Parting from Gerry
On 5th April one of the most distinguished contemporary Bulgarian travellers, Gerasim Velichkov or just Gerry, departed from us. Within the framework of about 20 journeys he had reached the remotest, wildest and most inaccessible–and therefore most attractive–corners of the world.
In 1986, together with Kalina Stoilova, he accomplished the first Bulgarian trekking in Tibet. Then, mostly with Kalina but also with other fellow travellers–among them Nikolai Genov–he continued visiting the world’s landmarks: the Himalayas, Tibet (he was maybe the best Bulgarian expert on Tibet), Karakorum, Pamir, Venezuela. He sailed in a yacht around Cape Horn.
Gerry was a traveler–I don’t know if the expression is correct–of the old school. He wasn’t just a consumer of what the road gave him. He prepared for every journey like nobody else (despite his immense erudition) and set out with open heart and senses in order to penetrate deep into the new surroundings. And it was not by chance that every time he came back he brought a huge amount of “luggage” of meaningful impressions and experiences that he shared–from the perspective of an erudite and knowledgeable person–with everybody who had eyes to see, without showing any sense of superiority or patronizing. He was deeply conscious of the necessity of sharing, without which the adventures and the travelling remain just for one’s own consumption. I don’t know if any other Bulgarian—from those who travel round the world–has ever organised so many photography exhibitions, has shot so many films and has written so many articles about what they have experienced. His last exhibition, “Chadar-Shadow of Glass,” opened on December 2, 2010. During the exhibition in the Architect’s Club in Sofia, six of his films were also shown. Hundreds of friends and other, just inquisitive people came in touch with his work as a photographer and film maker. And several days before, the jury of Banskofilmfest 2010 presided by Michael Brown had awarded him with its Special Prize for Lifelong Achievement.
Gerry was born in 1955. From 1989 to 2005 he lived in the USA. He translated about 20 books—most of them fiction. Among them are the novella “Knight’s Gambit” and many short stories (like “Smoke”, “Monk”, “Hand Upon the Waters”, “An Error in Chemistry”) by William Faulkner, whose works are exceptionally difficult to translate into a foreign language. The translation of “Puppet on Chain” by Alistair MacLean–a classic in the crime fiction genre–is also a work of Gerry’s.
In the mountaineering circles, however, he is best known for the translations of the books “Annapurna South Face” by Chris Bonington (“Meditsina i fizkultura” publishing house, 1982) and “Savage Arena” by Joe Tasker (“Meditsina i fizkultura”, 1989).
Gerry was a modest, gentle and good person. The experience he had gained by travelling had turned him into a wise man. What he has written, filmed and translated will live forever. As he will live forever in our hearts.
Farewell, Gerry. Rest in peace!