Forgotten Magic

Portrait of Yana Aleksandrova. Image by Maya Yovcheva

The Forgotten Magic of Bulgaria

New Commission as part of Thistles and Sunflowers festival and Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022

#ThistlesandSunflowers  #YS2022  Festival at a glance: linktr.ee/thistlesandsunflowers


Now touring as part of Dalkeith’s Mayfield Mini Festival  

10 August 2022 at 11.45am | Lawfield Primary School, 26 Lawfield Rd, Mayfield, Dalkeith EH22 5BB

Tickets for the entire festival are free but Eventbrite registration is required

Watch a 5 min extract telling the story of man, ox, dog and monkey recorded at the premiere night on 28 May 2022 at Scottish Storytelling Centre as part of the big Thistles and Sunflowers festival weekend

What is a bogel? What does an ustrel look like and how can you spot one on a Saturday?

See bogels, ustrels and other Bulgarian magical creatures come alive alongside their Scottish counterparts through stories, music and puppetry in this one-woman storytelling show by Yana Aleksandrova – a performance artist, published writer, scientist, musician and theatre maker. Take this introduction to the rich yet vastly unknown world of the Bulgarian magical folklore and meet the brave halfie Boryana – half Bulgarian and half Scot who fears neither brownies nor ghosts.

The premiere of the storytelling show was accompanied by Yana’s puppet-making workshops 28 and 29 May 2022 at the Storytelling Court. See this Facebook video highlight here featuring some friendly puppets of dogs, crocodiles and unicorns coming alive.

Practice at home with this special video tutorial by Yana and make yourself a wee puppet. What name would you give her? Tag us #ThistlesandSunflowers #YS2022 and tell us her story. 


The Forgotten Magic of Bulgaria is part of Year of Stories 2022 and Thistles and Sunflowers festival running 18 May – 18 September 2022 at Scottish Storytelling Centre and beyond  – a spotlight on stories and artists from the lands of thistles and sunflowers. Festival initiative of the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland, Thistles and Sunflowers is curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva and supported by the City of Edinburgh Council Flexible Fund, as well as Tasgadh Fund for Traditional Arts devolved from Creative Scotland and managed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal.  

Throughout her Thistles and Sunflowers residency at the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland from January to May 2022 Yana released a series of behind the scenes video episodes on a dedicated YouTube channel here revealing her research into Scottish and Bulgarian folk tales, stories of magic, legends and the strange world of superstition.

What is a bogel? What does an ustrel look like and how you can spot one on a Saturday? Watch here to find out:


What are the stories and sorrows of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond and My Wee White Cloud (Облаче ле бяло) – the two most emblematic songs for Scotland and Bulgaria. Tune in to find out:


Noises in the attic? Strange things happening around the house? You just might have a supernatural housemate like Fergus. Watch and learn about the rather dark and creepy ways in which the Bulgarian supernatural entities aka talasumi come to be:


How do you make yourself a fairy puppet? What name would you give her? Follow Yana’s tutorial and tag us #ThistlesandSunflowers #YS2022 and tell us her story:


What happens when you mix Christianity with folk tales and beliefs? Find out how toddler Jesus created the Sun, the Moon and the stars:


How do you create an eerie atmosphere through poetry and music? Enjoy a wonderful poem by W. B. Yeats which served as inspiration for a section of the show and as lyrics for one of the songs:



About Yana Aleksandrova

Yana is a published writer, scientist, composer and theatre maker. Born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1987 and Edinburgh-based since 2008, Yana was awarded a PhD in neuroendocrinology from the University of Edinburgh in 2019.

At age 15, she founded the award-winning youth theatre company Vis Vitalis Musical Theatre and became a member of the puppet theatre company Studio Ya, both based in Bulgaria. In 2006 Yana also wrote and directed the fantasy film Legend of the Seven Kingdoms funded by the Varna City Council, and shot on location across Varna. Currently she is editing a Bulgarian children’s fantasy series.

In 2017 Yana co-founded Studio Yes Youth Theatre, Scotland to promote creativity, social and language skills for the bilingual students at Edinburgh’s Bulgarian Language School established and run by The Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland.

Yana is also the author of the children’s novel The Devil’s Heart Chronicles (Bukvite Publishing House, Varna, 2007) as well as a number of youth theatre plays performed by amateur and professional companies in Bulgaria and Scotland, including The Merry Cockerels (adapted after Atanas Mochurov) and A Tale from the Land of Clouds for Studio Yes Youth Theatre.


Join the conversation at the Facebook page of The Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre here

With all our curatorial projects, including Thistles and Sunflowers, we strive for a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and ethnically-diverse Scotland. Our aim is to continue to initiate, produce and deliver cultural activities across Scotland reaching out to any English-speaking audiences, as well as the Bulgarian-speaking Scots and the Bulgarian diaspora alike as evidenced by our initial activities in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth.

Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva

Thistles and Sunflowers poster based on an image by Di Maitland on Unsplash

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