„One learns not only in the classroom and not only from books but also from every act of life, from every contact with people, especially if it is accompanied with joy, so fundamental for children and youth. Kindergarten is a garden of children, growing in the most pleasant and cheerful of atmospheres under the teacher’s care, just as flowers grow under the gardener’s care. If nature does not create even two identical leaves, why do we want everyone to go the same track, when clearly they’re different? Freedom and trust are every growing soul’s bread and sun!"
- Penka Kassabova (1901-2000), the first Bulgarian pre-school teacher with a university degree in teaching and kindergarten founder, trained by Elisaveta Clarke (the daughter of one of the founders of the American College, James F. Clarke), and also sister to Geo Milev and the aunt of Leda Mileva, Class of 1938
In the city center, tucked away from the boulevard noise on a quiet street near Macedonia Square, lies the house-museum of the great Bulgarian opera singer Boris Christoff (1914-1993). On March 1, 2017 we were there for the opening of the exhibition called Devotion, with archival photographs and autobiographical texts by Penka Kassabova (1901-2000), innovative teacher and the world-famous basso's great love. Two plot lines are intertwined in the exhibition, her devotion to the idea of modern pre-school education - with preserving children’s dignity, inclusion through play, and instilling in them self-confidence to fulfill their dreams - and her devotion to Boris Christoff – she loves him so selflessly she sends him far away from her to Italy, the place she knows will best help his talent blossom.
At the American College, we receive the invitation to the opening because Penka Kassabova’s teacher and mentor is Bulgarian-born Elizabeth (Elisaveta) Clarke is the daughter of one of our school’s founders, James F. Clarke, but also because Penka Kassabova is one of Geo Milev’s sisters and American College alumna Leda Mileva’s favorite aunt.
During the opening reception we hear beutiful music performed by young talents as well as some excerpts from the two books based on Penka Kassabova’s diary, which she kept until the age of 92, Love and talent (2013) and Sketches on the Path of Life (2001) and from the bio-bibliography Penka Mileva Kassabova (2012) by Associate Professor Raina Zaharieva. The passages we hear and those we get acquainted with through the exhibition panels are sufficient to get us hooked and want to read all three books, as well as to highly recommend everyone to visit the exhibition on 43 Tsar Samuil Street.