The ‘Grandma’s Chest of Tales’, a Values Foundation project supported by NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’, gathered together Bulgarian and Ukrainian children at the House of Sofia. From her personal collection, ethnologist Anelia Milusheva had brought authentic costumes over a century old, with silver buckles and hammered metal belts, real tsarvuli [traditional Bulgarian footwear] and freshly baked bread rolls and banitsi, so that the kids could get a feel for the ancient Bulgarian crafts with all their senses.
Thanks to translation by Yana, a Bessarabian Bulgarian, the Ukrainian kids also joined in studying the Bulgarian garments from a century ago, while their mothers discerned a close relationship between the Bulgarian embroidered designs, the shevitsi, and the Ukrainian patterns, vishivki.
The idea behind ‘Grandma’s Chest of Tales’ is for teenagers to become acquainted with folk art, toys of yore, and customs associated with them. Anelia Milusheva encouraged them to touch the woven aprons and shirts, to run their fingers along the complex embroidery, to learn that, when girls had pleated enough to make a trousseau, they were ready to get married.
The children learned from Anelia that, at their wedding, brides received a metal belt to wear as married women. It was interesting for the boys to take off their trainers and try on the tsarvuli of their grandfathers.
And then the real fun began—with elements of knowledge and training. Bulgarian and Ukrainian girls together made dolls in traditional costumes, using wooden spoons. They cut aprons, folded paper belt buckles, and tied headscarves. The boys learned how to make rag balls like those once used to play on the street.
Imperceptibly, without feeling they were in a classroom, the youngsters discovered interesting historical facts and valuable details about traditional Bulgarian costumes; they enjoyed themselves and made true friendships.
And at the end, their works were arranged in a joint exhibition.