Priceless Lessons by Maxim Behar: A Story with Prince Kardam of Bulgaria

The leading PR expert and CEO of the communication agency M3 Communications Group, Inc., Mr. Maxim Behar shares his exciting acquaintances, interesting experiences and long friendships in his author’s series Priceless Lessons, which he publishes for BGLOBAL magazine.

In memory of Prince Kardam Saxe-Koubourg of Bulgaria, Prince of Tarnovo, Duke in Saxony, son of King Simeon II of Bulgaria and his wife Doña Margarita

The Prince with Bulgaria in the heart...
Kardam Saxe-Coburg loved his father's country and eagerly absorbed everything that was happening here.

The loose snow was creaking under our shoes, the wind was often strong, but it was never cold and cutting. Although it is a miracle to see snow in Madrid, the King and I talked sweetly for a long time paying no attention to anything else… This was my second or third meeting with the King, I was telling him what was happening in his country at great length. He was listening carefully, and I just could not help but wonder how it is possible to walk so calmly with such a famous man in the centre of Madrid and no one, absolutely no one to pay attention to him...

We reached the Meridien Hotel, where people were waiting us for lunch. And since there were a number of people coming and going in front of the main entrance, I didn't even pay attention to a young man who somehow naturally joined us, and somewhere in the huge lobby, the King turned to me and almost whispered: "Behar, this is my son, the eldest son, Kardam". Smiling, friendly, Kardam extended his hand to me and started directly in Spanish, and when he realized that it was not my language, he immediately switched to English...

Kardam was in a very high position at Telefonica, Spain's telecommunications giant, and since we happened to be next to each other at the lunch, we had enough time to talk. He had never come to Bulgaria and was absorbing every word that came out from my mouth...
- Listen to me, Maxim… Only Bulgaria's membership in the European Union can open your borders for new business, for investments, for people who will provide a good job to many Bulgarians, but most importantly - will teach them work habits and innovative approaches so that a whole generation will now think in a completely different way.
Our meeting was exactly ten years before Bulgaria officially joined the European Union and despite my great desire for my country to change in a flash, these messages of Kardam seemed vague and distant...

In less than a few months, one early morning, very early, around 6.30 in the morning, I was on my way to make coffee, when suddenly my mobile phone rang and I saw the easily recognizable number of the King... "Behar – he told me a little worried – I hope I don't wake you up this early, but I saw that you two with Kardam got along very well at the lunch in Madrid, and as he arrives tomorrow with his wife Miriam and will participate in a business forum at the Rozhen Fair in Bulgaria so I wonder if...". I didn't even let him finish because I knew I would be with Kardam in Rozhen the next day, but - of course - I didn't know that behind the wheel of the car that brought him there will be the King's most trusted man at the time – Boyko Borisov, now former Prime Minister of Bulgaria.

Wherever Kardam set foot - he wanted me to call him by his name, not “prince”, the same thing the King had asked me before- he kept talking about how Bulgaria should be open to investment, how people should travel, work abroad, learn and then come back here to apply what they have learned. My biggest surprise was that he didn't know a word of Bulgarian. I was strongly impressed, angry and uncompromising. On the very first night at the hotel in Pamporovo, Bulgaria, before the start of the forum, I made him a long list of the most important words and expressions he should know in Bulgarian, and I left it on the table in the small bar with the words: "Kardam, this is your homework for the night. I will test you tomorrow at breakfast, I hope you will perform well". We travelled around the country together, and for ten days he really made an incredible effort, because at the end of the tour he pronounced the expressions from the list quite reasonably and understandably.

We talked to each other often, until one day I ended up on a flight to Madrid in an economy class seat next to his mother, Queen Margarita. We started to talk, and she offered to call him for the few hours while I will be in the city before going to Barcelona. Kardam jumped in amazement and immediately offered to meet me at the legendary Gijon Café, right next to his office, where verses and poems had been written by a whole constellation of Spanish and world intellectuals. He arrived at the meeting with a whole group of young Spanish businessmen in the field of technology, to whom he had been telling legends about Bulgaria and each of them was interested how he could do business in our country, in details… I was convinced I was missing the plane to Barcelona as this meeting was so absorbing and detailed. My cousin Yosif Davidov, also a legendary Bulgarian journalist who has lived in Madrid for more than 30 years, saved me, as he went to my hotel, packed my luggage in the last minute and "delivered" me to the airport at lightning speed. Then I was convinced that Kardam carried Bulgaria in his heart every minute, even every second.

A few years later, a ridiculous car accident left him in a coma for 7 years and months before he left this world forever, I spent a whole day in their summer house near Madrid to tell him more about Bulgaria. He was looking straight in my eyes, and I was sure he understood me, but he couldn't show it. I was telling him only one thing - how his beloved country Bulgaria is changing, and that the country will remember him for a very long time.

Photo: Maxim Behar with Prince Kardam and Princess Miriam in the centre of Smolyan city during their first visit to Bulgaria in the summer of 1998

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