Maxim Behar - special guest appearance in the local Shumen TV

PR and media expert Maxim Behar shares his dearest memories of the time he was living in the city of Shumen, valuable friendships he has made there, and why he always comes back with pleasure. Behar expressed his opinion of the bright future of the Bulgarian town, which with the great effort from the local people, businesses and authorities is evolving at never seen before fast rates.

PR and media expert Maxim Behar shares his dearest memories of the time he was living in the city of Shumen, valuable friendships he has made there, and why he always comes back with pleasure. Behar expressed his opinion of the bright future of the Bulgarian town, which with the great effort from the local people, businesses and authorities is evolving at never seen before fast rates.

Host: Dear viewers of Shumen TV, as previously promised in our show teaser, our first guest today will be with the citizen of honor of Shumen, the well-respected Maxim Behar; world-famous PR expert, a person who easily communicates with global leaders, specialists; gets on very well with students, passionate about PR knowledge; a figure with great fame with whom we, locals, are definitely very proud and personally I think of him as an ambassador of Bulgaria and Shumen. A very successful figure from our town and country.
Hello! Very happy to see you here as you accepted to meet in our show. You are very well-mannered and have so much love for Shumen, for which I can only express gratitude on my behalf and that of my beloved fellow citizens.

Maxim: Hello, Shumen! As you know, Shumen will always have a special place here, in my heart. I am glad to be a guest in this show for Shumen TV, which, of course, I often used to watch when I was living here. I love the city and the changes I have witnessed during the last 10 or so years are making me so proud.

Host: However, I really want us to talk about the past, the memories, friendships, and experiences you had in Shumen during your life. Because today’s generations are not aware of that face of the city that we had seen, and our peers bring back their memories with nostalgia. Let’s see that period from your perspective.

Maxim: To begin with, I actually have 2 periods here. The first one is from my birth until around 1966, when my father, then director of the factory “Madara”, still operating, collected our whole household on a truck. And on a cold November day of 1966, we arrived in Sofia without an idea where we were, I was 11 and my sister - 15. That period, from my birth to 1966, is to be honest very dull for me. I remember the school, now called “Sava Dobroplodni”, that I, not long ago, donated new equipment, library furniture together with the lovely principal…A lot of hours spent at that school, then named 4-th Primary school…

Host: Yes, exactly.

Maxim: And frankly speaking, everything was so dull to me then. Because those years were not that easy, there weren't many things on the shops’ shells. I remember my dad coming back from Sofia with a peach, putting it on the table where my grandma, Matilda, used to sit and said: “This is a peach, for my kids”... Just imagine what years we are talking about. I suppose there were good things - my father, my mother, they were really young then... 

And my next period is from 1985, when I was working in the newspaper “Rabotnichesko delo”, and one morning, as I was flipping through the pages, saw that the correspondent for Shumen, called Tsonyo Tsonev, sadly had passed away, may he rest in peace, very noble man. I immediately went for a meeting with the chief editor, I was just a trainee back then, and he agreed. It was very rare for a trainee to discuss anything with the editor-in-chief of Bulgaria’s biggest newspaper at the time. I was asked what was happening and said: “I want to go to Shumen as a correspondent, it’s my hometown.”. He looked at me without much trust, his name was Yordan Yovkov, and his position in the Bulgarian communist party was very high. The response was “Are you sure you want to move from Sofia to Shumen?”, and I said again “Yes, it's my hometown.’.
And this is how I came back to Shumen on 10th September 1985, in my town, and this is actually the most interesting period in my life, because I was working as a journalist, writing every day, going around the city in a small Trabant car. I was touring the whole area back then from dusk till dawn. It was dynamic, very interesting - I got to know the city, made new friendships with whom I still get in touch with. This really generated a stronger connection to the place I have been born in. And when in 2005 Veselin Zlatev, then mayor of the city, arrived in Sofia for my 50th birthday, he gave me a medal for being an honorary citizen of Shumen - it caught me by surprise! The certificate is here - in my office - close to me. I told him then that I accepted the gift as a big credit I hadn't deserved yet. And I will work every day to deserve it and to give back the good things the city has given me during the years.

Host: We will go back to that in a minute, but I came across that 15th February marks the 1-st anniversary of the day Bulgaria and Shumen lost an amazing actor and a friend of yours, Todor Kolev. Would you mind sharing some stories from your friendship?

Maxim: With Todor, of course, he is older than me, but we practically grew up together in one neighborhood. In my memories, during my second period here after 1985, we would meet each other often in a restaurant called, if I remember right, Pop Sheitan’s house.

Host: The club of the cultural pioneers.

Maxim: Yes, there was... A waiter, people used to call him Lyubo the Canadian meadow, and he was Todor Kolev’s best pal. Sometimes we would go there, talk for hours, and Lyubo the Canadian meadow would bring us rakia and salads. Todor and I met a lot in recent years, after the 1990s, I had been helping him for his TV show “When will we catch up with the Americans?” as well as with his Darik radio program with the same name, where I have been a guest too.
And recently life has brought me with his granddaughter, Teodora Koleva, child of Albena Koleva, Todor’s daughter. A month ago, I met with Teodora, named after Todor himself, and she has been working on an exclusive cabaret in Bulgaria, first of its kind here. She, herself, has lived and graduated in London for a couple of years and has great skills. I showed her some photos of her grandad in my office and felt so delighted, as if Todor was again with me. And, of course, I always visit two very precious places whenever I go to Shumen - the memorial of my father, one of the founders of the “Madara” factory, and the memorial of Todor in the city garden, in front of the beerhouse.

Host: And do you have any other connections with famous Shumen people in Sofia or abroad?

Maxim: Sadly, they both have passed away, Todor Kolev and Astor.

Host: I understand…

Maxim: We had created, in this room by the way, Temporary Shumen revolution committee and would meet once in 2-3 months in the restaurant owned by Astor, discussing Shumen, things of life, gossips and what could we do more together. Sometime ago, when the mayor was Veselin Zlatev, there was a very strong bond between the Shumen people in Sofia. One of them was the then minister of defense Nikolay Svinarov and also Anton Stankov, who was minister of justice in the cabinet of King Simeon, i.e., we had 2 Shumen citizens in the ruling government. We would meet once a year, the mayor would also come and talk with us, there was food etc. Before 5-6 years, this initiative was brought back to life with the help of the lovely Shumen citizen and very good friend, Hristo Dimitrov, who is the founder, the driving force, the heart and soul of ensemble “Bulgare”. The one and only dancing ensemble of such class - so professional, motivated, and creative, total cultural treasure. And we would meet from time to time with Hristo Dimitrov.
Also, I occasionally meet with an ex-member of parliament during the government of King Simeon, Svetlyo Spasov, as I’m part of the UNWE’s Advisory board, previously known as the Karl Marx Higher Institute of Economics. Svetlyo reads lectures there and we often attend the same events at UNWE. Yuliana Doncheva, ex-politician, born in Shumen, journalist, and TV presenter, is also a friend of mine.
But always when I hear someone is from Shumen, my heart skips a beat. And you know some time ago, maybe years, the Spanish ambassador called me and said: “Would you come to the Embassy for a coffee? I have really interesting guests here from the advertising business. From Spain”. I went and the person I met there was Luis Bassat, number one expert in the advertising business in Spain, in Barcelona. Very nice man, accompanied by his wife.
And as we were talking, Bassat suddenly asked me: “Is Shumen far from Sofia? Can we visit it for the afternoon and come back again?”. I replied, “It’s far away, we won’t be able to do that for an afternoon”, and was curious why he would ask me, “My grandad is from Shumen.”.
Wow! I was completely shocked - it’s not possible. And when after a month Luis and his wife Carmen came back for a visit in Bulgaria, I took him with my car and travelled all the way up to Shumen. We walked around Veliko Tarnovo and Targovishte, and finally arrived in Shumen, where we spent a week. Mayor then was Krasimir Kostov, who welcomed us, we had lunch and dinner with him, explored the city. The fact that Luis Bassat has a connection with Shumen is a really extraordinary thing and every Spanish ambassador after that knew the strong Shumen connection with Spain,

Host: Great. Very interesting story. Do you believe there is a way to contact this person someday? And how?

Maxim: I hope that Luis will visit Bulgaria again and we can come together to Shumen. If not - we can organize a video interview. If you can recall, there was a famous series hosted by Donald Trump long before his political period, called “The apprentice”. It was a great success in America and even some Bulgarian media bought the rights and used to broadcast it. Luis Bassat does the same show in Spain, in which he teaches young people how to do business and shares his experience. I promise, I will connect with him as soon as possible and will try to organize an interview for my beloved Shumen TV.

Host: I have an idea, which torments me for years. I have taken part in the meetings the people born in Shumen organize in Sofia - have helped with the organization, etc. But I want to ask you, do you think these meetings are beneficial outside Shumen, in Bulgaria or abroad, or even to set up a meeting with the city authorities, businesses in Shumen. Eventually, we can share ideas, visions, and other benefits for our town, and you could meet your in-town relatives, friends.

Maxim: You know, 2-3 years ago, right before the pandemics, you invited me to a meeting with our fellow Shumen people in the city library.

Host: Yes.

Maxim: It was very heart-warming, had excellent moments, and I’m thankful for the invitation, before that I had a meeting with the mayor Hristov, who still serves as one. And it was the idea, we discussed with him, to plan such a meeting in Shumen. I’m ready to help with whatever I possibly can, to find as many Shumen people as we can, I see it as a great idea. Together with Hristo Dimitrov, who I believe has so much information about it, we can sit and make a list of fellow citizens. There were 2 or 3 meetings in a famous restaurant in Shumen, called Sofia’s kitchen, whose owner is also from Shumen. And because of this I believe Hristo can help to find many addresses and numbers. 11th May 2023 is a wonderful date, the town’s festival day, the day of Shumen, it can be organized for then. And if we both keep in touch during the following weeks, we can organize a meeting for this date in honor of Shumen. I will tell you why I really want it - on one hand, this is our hometown, we will see our relatives, friends and so on. On the other hand, however, Shumen during the last 10-15 years has totally changed and prospered. The goals my good friend Fikret Ince is achieving with his company “Alumina”, if I remember correctly...

Host: Yes, “Alcomet” AD.

Maxim: “Alcomet” - yes, it used to be ‘Alumina” before. All the charity work that Fikret is completing, everything that helps local hospitals, people. Adding up, the activities from Zhechko and Krasen Kyurkchievi with their absolutely modern business. Also, Valeri Simeonov, who managed to transform the factory “Madara” from a failing rear axle factory, serving Russian brands like Liaz, Kamaz etc, to a successful company for agricultural machines, that is unique, and a lot of people work there. The business operation of Carlsberg with the Shumen brewery - not only do they produce local beer but also the famous brand Tuborg. Every time we buy a bottle of Tuborg, and it’s labelled Made in Bulgaria, this means it’s produced in Shumen. And many more, which I can't think of right now. Heard about some entrepreneurs from Kazakhstan…

Host: The industrial park is very well-developed, with a great future ahead of it.

Maxim: The park is lovely. An amazing business card of the city. And I would really want our citizens, who have never been to Shumen, or have only visited their relatives, had 2-3 meals in a good restaurant and left. I would really want to take them on a bus and walk them around. Ten years ago, or so, I held a conference called Discover Shumen, we managed to bring over 30 ambassadors and international investors here, who noticed Shumen. But this was 10-12 years ago... Now the city has completely changed and I’m eager to show it to our fellow citizens, as well as to the potential investors, who would go “Wow, Shumen as we remember has changed!”. Because after 1990 we lived through ten years of big decline. Now it is different - the city is growing and that makes me happy.

Host: I’m so thankful for your desire to help our hometown, our town. I promise that I will do whatever depends on me. I will talk with the city authorities, the mayor, people, who I think would be of great help in such an initiative. And, with God's help, we can meet and discuss what we can do for Shumen’s future. If we can be useful with something for this cause - let’s do it.

Maxim: Speaking about this year, I do think 11th May is a good date for a meeting of every Shumen-born person, who doesn't live there anymore, but wants to visit the city and learn more about our beloved town.

Host: Okay, thank you again for your time, our time is up. But I hope we will meet again, at other occasions, and talk about our favorite city. See you soon and stay safe and sound.

Maxim: Thank you! I wish for our fellow Shumen people to be healthy, happy and to have time to enjoy their health and happiness, because time is never enough. See you soon, and of course, to keep Shumen successful and one of the best cities in Bulgaria. As it has been for years, in its whole history, and still is. I love you, people of Shumen! 

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