Editing: Ivan Hadzhivelikov
Photos: personal archive of the interviewees and Rosina Pencheva
Published: 1 September 2023
People associated with the former Professional School of Textile are overflowing with stories that beg to be told. The building, keeper of the memories of generations of students and teachers, is in the process of transformation – and what better way to trace the thread from the past to its future than the personal stories of its grown children?
Borislav Kolev – graduate of 1988


"These buildings originate from the former Doverie leather cooperative, which was subsequently nationalized. Somewhere in the late 1920s, a law was passed - that all the tanneries should unite and move from the bridge down, outside the center, because of the smell. However, the manufacturers, they have built, they already got their money in, they join forces and build this building. Then the school emerges in its place. First there was the shoemaker school, then the "rag" school with the seamstresses - a technical school for light industry, then tanners came... I was a tanner, the first class ever. We were a total of eighteen classes... There was a great push to be an elite school, there were serious teachers who graduated abroad. I graduated in 1988, now I am the main organizer of  class meetings, we get together, we reminisce…
Фотография: Бивш Техникум по текстил, 2023 © Росина Пенчева
Фотография: Бивш Техникум по текстил, 2023 © Росина Пенчева
Борислав Колев, 2023
Борислав Колев, 2023
Фотография: Бивш Техникум по текстил, 2023 © Росина Пенчева
Фотография: Бивш Техникум по текстил, 2023 © Росина Пенчева
Архивна снимка на Борислав Коелв
Архивна снимка на Борислав Коелв
Uniforms were mandatory - blue or black jacket, blue trousers, black shoes. They reduced my marks because I was caught wearing a brown jacket. The serious offenders were  cut with the hair clipper, it had to be a short haircut. We listened to metal, the mother or father of this and that person brought cassettes from abroad. New albums were a year late here. Having an original Maiden tape made you number one. Whoever brought an imported metal magazine - they sold it by the pages and got rich. Many metal badges and stripes from Hungary were coming in. We would buy empty cartridges by the stack from the Vietnamese in the dormitories and sell them. We did re-recordings, I had a small deck, of course, we wrote the names of our favorite bands on our bags – Saxon, Accept, Metallica, AC/DC. Once the headmistress collected all the bags and burned them right there, back in the yard."

Former Professional School of Textile, 2023 © Rosina Pencheva
Ivelina Ivanova, Ivelina Kuzmanova
and Gergana Nikova – class of 2001
I.I.: "Our specialty is Clothing Modeling and Construction, the two Ivelinas and I were in the same class, divided into two groups, one with intensive English study. There was a football team, the girls played volleyball, there were even cheerleaders. There were other teams that also went to mathematical olympiads and competitions, to debates. Here, in the current studio, was a practice office. There were many  kinds of sewing machines, we spent a large part of our time here. Until the 3rd year or until the 4th, after which we held the matriculation exams, we studied most general education subjects. Then there were only the profile subjects in the majors until the state exam."
GN: "Now I work in logistics and forwarding. Nothing to do with the specialty, but I still feel the fashion."
I. I.: "I probably work within my specialty - I do embroidery on a foot-treadle sewing machine. I make all kinds of accessories - both custom and from my own ideas, I'm open to everything. Here in the studio, it's spacious, I have ideas, I want to work with recycled materials, I'm sick of things going to waste and I don't want to throw away even a button. People give me things from the closets..”

I.K.: "Here is a picture from a long time ago. A classmate sent it to me recently, such luck that we are now in this very room. Here are the machines - this was our workshop. I now live in the Netherlands and work in a specialty coffee and tea shop. I'm okay with fashion, but recycled things like Iva's are interesting to me."
Where did we hang out? We went to mountain cabins, parties, played rap, Backstreet Boys were just coming out, East 17 were favorites. We went out to discos, to "Varieteto", we went en masse to the children's disco in "Zalata". We gathered in the gardens or in "Bulgaria" across from the Humor House - there were pool tables on the second floor. The boys went there, and we followed them. Nightlife was during the day, with unexcused absences. Our places have changed names or simply disappeared. At the place of the hypermarket was the Car Wash, we drank alcohol, hiding it in plastic cups. We skipped class regularly, and of course also hung out at cafes. They believed our excuses because we were good students. We haven't been here since prom. We were just passing by. Now, entering here for the first time since then, we feel quite strong emotions, but everything seems smaller to us."

Former Professional School of Textile, 2023 © Rosina Pencheva
Nedka Marinova — graduate of 1967


"30 years at the Technical School as a teacher and another 4 as a student before that. I graduated from Knitting in 1967. In 1975 I started in the library because there were no full-time teaching jobs. I dreamed of three things: children, flowers and technology, and I wanted to combine them with teaching after I graduated. I taught Knitwear classes and the director liked me, she came and said that one of the colleagues in Technical drawing was going to the VHP, I started on the staff ... and so on until 2004. I passed five graduations and I don't regret it. We had very nice students, a very nice team, the students still invite us to parties - at 3, 2, 5 years old. "Perunika" hut in the village of Chukilite was ours - we went there at least 5 times a year. I took my students to all four corners of Bulgaria.
And what of the brigades... each one a month long  - picking peppers in Polski Trambesh. The children were inspired, they were paid by quota. A cheeky boy, he was in my squad, comes and tells me that he is going home to study for the exam on the subject I was teaching . I gave many opportunities to those who couldn't cope, I examined them on easier things, but if they had something in their head - they didn't pass so easily. The first time I didn’t let him pass. I was going to let him go, but I kind of wanted him to push himself harder. Now the second time I saw that he knew a couple of things, and I gave him a five. Then, I go to my daughter, who worked as a waitress in the cafe under the bridge, and she brings me a plus-size ice cream. I say, I didn't order this, and she points to the door where the same student is sitting and laughing. They made many kind gestures. Whether I had occasion or not. They loved me very much. Everyone found their place in life later on.
There was a folk dance group that I was in charge of. The leaders were Tsankov, may he rest in peace, a great choreographer, and Stoinov, who later led groups in the House of Culture, his children also work there. We had come a long way with our team, we fired them up and made the kids ambitious. We traveled a lot, we did festivals and programs in the school gym. Each class comes out with a number - a skit, a recital, a song. A large orchestra, however, with the full number of instruments, existed much earlier, when I was a schoolgirl. Then, in a dormitory, it was called Restless Youth, every Sunday there was music and dancing from two p.m. onward.

"Girls were only in Clothing Design and Modeling, which was with drawing, but otherwise in , Weaving,Knitting there were also men because they also involved maintaining the equipment.
They cheated a lot. I did like this: we had some volumes lined up on a whole shelf - "Construction of Machine Parts". I would come in, open a random volume, and whatever page I opened - whatever was there, that's what I examined on. The student could have been tested last class, I would surprise them and pick them up again. They were like - "Please, comrade, look at your notebook, I'm tested!" - never mind, I tested them again. The girls hid the formulas on their legs, the cheat sheets were pieces of paper, sometimes hidden under the sleeve with an elastic band. I was catching them all. I didn't do anything to them, I just threw them out and told them: "Let's try to go it alone next time!".
I also taught them mechanics - calculation of machine elements, statics, kinetics, material resistance. At the university I was perfect in Statics, I also solved the tasks of my colleagues. Once I was going to the exam, the one boy for whom I solved the tasks came out and hugged me, "I got a Good (4)!" I go to the professor, confident in myself, I don't know what I said and wrote, but he just said to me: " if a goat passes over your bridge, the way you thought it was, it will knock it down!" And he didn’t let me pass. But he knew my grades during the term - excellent - so he followed me, took my paper, and asked "Do you see anything?" - I saw the mistake, in the support reactions, the pontoons on the bridge, I had turned one of the arrows wrong. There the goat would collapse it. When the students used to ask me: "Why do we need mechanics?", I answered: "For many things, especially to be careful when you step on a board, so that you don't get hit by something that’s at the other end of it."
Former Professional School of Textile, recently Christo and Jean-Claude Center, 2023 © Rosina Pencheva

It's Time for New Weavers