The first Western devotees to successfully preach in Bulgaria were Dhira Krsna Swami and Krisna-ksetra Prabhu , who visited Sofia several times in 1977 and made contact with some people interested in yoga.

In the summer of 1978, just before Janmastami, Devamrta Swami (then a brahmacari) came to Bulgaria with Rama Sraddha Prabhu from Germany.

Devamrta Swami: “Besides Krsna sending the future bhaktas, the police as usual sent their representatives there too. Therefore we worked hard preaching, making hay while the sun shined. At any moment we knew the party could be over.
“Except for Gaurasundara to a small degree, none of the devotees at that time were capable or inclined to preach. This is what made Bulgaria different from other East European countries. The original devotees had almost no out-goingness. Bulgaria struck me as a very rigid and motionless place; no one had nay aspirations for anything. In the other East European countries the people generally despised the USSR, the oppressors occupying their homeland. Bulgaria was different: no anti-Russian sentiments whatsoever, no emotions of political defiance. Everyone just worked hard, dragging through life, and their way. You got the impression that you were dealing with loyal cousins of the USSR.

“I went two more times to Bulgaria, with Krsna-ksetra Prabhu. On the last trip, we had a quite a time at the border entering and wondered why –until meeting Gaurasundara. He explained that he had told the police everything, ‘because, you know, they already know everything.’ “

Police Repression

The police had sent informants to the Janmastami programs and the Bulgarian devotees were interrogated. They were forbidden to associate with the Western devotees and expected to inform the police in case they came again. The few Bulgarian devotees were in their thirties and forties and did not have the adventurous spirit of other East European countries.
In 1980 a new boy joined the small group of devotees, Bhakta Radi. He had been at the Janmastami program with Devamrta in 1978, but this program had not changed his materialistic life for two more years. One day, (inspired by the Supersoul no boubt) he suddenly remembered the devotees and felt an irresistible dsire to find them again. He started to rummage through his room like mad to find a small notepad where he had written down Madhavi’s phone number. Although it seemed an impossible task to find some tiny book that was buried for two years in the chaotic mess of his room, miraculously , he found it. He called Madhavi, and said, “Hello, I am calling because of those people who were visiting you two years ago, because of Krsna consciousness.” At that time the devotees were threatened by the police and Madhavi’s normal reaction to such a phonecall would be to hang up and faint in terror. Bit Krsna made her forget all fears; she listened to Radhavallabha and even gave him her address. He visited her, and although she knew nothing about him (he could have been a KGB agent), she received him and explained to him about practicing Krsna consciousness and chanting.
He made his own beads the same day and started to chant sixteen rounds without fail. He immediately gave up everything else and became a devotee. Once he said that because of his sinful past, it was difficult for him to chant holy name in the beginning; his tongue could hardly turn in his mouth. He was chanting in the street, on the buses-everywhere. He was very enthusiastic and tried to bring together the other devotees who were having problems. Some were not chanting regularly, some were not following the principles; they also did not cooperate much. Radhavallabha was utterly different from the first Bulgarian devotees: he was young, determined, and eager to surrender to the Truth which he had finally found. The others were middle-aged, established, straight people who were afraid of upsetting the status quo.

“Although he knew that he was risking his life by preaching , still nothing could stop him. He did not allow the other devotees to preach because they could be easily caught, while he was an experienced conspirator. He also thought it better that only one person be in danger than many.”
In 1983 Lilasuka went to Almvik, Sweden, to work on the Bulgarian books. Sri Isopanisad was the first one completed.It was pocket-size, like the first Russian Sri Isopanisad, and was smuggled into Bulgaria by visiting Western devotees. To distribute the books openly in such a hostile situation was dangerous, so Radhavallabha would leave copies on park benches or put them in people’s mailboxes, and he always made sure that the books got “found” by someone. Whenever possible, he would also sell the books, a policeman stopped the car. The back seat and luggage trunk were full of books. Although his sankirtana partner was ready to drop dead from fear, Radhavallabha remained completely cool and quickly covered the books on the back seat with a blanket, and while the policeman was looking in the car, covered the books in the trunk with something without the policeman noticing anything. Lord Caitanya was obviously protecting them, because the policeman failed to find anything wrong nad let them leave.
Radhavallabha was arrested and detained with a few other devotees on October 16, 1985, when the police raided the Sofia temple. All the devotees were interrogated and in March, 1986, there was a trial. Radhavallabha had given detailed instructions to the devotees to never say anything about connections with devotees from abroad. Charged and found guilty of acting as a priest without the official priest’s status, he was first put in a mental hospital. In the psychiatric clinic the doctors sympathized with him and declared him to be in prefect health. He was transferred to a prison for half a year, and then released on three year probation, with a seven year suspended sentence.

Cell Preaching

Krsna didn’t withhold His protection while Radhavallabha was in the prison. He was put into a cell with educated and intelligent people who had been in big positions and were jailed for misappropriating funds. This was a far cry from the rest of the prison, which was otherwise occupied by low class murderers and hardened criminals. They did not allow him to receive food from outside, but after he fasted for ten days they agreed that his mother could bring prasadam daily.
Since his beads were taken away, he made new beads from pencils and preached to his cell-mates to the point where they all tolerated his chanting. Some even took up the chanting too. He immediately made friends with the cooks who sometimes allowed him use a pot usually reserved for milk, to cook a potato and pea sabji with yogurt sauce, and feed everyone. The prisoners would eat as much as they could and take more in jars and containers which they would hide from the others. Everyone knew him and loved him. Because he was as artist, he was engaged in painting all kinds of communist propaganda posters and did not have to do the dirty and dangerous work that the others were forced to do.
Aware of the danger of imprisonment, he had purposely prepared himself to remain without books or the association of the devotees by committing to memory many Bhagavat-gita verses with the translations and purports. He commented that, so equipped, it would not be a problem for him, even if he were to stay in jail for years.
The people from the State security (Bulgarian KGB) interrogated him many times, trying to squeeze some information about the Western devotees out of him, but he told them nothing, refusing to betray anyone. They offered him his freedom if he would renounce his Krsna consciousness, but he laughed at their bribe saying, “What can you release me from? From the material bondage? From the influence of the three modes of nature?” Once they got so exasperated with him that they plainly asked him. “So what do you actually want?” And he said, “Just ten minutes on TV, and then you can do with me whatever you want.” They had no real charges against him because Bulgarian law guaranteed freedom of religion, but of course they did not follow their laws and threatened him that their laws were not for persons like him.
His probation period was supposed to be over at the end of ’88, and as it drew near, the KGB men were growing more and more desperate to catch him and imprison him again, but he was always escaping. Several times he was attacked at night and several beaten. Once someone even tried to strangle him with a piano-wire garrote. They were getting hysterical because they could not stop him from preaching, nor could they catch him. He was good at martial arts and used to make special exercises for his legs so that he could run quickly and for long distances.
On December 16th, 1988, he was knocked down by a car and fell unconscious. The car accident was surrounded by very suspicious circumstances. He was in coma for eight days and left his body on December 24.
He was a jewel of a devotee who fearlessly spread Krsna consciousness although he was constantly harassed by the police.


Speach of a Srila Suhotra Swami, spiritual master, disciple


of A.C. Baktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada


Sofia 6.01.1991 year


Srila Prabhupada in 1972, after his visit in Moscow, he predicted that this communist system is not going to last. His said to one newsreporter: "You can mark this well, you can write this down. I say - they think they hat their last revolution (communist revolution) but there will be another one and they will be all swept from the stage."... So now that is happened...

Somehow by Krishnas plan I first become interested to come to Bulgaria and preach in 1973. Just by chance I met a devotee, my God brother named Cutichak. This was in America, but his family was from Bulgaria and he was always talking about going to Bulgaria and starting the preaching, starting the temple and I use to talk with him about this. He was very enthusiastic and he had comunicated with Srila Prabhupada and Prabhupada had written encouriging letters:

"Yes, you should go to Bulgaria!"


So somehow by his assotiation I became intersted in comming here. I first came both to Bulgaria and Romania, first visited in 1979. This was not the first time, but one of the first times someone from ISKCON ever visited this countries. Then by the "Grace" of the Bulgarian government at that time who were very vigilant about who is entering their country and what they are doing in the country I was forbidden to come to Bulgaria again, after that first visit. In 1986 I was asked by my senior Godbrother to preach, to actually lead a Krishna - consciousness in Bulgaria and Romania and I findout that I could not enter in Bulgaria again. I went to the embassy in Germany to get a visa and the lady was very angry at me. Aniway, at last in 1990 I could come again...


I always have this vision of Radha Krishna temple in Sofia.