How The Kurjalis Ruined Arbanasi

There were rich people and living in Arbanasi. The men were attired in clothes of broad cloth, trimmed with gold and silver threads; they wore sable caps on their heads. The women were dressed all in silk and decorated with pearls, long strings of gold pieces hung from their shoulders, their hair was plaited into thin braids and entwined with precious jewellery.
The houses surrounded by large courtyards and beautiful gardens, bespoke opulence. There was plenty of food, good wine, brandy, olive oil and olives in each house. The churches were opulently decorated – they had frescoed walls, gift iconostases, silver icon-lamps and collection plates. Everybody in Arbanasi had an enjoyable and affluent life…
The fame of Arbanasi’s wealth spread far and wide. Bandits heard of it, too. Then the most evil of them headed for the village, the ones who knew no mercy and brought to ruin whole villages, destroyed whole families – the kurjalis. In bands of 20-30 they made sudden raids, shouting savagely and committing unheard of cruelties. Brave Arbanasians defended their homes with arms in hand, but it was all in vain. Neither the high stone walls, nor the sturdy gates with iron locks, or the studded doors could stop the robbers. They left behind dead people, burnt down houses and looted churches – desolation and grief.
The survivors of the raid decided to abandon the village secretly. The story goes that one night they loaded their possessions onto wagons and horses and left the village, pretending to head for the Svishtov Monastery. When they reached the road to Oryahovitsa, they stopped and and swore an oath: ,,Should anybody go back to the village, let him see no good and let him turn black and charred like this fire-brand”. Then they threw the fire-brand they had used to light their way with and continued in the dark.
Many died on the way; others reached peaceful places where they settled down. Arbanasi burnt to ashes, there were only few who remained in the village – some sick people, and some orphans and widows. But the memory of its former wealth stayed alive…