificent Greek poetry. Then, in the early 50’s, the most dogmatic social realism was established in our country. At that time I came across some poems by a Greek poet unknown to me – Yannis Ritsos. I liked them and because he was a communist, I assumed that there would be no problems with their promulgation… I translated a few poems and brought them to be published. They returned them to me with a sharp remark that they did not publish such “surrealisms”.

…Nonetheless, the Party allowed me to edit the translations of The First Anthology of Greek Poets under the strict leadership of a Greek communist in Sofia.


From Stefan Gechev’s book “My Greek Friends”

Gechev is a friend of and knows the most influential Greek poets and writers of the time (and not only) – Costas Varnalis, Aris Dikteos, the Nobel laureate Odysseus Elitis Georgios Seferis, Kiki Dimula, Nikos Nikopoulis and many others. Gechev managed to meticulously translate the works of these authors. The first Anthology of New Greek Poetry is published in 1960 in two volumes, the second is published in 1978 under the editorship and with the translation of Stefan Gechev.
La première publication des 2 volumes de l’Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie grecque, en 1960, et la seconde, en 1978, sont dues à la traduction et à la direction de Stéphane Guetchev.
La poésie chypriote contemporaine, 1965
La jeune poésie grecque, 1976
La poésie grecque du XXe siècle, 1978
He translates from Greek poems by Konstantinos Kavafis (1963, 1984, 1995),
Aris Dikteos (1967) and Georgios Seferis (1975)

You can get acquainted with the memories of these authors in the book by Stefan Gechev “My Greek Friends

Stefan Gechev saying his farewell to the great
Bulgarian writer Dimitar Dimov, behind him is his friend,
the Greek poet Aris Diktaios, 1966

Covers from both editions of the book:
My Greek Friends

1988, Theater 199 – The Trial of the Disappearance of the Body of Jesus of Nazareth

In 1988, during the looming changes in Bulgaria, the Sofia Theater 199 staged Gechev’s play The Trial of the Disappearance of the Body of Jesus of Nazareth directed by Mladen Kiselov.

Life journey 1989 – 2000

After the growing changes in the political system in Bulgaria in 1989, Stefan Gechev suddenly finds himself at the center of Bulgarian intellectual life. It is as if another world has been moving, acting and living, waiting for the moment to talk about the work of the “infected” and to meet Gechev. Interviews follow, broadcasts on national television and radio, articles in major newspapers and magazines, his works are widely published and he recieves multiple awards.

Stefan Gechev the theatrical writer

The main purpose of my literary texts, and especially of my theatrical work, is to make even a small number of people interested in the great problems of human existence and human relationships. Every spectator will take something of their own from the performance.

1991, Murderers, Ivan Vazov National Theater
With great success Stefan Gechev’s play Murderers is staged at the Ivan Vazov National Theater directed by Vili Tsankov.

1994, The Golgotha of Barabbas
The play Golgotha of Barabbas, directed by Stoyan Alexiev, has been staged at the National Palace of Culture Theater.

1994, Тhe Trial of the Disappearance of the Body of Jesus of Nazareth
The same year, the play The Trial of the Disappearance of the Body of Jesus of Nazareth is staged at the Center for the Arts in Washington, DC, directed by Mladen Kiselov, which receives a markedly positive reception from the Washington Post.


1992, French Surrealist Poets

In 1992, the magnificent anthology French Surrealist Poets is published. The first edition is sold out in just three months, so other editions follow. The book contains the work of predecessors and companions of surrealism such as De Nerval, Stephane Mallarme, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, etc., as well as actual surrealists such as Paul Eluard, Andre Breton, Louis Aragon, Anthony Artois, Tristan Tzara and others.

1995, Golden Cross of the Legion of Honor

The Greek state honors the friend of Greece, Stefan Gechev.
The Ambassador of Greece in Sofia Anastasios Sideris on behalf of President Konstantinos Stefanopoulos with respect and love awards the writer and translator Stefan Gechev with a diploma and the “Golden Cross of the Legion of Honor”

Anastasios Sideris awards Stefan Gechev

1997, Contemporary Greek Poetry: Book 1

Covers from the books: My Greek Friends & Greek Poetry
Gechev gives as a gift the three finished
volumes to the Greek Prime minister
Mr. Kostas Simitis, 1998

A big dream of Stefan Gechev is starting to come true. Under the auspices of the Greek state and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Mr. Carlos Papoulias, the first volume of Contemporary Greek Poetry, presented by Gechev, is published.

1998, Contemporary Greek Poetry: Book 2  

The second volume of Contemporary Greek Poetry is published again with the help of the Greek Embassy in Sofia. Ambassador Mr. Panayotis Caracasis embraces the work of the great friend of his homeland Stefan Gechev, whom later he will love so much. The Bulgarian Ambassador to Greece, the writer Kiril Topalov presents the second volume.

1999, My Greek Friends

Stefan Gechev takes out piece by piece from his memory his meetings and conversations with Varnalis, Elitis, Seferis, Dikteos, Kazantzakis, Ritos, Parnassus, Nicopoulos, Yorands, Dimulas, Ludemis. My Greek Friends.

1997, “Contribution and Development Award”

In 1997, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture awarded Stefan Gechev a Special Prize for his contribution to the development and dissemination of Bulgarian culture.

1998, The French Republic honors Gechev

On June 17, 1998, by decree of the President of France and on behalf of the French Ministry of Culture, the Ambassador to Bulgaria, Mr. Tremo, awards Stefan Gechev with the high award “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” for his overall contribution to the betterment of cultural relations between Bulgaria and France.

“Mr Gechev,
The Order of Arts and Literature is one of the most significant awards of the French Republic. It is given in honor of individuals whose work represents a significant contribution to the arts and literature, or who have contributed to the spread of art and literature in France and around the world. In expressing my sincere respects, Mr., please accept this expression of my high esteem for you.”


The Ambassador of France in Sofia, Mr. Tremo awards Gechev

1999, The Greek Society of Translators awards Stefan Gechev a “Gold Medal”

In 1999, the Greek Society of Translators awarded Stefan Gechev a “Gold Medal” for his overall translation work, which is a valuable contribution to modern Greek literature and culture. The mayor of Athens, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on behalf of the Greek Society of Translators, awarded Gechev on February 15, 1999.

January 4, 2000 – The end of a journey

He leaves his last whisper to his beloved wife and… dies. He passes away on the day they celebrate almost fifty years of their life together. Everything is there. The typewriter, the books, the manuscripts, the pencils … and all of us.

A few days later, Titi finds a piece of paper that has fallen next to his bed, on which, shortly before he passes through the wide door, Gechev has written his last poem:

It is already dawn over the chessboard.
In the hearts of wood of the pawns
is maturing the old hope
that perhaps today,
unreasonable moves,
under the gaze of their kings
hey will finally get to the last square.
It is already dawn …

January 3, 2000.

From the poetry collection “Shadows of Time”, p.87


The last photo of Gechev, 1999

The project “110 years since the birth of Stefan Gechev” is made with the financial support of the program
“Creative initiatives” of the National fund for “Culture”.

Graphic and web design by Stefan Artamontzev
Translation by Mila Avramova