Nikola Yonkov Vaptsarov –( 1909 -1942) was a Bulgarian poet and revolutionary. Working most of his life as a machinist, he only wrote in his spare time. Despite the fact that he ever published only one poetry book, he is considered one of the biggest Bulgarian poets.
Trained as a machine engineer at the Naval Machinery School in Varna, which was later named after him, his first service was on the famous Drazki torpedo boat. In April and May 1932 Vaptsarov visited Istanbul, Famagusta, Alexandria, Beirut, Port Said, and Haifa as a crew member of the Burgas vessel.
Later he went to work in a factory - at first as a stoker and eventually as a mechanic. He was elected Chairman of the Association protecting worker rights in the factory. He successfully led a strike of about 300 workers in 1936 to reinstate workers after a lock-out.
He got fired after a technical failure in 1936. This forced him to move to Sofia, where he worked for the state railway service and the municipal incinerating furnace. He continued writing and a number of newspapers published poems of his. Blacklisted by his employers and with few friends and no savings he was exposed to hunger and privation and saw his young child die. He finally found work in a flour mill. The conditions of work here were so appalling that several workers including a close mate of his died of tuberculosis.
Vaptsarov was devoted to his talent and spent his free time writing and organising amateur theatre pieces. The "Romantika" poem won him a poetry contest.
In early 1941 Nazi forces were allowed to enter Bulgaria and take control of the country as a prelude to the attack on the USSR. Vaptsarov joined the armed resistance movement and was active in the ‘military centre’. His training as an engineer and mechanic proved useful at this juncture. This was an extremely tiring and hazardous task and Vaptsarov found little time to write poems. Yet he was urged by his comrades to keep writing as one of them put it, ‘Though at the moment the fate of the world is being decided by arms, a stirring contemporary poem is no less important than arms.’
Vaptsarov was arrested in 1942 and subjected to inhuman torture and finally executed on 23rd July, 1942. He continued to write till the very end, and indeed his last verse addressed to his wife is one of the most moving and inspiring.
His only released book of poetry is Motoring Verses (1940).
In 1949, the Bulgarian Naval Academy in Varna was renamed Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy.
In 1952, he received posthumously the International Peace Award. His poetry has been translated in 98 languages throughout the world.
Sometimes I’ll come when you’re asleep, An unexpected visitor. Don’t leave me outside in the street, Don’t bar the door! I’ll enter quietly, softly sit And gaze upon you in the dark. Then, when my eyes have gazed their fill, I’ll kiss you and depart.
* I know no other poetry which radiates such warmth, humanity and honesty, which is so convincing in its requirement for human justice and peace.
* I am sure that next generations will find spiritual purity, deep humanism and moral strength in his poetry. .. Yves Germain Farzh
* To be modern means to look into the future. Vaptsarov showed us this through his poetry. He created poems – innovative but popular in its character. Mario de Mikkeli
* Now I see that this great poet has become so big and firm that he cannot be kept in the geographical borders of his country. Ali Sardar Dzhafri
* Real poets stay in people’s memory with their deeds. Vaptsarov is a real example of this truth. Sergey Mihalkov
* He was a gentle but brave person who along with many others became victim of that horrible century. Rafael Alberti
* He is not only a Bulgarian poet but one of the biggest poets of our time. Gheorghe Dinu