A Tribute to One Remarkable Man: Panayot Krastev (1920-2004)
The words of my friend Noti are clearly imprinted in my mind, “Remember good and lovely things in life because there is no need to think of anything else.” His life was full of worthy, inspiring deeds and dark moments, but he withstood all those hardships with huge spiritual strength. I can’t stop admiring his gentle heart, loyalty and respect to others, his pure dedication and love.
Born on the brightest day in the new history of Bulgaria-3th March, he was cradled in the great ideals of that time, in immense qualities becoming extinct in today’s world. Panayot, or Noti, as he was called by his devoted friends, has his roots in the Stambolov family. Stefan Stambolov is one of the most prominent politicians in the 19th century and one of the builders of Modern Bulgaria.
Coming from a well-known family, Noti lacked superiority or unnecessary pride; he was a modest person with cherished dreams, friendly thoughts and justifiable ambitions. He adored people and wished to catch a glimpse of their smiles. His ability to understand others was unique; he had always time to listen to their pains, giving precious advice and help. I often remember our conversations when Noti had the chance to express his views. He mentioned that all his life he tried to be independent, but later on found out that independence was an illusion. He felt dependent on love, success, acknowledgement, power, money, beauty, his filled with norms head, and God.
Once he shared with me he was “Homme libre”: a free man possessing freedom in his thoughts, who had no addictions, who was slave to nothing and no one, “If you have wine, you drink; if you don’t have, you drink only water.” This short saying was momentous to him; it showed the simplicity of his character and his intention to live naturally. Noti was highly educated; he graduated from a gymnasium for classical studies. He was a polyglot knowing multiple languages, such as Greek, Latin, French, Russian, English, Italian, and Spanish. It was God’s gift as well as Noti’s power to use words in a way touching your heart. When he spoke, it was the magic of music that let you feel you’re in another world, a better one. His love of the classical in all of its forms reflected in his interest in poetry, literature, music, theater, ballet, painting, fashion. Noti was a whole universe to me. He was competent of various subjects but imposed no concepts on others.
I recall one of his letters to me where he said he agreed with a commonly accepted opinion that the life of man stopped when he ceased to make plans for the future. Noti stressed on his purpose to continue working, because he had enough plans, feeling his unabated strength to make them reality. This was absolutely true; his ideas were constantly flowing. He was creative, diligent, writing poems, and wishing to convey his ideas to the next generations. He was a sensitive and considerate person, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings. People trusted him and his faultless tasteful sense. He was a real aesthete by nature.
Sometimes sitting by the fireplace, or walking together in the park, I enjoyed listening to interesting stories of his travels to different countries. He had visited plenty of exciting places all over the world. He had enriched his culture and philosophy of life by meeting with culturally diverse people, and seeing places reviving their beauty in my mind: mysterious Egypt, hearty Spain, romantic Italy, cold and melancholic England, ancient Syria. Noti wanted to visit Australia, but he couldn’t make it due to his sudden death. Despite this he collected all possible materials about Australia. I have a refined canvas of wood, crafted by Noti, displaying some of the most amazing attractions you can see in Australia.
This was Noti: smiling, lively, joyful. At the same time, he had to endure many hardships, but his faith and unfading hope were his shield. There is a quite dark aspect of his life when at the age of 23 he lost his sight in an accident. He spent 18 months in such a condition. Despite the unpleasant circumstances he had to face, his belief in God never left him. Noti constantly encouraged himself with sincere prayers. Then the miracle happened: God showed His mercy upon Noti by letting him see again, enjoying the world in its completeness. In any convenient occasion, he talked of the genuine, heavenly intervention in his life. He simply emphasized the point how God was compassionate, thinking of humans all the time, making anything possible.
It was a real pleasure to have Noti as a friend. I realized how a kind word, noble gesture, pure smile can open the door of eternal friendship. That was the smile in which he used to believe constantly, the smile on his face that I will always recall, even on the day when his elevated soul left this wicked world. “Rest in peace, Noti! I will never forget you. . .”