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Colorizing Remarkable Women - Dora Gabe, Bulgarian Poet & first Jew elected the National Assembly

Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Dora Gabe
Dora Gabe - Colorization by Claudia D'Souza, the Photo Alchemist

Dora Petrova Gabe (August 16, 1886 – November 16, 1983) was а Bulgarian Jewish poet. She published poetry for adults and children as well as travel books, short stories and essays. In her later years, she also did extensive work in translation.


Dora Gabe was the daughter of Peter Gabe, an immigrant from Russia, who became the first Jew to be elected to the Bulgarian National Assembly. When he was barred from taking office, he turned to journalism and became a well known public figure in Bulgaria.

Dora attended high school in Varna, and then pursued a degree in Natural Sciences at Sofia University (1904). Later, she studied French Philology in Geneva and Grenoble (1905–1906). She taught French in Dobrich (1907). From 1911 to 1932, she resided abroad in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, The Czech Republic, France, The United Kingdom with her husband Prof. Boyan Penev. In the 1920s and 1930s, she gave numerous lectures on political and cultural issues such as the development of Bulgarian literature and the fate of the Dobruja region.

In 1925, the Ministry of Education in Bulgaria assigned Dora Gabe to edit the series "Библиотека за най-малките" ("Library for the youngest"). She also served as the editor of the children's magazine "Window" (1939–1941).

Dora Gabe was one of the founders of the Bulgarian-Polish Committee (1922) and the Bulgarian PEN Club (1927). She served as a longtime president for the latter. She was counselor for cultural affairs at the Bulgarian Embassy in Warsaw (1947–1950), and a representative of Bulgaria in the International Congress of PEN clubs.

In 1968, she was awarded the title "Honorary citizen of the city Tolbuhin".

She is widely regarded as one of the most successful Bulgarian poets and is beloved by Bulgarians not only for her work but for her deep respect for all arts and her charitable spirit.

A popular anecdote claims that after the 9 September coup d'état, partisans were sent to live in Gabe's apartment. The poet moved to her sister's unfinished villa where she had to sleep with a coat under the blankets, because there was no heating, and had to turn on the stove to warm her hands in order to be able to write. Later in life, Gabe opens her an apartment as a home to all young poet seeking where they can live and create.


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