Hristo Kurtev is one of the most famous Bulgarians in Paris. And one of the most desired guests at every secular event in Sofia.

His life, full of interesting experiences, is more than curious. Like the book about it - "The Adventure of Life", published a few years ago, which tells about his dreams – some that came true and others that did not...

The dream of accomplishing himself as a person made him escape from the communist regime in Bulgaria believing that Paris could be his "endless feast". The dream to be close to family and his homeland made him find the courage to come back in 1989. This is what makes another dream come true, to live between two cities - his native Sofia, and the one which shelters him - Paris. He dreams of living every moment to the full: meeting up with many of the most interesting personalities of the era, spending time with some of the most beautiful women of the world. And it happened. But his boldest dream, born in the mid-1960s and sounding utterly utopian, was to meet King Simeon II in Bulgaria. It also happened, though not exactly as he has imagined it...

Today Hristo Kurtev still follows his dreams by adding new chapters in his book "The Adventure of Life". For five years he has been the president of the Paris Ball in Sofia, which has a charitable purpose and has already turned into a tradition.

"One way or another, the dreams - those most ordinary, the weekly ones, and the others that are high in the sphere of ideals, come true" says Hristo Kurtev. And he shares some of them with us...

To dream of Paris is to choose freedom

What was Sofia in the 1960s? It was quite unbearable for a young man with an adventurous and free spirit. Grown up in the centre of the capital – on the Ivan Vazov Str., Hristo Kurtev as all Bulgarian youths graduated from school, did his military service, worked for his pocket money even in construction and applied for further studies at University. But "In Sofia in the 1960s your life would constantly get interfered by - parents, relatives, teachers. Both the pioneering organization and the Komsomol also intervened". Hristo Kurtev was a second year student at the Higher Institute for Theatre Arts (VITIZ) when he decided to escape to the West. And after a series of vicissitudes he managed to reach his dream and go to Paris.

What was Paris in the 1960s? "We did not feel like emigrants at all. We were just people who decided to live there because life did not give us any prospects in Bulgaria. What I liked very much in Paris was that no one was dealing with me. It was enough to follow the rules of good cohabitation and morality in order not to be disturbed. During my 53 years of living there, I have only been stopped a few times when driving, just for a document check. Nobody ever asked me where I was going and what was I doing. My whole adaptation to the French society came quite naturally".

Hristo Kurtev enrolled in a film production course in Paris which he had already begun in Sofia. "There they acknowledged my academic subjects that I had already passed at VITIZ. I did not have a scholarship, so I worked in the morning, and in the afternoon I went to lectures. A young person does not need much. You need a place to sleep and money for the student restaurant.

When I graduated, I became an intern at the French Television, then an assistant director, a director, a producer ... My work opened the door for my entry into society and the television opened all doors. I met a bunch of stars and celebrities. They started inviting me to receptions, cocktails, evenings. Things were spinning ... Then with my friend Stefan Tabakov and with Daniel Michel we decided to create something; something useful for Bulgaria, the nostalgia for which was huge".

Musical Publishing House Orpheus

They made it in the heart of Paris near the Grand Opera. They did it specifically for Emil Dimitrov. They released all his melodies. But where to sell them? "At that time we met Jean and Julia Boul. Jean Boul was the founder of the large MIDEM music festival in Cannes. His wife Julia was a very beautiful Bulgarian woman and Emil Dimitrov devoted his song "Julia" to her. As young publishers, we did not have the means to go and hire a MIDEM stand. Jean Boul invited us as his personal guests and so we managed to sell the songs of Emil Dimitrov all over the world. His name boomed not only in France. His song "Monika", the version of "My Bulgaria", which he sang in French, German, Arabic was a great success... After Emil Dimitrov we released Grace Jones, the famous singer born in Jamaica and many others.”

From the television,  Hristo Kurtev transferred to the private business, in one of the largest oil companies. "They had an IT department. At that time computers entered the ministries and large enterprises in Paris. And as there were not enough instructors, the idea was to record videos and rent them away. So, as a TV director, I found myself in this department. Why did I go there? Just because they paid triple wages compared to those in the television. Material incentive was very important, especially for a young person who had nothing. I also wanted to own a car, an apartment… "

Marriage also can be a dream

Hristo Kurtev had met Christina Patiño in the high Parisian society before. But he was introduced to her at the villa of the Russian aristocrat Igor Malevski-Malevich outside Paris. And she was not just any girl. She was the daughter of the famous Antenor Patiño, the "King of Tin", owner of vast wealth, holder of tin mines in Bolivia. They fell in love and soon got married. The marriage with this woman forced him to look for ways to increase his income. Then marquess Alain de Rosanbo offered Kurtev to sell him his travel agency "Europe Voyages", which at that time operated at a loss. He and his wife bought it. And logically Hristo Kurtev became its director. "In fact, my marriage with Christina Patiño, who was born de Borbon, as her mother was of the Spanish royal family was for me a second cultural revolution. The first was when I left Sofia for Paris, the second was when my wife introduced me to the high Parisian society. From there came the opportunity to meet the most famous people of our age."

And after his divorce with Christina and he used to meet with many of the most famous women in the world.

The fate of loving the most beautiful women

"Women are an organic part of every man's life. Living in a society like the French one, it is clear that the many lures we meet are relatively easy to accomplish. I am very proud to have met interesting, famous and beautiful women. Every man feels flattered to communicate with such women". Like the Bulgarian Mara Palmer, a naturalized American, for whom he often travels to New York to see. Or the "Princess with the sad eyes" - Soraya, the ex-wife of the Iranian Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; or Mikaela de Rosanbo, Lena de Rothschild /a Bulgarian, the first wife of Baron Edmon de Rothschild/, Marie McRae, widow of a Texas oil tycoon, Gene Mary, a heiress of an American industrialist, Julia Boul - the Bulgarian woman who captivated the French saloons with her beauty... "

Extremely important in the life of Hristo Kurtev is his daughter. "I met her many years after her birth. She is not the fruit of my marriage, but of a relationship with a beautiful German woman. When I ran away from Bulgaria, I was in a camp in Germany and worked in Hamburg for two to three months. It has happened then. We saw each-other after years, and there is no doubt that she is my daughter. Alexandra is very beautiful, lives in Brussels and works in the field of medicine".

But in every man's life there are many other things: politics, activities, clubs...

From the moment Hristo Kurtev began to assist the publication of the royal bulletin in 1966, his correspondence with the Chief of His Majesty's Court, Colonel Genchev, began. It led to a meeting with King Simeon II in Madrid. "I was charmed by our conversation. In the past I had heard my parents speak with great respect for the royal family. But from that moment on I became a convinced supporter of the constitutional monarchy".  His conviction was so strong that he became a co-founder of the Federation "Kingdom Bulgaria". "It was founded by several monarchical organizations in 1991 to unite our efforts. It was quite spontaneous. We gathered together and made the Confederation "Kingdom of Bulgaria", which later became a Federation. We created structures across the country. We have participated with varying success in all elections since 1991. Of course, the big success was that of the National Movement for Stability and Progress with the presence of the King in 2001 when it won the majority in parliament. We supported it unconditionally and our structures were fully available. Well, my dream that did not come true was to see Bulgaria as "Kingdom Bulgaria". But at least I saw the return of the king to Bulgaria".

The International Academy of Arts in Paris was officially opened at the beginning of 1990. It was created by Hristo Kurtev together with the professor from his student’s years in Sofia Lyubomir Tenev and his friend, the critic Vassilen Vassev. It was created with the aim to promote Bulgarian art. "Prof. Tenev was its president for Bulgaria, and VasilevVasev - its director. Right from the start, we awarded Radoy Ralin, Boris Dimovski, Blaga Dimitrova, Princess Maria Louisa... The list is long. Every year we used to give awards and incentives for young talents. The activity of the Academy ceased with the death of Prof. Tenev and the retirement of Mr.Vassilen Vassev."

In Paris Hristo Kurtev is a member of several elite clubs. And in our country he is the president of

"Union Club", which gathers Sofia's elite

With his return to Bulgaria, Hristo Kurtev got new dreams that would also come true. He became president of the Royal Motor Club. In 1990 he restored the legendary "Union Club" in Sofia. He did it with a few adherents, and since then he has been its president. Inspired by the example of its founders, today members of the club strive to continue and maintain the traditions and the good spirit of understanding and friendship set in its goals. Among the attendees one can see Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the ambassadors of France, the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, prominent representatives of the social, cultural and economic elite of Bulgaria such as Tsveta Markova, Viktor Papazov, Rumen Yonkov, Vera Tsvetkova, Gen.-Major Rumen Ralchev and his wife, Anastasios Petropoulos and others. One of the great initiatives of the Union Club are the evenings, dedicated to different countries, under the patronage of their ambassadors. Among the last held are the evenings of France, Morocco, Germany, Armenia. Besides tasting the best dishes and drinks from the country, these dinners are also a good occasion for business contacts and conversations.

The Paris Ball in Sofia

Its last, fifth edition, was held in October 2018 in the "Sofia" Hall of Hotel "Marinella". Its motto "Children Help Children through Art" gathered hundreds of men and women from the Bulgarian business and cultural elite. The program of the ball included performances of students from the Ball dance troupe at the Italian Language and Culture Lyceum, led by Ivan Terziev, as well as dancers from folk dance groups, with artistic directors Zhivko Zdravkov and Radostina Kostadinova. In this way, the children helped raise funds for the "Yordan Kamdzhalov" Foundation for Young Musical Talents. The ball was opened with a short speech by Hristo Kurtev and continued in an atmosphere filled with elegance, joy and of course waltz. "I thank the King and the Queen, under whose patronage the Ball was held. As well as the honourable guests, including Prince and Princess Murusy, Prince Nikola of Montenegro, Count Denis de Kergorlé and the Lebanese businessman Osman Aidi. According to the feedback the ball was a great success. In fact, the most important thing in the Paris Ball in Sofia, since its foundation up to today, is charity. The funds collected on it do not pass through the organizers but go directly to their purpose. For example, this year, from the lottery and the auction, organized thanks to the donations of companies and individuals, the funds were directly provided to the "Yordan Kamdzhalov" Foundation for Young Musical Talents. I sincerely hope this ball will last for many years.", shares Hristo Kurtev.

Photos: personal archive of Hristo Kurtev

First row:
Kurtev with his wife Christina Patiño;
Irina Virganskaya - the daughter of Mikhail Gorbachev, and Slavica - the wife of the owner of Formula One Bernard Ecclestone;
the debutant Ball in Paris with the actress Andy McDowell;
with Princess Soraya, the second wife of the Iranian shah Reza Pahlavi

Second row:
at the French evening of the Union Club at the Crimea Restaurant, the ambassadors of France (in the middle), Croatia (left) and Japan (right) and their wives, November 2008;
at the Serbian evening in 2009 with the Ambassador of Serbia, King Simeon II, Maria Konakchieva from the French Institute in Sofia and Valentin
at the Union Club's Japanese evening, 2009;
at the Moroccan evening, December 2017, with the ambassador of Morocco –
H. E. Mrs. Zakia El Midaoui, King Simeon II and Queen Margarita

Third row:
Kurtev at a reception at the residence of the French Ambassador on the occasion of the national holiday of the French Republic, 14th of July 2007;
at the reception with Maria Konakchieva and Ekaterina Pavlova
, Editor-in-Chief of the Diplomatic Spectrum, 2015;
at the 5th Paris Ball in Sofia, October 2018