Violeta Yosifova Yakova - Resistance Fighter

Partisan and member of the Bulgarian anti-Nazi resistance

By Michael Hoffman

Michael Hoffman is a researcher and writer who has lived and worked in the Balkans for over 15 years. Resident in Sofia, Bulgaria he is currently working on a documentary film on Yakova's life and a book about World War II in Bulgaria. He can be contacted at
Born: June 2, 1923 in Dupnitsa, Bulgaria
Died: June 18, 1944 Radomir, Bulgaria

Violeta Yosifova Yakova
Violeta Yosifova Yakova
Violeta Yosifova Yakova was born on June 2, 1923 in Dupnitsa, a small city in Western Bulgaria. Her father was a small trader who died before she was born leaving the family in difficult financial circumstances. At the age of fourteen she went to work as a laborer in a tobacco warehouse, and at sixteen moved to the capital Sofia to become a seamstress.

By that time, 1939, Bulgaria had become increasingly subservient to German interests and had embarked on an official policy of anti-Semitism. In early 1941 Bulgaria enacted its imitation of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws eliminating the civil rights of its Jewish citizens; and beginning a process leading to property expropriation, internment, and forced labor. Shortly thereafter it became a military ally of Nazi Germany.

During those years Yakova became increasingly involved with young socialist organizations and soon became part of the underground resistance. For many young Jews, idealism combined with Bulgaria's increasing adherence to Nazi goals furthered a commitment to Zionist and left-wing organizations and often the underground. In its early years, the armed resistance was small and incapable of major actions. Its strategy was to establish small 'urban fighting groups' to engage in sabotage and assassination and Yakova was a member of one of the groups taking the nom de guerre 'Ivanka'.

These groups, with varying success, sabotaged military warehouses, factories, fuel depots, communications, and railways, but their most significant actions were a string of assassinations in 1943. Included in the victims were German agents, Nazi sympathizers, and informers, but the most prominent victim, assassinated by Yakova, was General Hristo Lukov ' a former Minister of War and leader of the fascist organization 'The Union of Bulgarian Legionnaires.'

While Bulgaria provided military support to German forces, it had refused to open an Eastern front and attack Russia. Lukov, a friend of Herman Goering, had constantly pressed Tsar Boris III and his government to take a more active military role, particularly against the Russians. As German discontent with Bulgaria's inaction increased it was widely rumored that the Nazis were going to support a coup d'tat and place Lukov in charge. This then raised the curious situation where both the resistance and the Tsar benefitted from Lukov's removal.

Later in 1943 the partisan movement grew stronger and ended the activity of the urban groups and Yakova joined a partisan detachment in Western Bulgaria. By Spring of 1944 partisan actions prompted the government to assemble a force of about 100,000 in an attempt to crush the partisans. While the overall effect was minimal, Yakova was captured while alone and returning to her unit. Brutally raped, tortured, and mutilated she died on June 18, 1944, shortly after her 21st birthday.

Interesting Facts
  • Debate remains about the overall size of the Bulgarian partisan force but whatever estimate one uses, Jewish participation was several times higher than the proportion of Jews in the Bulgarian population. This is particularly striking as, after 1941, most male Jews over the age of 18 were interned in forced labor camps.
  • Unlike partisan forces elsewhere in Europe, Jewish fighters were wholly integrated into the partisan force; there never was any separate Jewish cadre.
Further Reading
A comprehensive history of the World War II Bulgarian resistance movement has yet to be written. There are however numerous partial accounts in Bulgarian including many short biographies of individual partisans. Below are listed some of the Bulgarian sources relevant to Yakova�s life and several English language sources which provide an overview of World War II in Bulgaria. .
    Bulgarian Sources
  • Grabcheva, Mitka. V imeto na naroda. [In the Name of the People]. Sofia: 1969.
  • Grabcheva, Mitka. Zakasneli otgovori. [Belated Answers] Sofia, 1984.
  • Tsentralna konsistoriya�na evreite�v Bulgaria. Evrei zaginali v antifashistkata borba. [Jews who Perished in the Antifascist Struggle.] Sofia, 1958.

  • English Sources
  • Chary, Frederick Barry. The Bulgarian Jews and the Final Solution 1940-1944. Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.
  • Groueff, Stephane. Crown of Thorns. Lanham MD., and London: 1987, ISBN 0-8191-5778-3.
  • Miller, Marshal Lee. Bulgaria During the Second World War. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1975.