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Happy birthday, The Standart: What we learned from “You Are Not Alone”

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Happy birthday, The Standart: What we learned from “You Are Not Alone”

(August 9, 2017 Sofia) - A desert enclosed in a small bottle of sand and a postcard with a camel on it – these are the two objects that have not been removed from my desk at the Standart's editorial office since May 27. 2007.
A sign in the sand reads "Libya" and the postcard is signed: "Krissi and Zdravko".

When I received these objects, my eyes got full of tears. They were a gift from the prison, a glimpse of hope, locked in a bottle.

These objects stand for the hopes of the six Bulgarian nurses, who had been tortured Tripoli's Judeida prison, forgotten by the state, and for nine long years they had been living with the thought that every day might be their last, because they were on the death row. For something they had never done.

I started crying, because at that moment I was powerless to help. Like all other colleagues at The Standart newspaper, like all the other Bulgarians who, since the first day of 2007, were wearing the "You are not alone" ribbon of hope on their lapels, praying for the lives of Bulgarian medics.

At that point, when I got a bit of the desert, I could only do one thing - to call Dr. Zdravko Georgiev, who, unlike his wife Kristiana Valcheva and her colleagues Snezhana, Valya, Valentina, Nasya and Dr. Ashraf, was a free prisoner at our embassy in Tripoli. I thanked him. And as many times before, we had a conversation over the phone.

I could only confidently tell him that we will soon see you in Sofia.

I knew that I had no right to say that. I did not know, if I was telling him the truth. However, I knew I must give him home that in the hope that something good will happen.

I told him how Slavka Bozukova, The Standart's Editor-in-chief, had put the "You are not alone" ribbon on the lapel of the future French president. And how Sarkozy said: "They are innocent! If I have to personally go to get them out of Gaddafi's hands, I'll do it!"

Sometimes we would talk until midnight and or even later how this You Are Not Alone campaign makes Europe stand united; how none of us had the right to stop fighting for their freedom.

When finally hanged up after our last conversation, I had no idea that only two months later, on the night of July 24, 2007, I would be trying to reach his son, Marian, to tell him his father was coming home and how angry I would be, because his phone would be dead.

Then I would call Ivaylo, the son of Snezhana, to tell him the happiest news in his life "Your mother is coming home"...

None of us, the team of Standart, will ever forget that night.

We gathered at 1 o'clock in the morning to put together an extraordinary issue of the newspaper dedicated to the release of the Bulgarian nurses, Dr. Zdravko Georgiev and the Palestinian medic, Ashraf, from their prison cell in Libya.

We gathered, although there had been no official announcement from the government.

That night we were all in the office - from the janitor to the editor-in-chief. Three times we would get the pages, ready for print, off the table, because the news would come they had not taken off from Tripoli yet, and three times we would put them back on, as some more encouraging message would arrive from our sources in Libya.

We were overwhelmed by excitement mixed with fear, because we had already woken up their children and they were on their way to the Sofia Airport

Finally, at 9:51 am on July 24, 2007, Cecilia Sarkozy's plane brought the Bulgarian nurses back home.

Zdravko, Kristiana, Valya, Valentina, Nasya, Snezhana and Dr. Ashraf are free people now. And this is the only thing that matters.

For the past ten years, each of them has been trying to overcome the nightmare that they lived through as Gaddafi's captives,

When we talk about "You are not alone", we, the journalists of the Standart newspaper, never say, "We saved the sisters." For salvation is given by the Lord and man can only help.


(By Ekaterina Nikolova; translated to English by Dimitar Dimitrov)

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