The Feat of the Botev Detachment

As you know part of the "Run with a Smile" is the historic Botev path. In this chapter we will try to present you in short the "Road of the Botev Detachment" in order for you to even more fully appreciate the places through which passes the charity initiative "Run with a Smile".

The April Uprising broke out on 20 April 1876. It affected Batak, Perushtitsa and Klisura. Soon the news about it spread in Europe. It touched the hearts of the hashove (the Bulgarian revolutionary immigrants) in the Wallachia region and they "heard" the call to arms. Although Hristo Botev was not directly invlolved in the preparation of the uprising by the Revolutionary Committee in Giugrgiu, he supported the idea that the Bulgarian people could be motivated to rise up by detachments coming from outside of the historic boundaries. Botev started preparing a detachment, which had to enter the homeland and to act in the region of Vratsa. Soon uniforms and arms were bought with the money sent by the revolutionary committee in Vratsa as well as by the Bulgarians from Romania and Bessarabia. The detachment itself was quite diverse - there were those young and inexperienced, but there were people who took part in the Bulgarian Legia (legion) in Belgrade as well as older hashove. The plan was that they had to reach Bulgaria with a steamship - the revolutionaries wood get on it in small groups from several Danube towns in Romania.

On 28 May Hristo Botev boarded the Austrian-Hungarian ship "Radetski", he and his group were dressed as gardeners. In the early morning on the next day at the port of Turnu Magurele got on a new group of revolutionaries led by Nikola Voynovski - the fifth big group "gardeners" which boarded "Radetski" after those from Braila, Oltenita, Giurgiu and Zimnicea. Two more groups joined in Corabia and Oryahovo. In Oryahova got on the citizens from Vratsa Stefanaki Savov and Savo Petrov who spread the news from Stoyan Zaimov that the uprising in the Vratsa Region would be ready, but several weeks had to pass. The detachment had to postpone its transfer through the Danube river. After a short meeting Hristo Botev said that the revolutionary situation had already been created and there was no way back. His words were supported by the whole detachment. The last port on which revolutionaries boarded was in Bechet, where Nikola Obretenov joined, carrying the flag of the detachment.

The steamship was approaching Kozloduy and the "gardeners" started their real role - they put on their uniforms and rifles. The whole operation of capturing the steamship was led by Nikolay Voynovski. Initially the captain of "Radetski" Dagobert Englender refused to stop on the Bulgarian shore and suggested that it happened in Romania or Serbia. Then Hristo Botev gave to him a letter in French which was translated in German by David Todorov. He had no choice, but to follow the new orders.

At the Kozloduy shore the detachment was met by two Turkish border officials. The Turkish intelligence had already grasped that there was some agitation among the Bulgarian immigrants. Botev had the idea to deceive them - a small group was to make an attempt to reach Tutrakan and in the mean time, the whole detachment to be able to get off in Kozloduy. Out of the two officials one was killed and the other ran to the near village and informed the others about the arriving of the armed group.

"On the shore of Kozloduy"

The first disappointment for Hristo Botev was to be in the center of Kozloduy. There he invited the locals to join the detachment and to fight for the liberation of Bulgaria - just two boys showed their eagerness - the teacher from Kozloduy Mladen Pavlov and Georgi Kataradzhiyski from Oryahovo.

The detachment headed on its glorious path. It had to go through the Danubian Plain which was inhabited by many new settlers - Circassians and Tatars, who had come in support of the Ottoman Turks, as well as Romanians who had crossed Danube. The first stop of the detachment after Kozloduy was Mateev Geran where they had a short rest. From there the locals guided them along the Miziya road - the old and shortest connection between Kozloduy and Butan. In Butan Obretenov and Apostolov had founded a revolutionary committee, but again - no local joined the detachment. They stopped by the Popovo Hanche, where some villagers provided them with food, and where three volunteers joined.

In the first night the detachment took on the old road between Butan and Borovan, and not on the newly built by Midhat Pasha road between Vratsa and Oryahovo. The revolutionaries had to cross over the Barzina River, but the turbulent waters had broken the old bridge and that is why they had to head for the Garbav Most (the humped bridge). That was the place where the group was first attacked by the Circassians, but they managed to fight them back and to continue on their way. At midnight the detachment reached the village of Dobrolevo. Once again no local joined them.

The main aim of the detachment on the road to the Vratsa Balkan was Borovan. There a revolutionary committee was founded in which 200 people had been enlisted and they had to join the detachment. Again, to the disappointment of Botev and his comrades, no one joined.

Milin Kamak

In the meantime the Turkish authorities had already been informed about the movement of a big armed group. And while the attacks in Borovan had been by small groups of Circassians, from now on they had to face a bigger and more organized opponent. The detachment reached the village of Banitsa, and in order to avoid being met, they climbed a hill nearby - Milin Kamak. There the first real fight of the detachment took place. More than 30 people from the group died, but the Turkish army was fought back.

In the dark night the detachment set for Veslets. Initially they divided to two groups - one led by Botev and David Todorov and the other - by Voynovski and Stefanaki Savov. In an ambush was killed David Todorov and soon the two groups merged together. Tired and with a lot of injuries they had to reach Veslets as quickly as possible. There, for the first time, the detachment was able to have a good rest to receive food from the locals. However, until the late afternoon, there were no news for an uprising in Vratsa. Suddenly, the devastating message was received - the town was blocked by Circassians and Bashi-bazouks (the irregular soldiers of the Ottoman army).

The plan had to be changed quickly - the detachment headed not towards Vratsa, but towards the Balkan above it. On their way the revolutionaries stopped at the Kostelevo Bridge. There they were meant to be met by Mityo Spahiycheto and 200 other volunteers from the Iskar Region. And, once again, there was no one to await them. The group continued along the shore of the Kostelevo River, crossed the Vratsa- Mezdra road and via a tight and stony patch headed up in the Vratsa Balkan.

The detachment stopped to take a rest by the Leskovo well, where they were joined by a group of watchers who communicated to them alarming news. Circassians were climbing up from Pavolche to Vola, the Bashi-Bazouk were right behind the detachment, and from Zgorigrad was coming the regular army of the Ottoman Turks. The group led by Voynovski climbed on the Kupena Peak, and that by Botev - on the Kamara Peak. The Circassians were kept at distance and had to make a new attempt, this time from Okolchitsa. The Turkish horn signaled the way back and quicky started leavinging the unknown parts of the mountain, and on a camp left only the regular army.

The memorial place of Hristo Botev

Botev started descending from the Kamara towards the Yolkovitsa Valley. Along with him were the members of the headquarters - Pero, Obretenov and Apostolov. They decided to stop and discuss the future of the detachment. Pero and Apostolov were of the opinion that the detachment had to head east through Sredna Gora and to assist the risen Trakia. Botev and Obretenov defended the option that the group was to reach Serbia, because it had already fulfilled its assignment to take "Radetski" and had successfull fights at Milin Kamak and at the Vratsa Balkan. While Botev was justifying his words, a gunshot was heard, after which Botev fell in the hands of his comrades. In the night of 1 June 1876 Bulgaria lost one of its dearest sons and fighters for freedom.

After the death of Botev, the headquarters reached the detachment and communicated the sad news. All the people were heartbroken, after several hard days it dispersed into smaller groups which had only one aim - to save themselves. All of the groups headed south towards the Iskar River, because this part of the Balkan was relatively free from enemies.

The main part of the detachment went towards Rashov Dol hidden under the rocks of Lyutibrod, right in front of the Cherepish Monastery. That was the location of the last organized fight of the Botev detachment. The Ottoman Turks surrounded the sheep pen in which were hiding the Botev revolutionaries. Soon the shots stoped and in the pen were found 12 bodies - ten of them were of Botev revolutionaries and two - of local shepherds. The heads of the revolutionaries were cut and put on poles and then were taken to the village of Skravena near Botevgrad - 10 of them were buried there and 2 - in the nearby village of Gurkovo.

The revolutionaries who managed to run away gathered in Zverino. The locals helped them to cross over Iskar and from there they headed along Stara Planina - two of them were killed in the nearby village of Opletnya, and Voyonovski met his end in the Troyan Balkan above the village of Chiflik. As a result, 130 Botev revolutionaries gave their lives for the freedom of Bulgaria and drew a bloody line on the Road to Freedom from Danube to Stara Planina.