Childhood & Early Life
Pavel Gabe was her father. He was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, but had the marked distinction of being the first Jewish man to be elected to Bulgaria’s Parliament, known as the Bulgarian Narodno Subraine.
Her father was not allowed to serve in Parliament, even though he was elected, so he began to pursue journalism seriously and became a prominent figure in the country. He encouraged her to take a keen interest in academics.
In 1904, she graduated from ‘Sofia University’ where she earned her degree in Natural Sciences. A year later, she started her trip where she would study French Philosophy in Switzerland and France for two years.
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In 1907, she returned to her home country and began her career teaching French in Dobrich, a city in Bulgaria.
In 1908, she published the first of her poems, called ‘Spring’ and ‘Violet’. Even today, ‘Spring’ is still widely taught in Bulgarian classrooms.
Beginning in 1912, and continuing until later in her life, she traveled to The United Kingdom, France, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and once more to Switzerland.
During this trip, in 1917, she began her work as a great translator, handling the works of Konopnicka, Wyspianski, Mickiewicz, and more. This work continued throughout the rest of her life.
In the 1920s and 1930s, she gave lectures about Bulgarian literature and the fate of Dobruja, a piece of land stuck between Romanian and Bulgarian ownership for hundreds of year. During Gabe’s time, the ‘Internal Dobrujan Revolutionary Organization’ had formed to keep the land for Bulgaria. Gabe spoke in favor of this group.
In 1921, she finished work on translating an anthology of Polish Poets which was made up of several volumes. Four years later, she was asked to edit ‘Biblioteka za nai-malkite (translated to ‘library for the youngest’) by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education.
In 1927, she was a founding member of the Bulgarian PEN Club, a united group of writers to promote creative communications. She served as chairman for many years.
It was during this time where Gabe was at the peak of writing. She published poetry for children and adults, reviews of theatre and literature, political essays, short stories and more. The majority was written between the years of 1920-1935. Among the most famous works are ‘Wait sun’, ‘The world is a secret’, and ‘Invisible eyes’.
In 1939, she was the editor for ‘Window,’ a children’s magazine. She held this position for five years.
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In 1944, she moved to another children’s magazine, this time titled ‘Nightingale.’ She wrote many pieces for this publication.
For three years starting in 1947, she served as counselor for cultural affairs at the Bulgarian Embassy in Poland.
She wrote many famous poems, such as ‘Spring’ and ‘Don’t Come Near Me!’ which are still taught in Bulgarian schools and read around the world.
Beginning as early as 1917 and continuing through the rest of her long life, she translated many famous works of other poets and authors.
In 1927, she founded the ‘Bulgarian PEN Club’, a group that help support many other European writers of that time.
Personal Life & Legacy
She was married to Professor Boyan Penev, although the dates are largely unclear. It is known their wedding came before her large European trip, so perhaps during her time in university or slightly after.
Her written pieces are still taught in schools in Bulgaria, and she is treated there with just as much importance as Keats is to the UK and Poe is to the US.
In 2003, the Dobrich City Council awarded the first ‘National Literary Prize: Dora Gabe’ for excellence in writing. It is given every five years to recognize someone who is involved in the creation of significant works of writing, like Gabe.
This famous poetess had written that she allowed her husband, a poet, to control her passions and interests during her marriage. She continues, saying that – although it was unfortunate – but she was only able to live her own life after his passing.
Although this famous poetess started as a translator, her own works are now available in over two-dozen languages.