Remembering Anna Lilova – A Personal Account by Liese Katschinka
When preparing the Xth FIT Congress on behalf of UNIVERSITAS Austria in Vienna in August 1984, as well as during my mandate as FIT Vice-President between 1984 and 1987, I had the privilege of working side by side with Anna Lilova. We we were the two women on the seven-member FIT Executive Committee and therefore also spent time together after EC meetings, where I could serve as a “tourist guide” to Anna Lilova. Below are some of my recollections of the years and times together with her.
I met Anna Lilova when UNIVERSITAS, the Austrian Interpreters and Translations Association, decided to organize the Xth FIT Congress in 1984. I was a complete newcomer to FIT and quite nervous when I attended an Executive Committee meeting in Gand, Belgium, in 1982 to discuss organizing the Vienna congress. To my complete surprise I was welcomed by the FIT Executive Committee (Anna Lilova, Hans Schwarz, Ewald Osers, René Haeseryn, and Jacques Goetschalckx) with warmth and cordiality – and in German. While the official languages of FIT were English and French, German was the lingua franca of the Executive Committee in those days. This was quite a relief for me, as I had expected that French (my C-language) would be the language of our negotiations. Anna Lilova was also fluent in French and Russian, in addition to her native Bulgarian. Her warmth and cordiality helped me to quickly overcome my anxiety.
In the months leading up to the Vienna congress, I came to know her better and began to realize what network of contacts she had built up in the world of translation. She was on excellent terms with the UNESCO officials who supported FIT in many ways, and she was keen to expand relations to translators in Africa and Asia. Her primary interest (and occupation) was literary translation (e.g. Stefan Zweig from German into Bulgarian) and translation theory.
Anna Lilova was first elected as a Council Member at the VIIIth Statutory Congress in Montreal, Canada, in 1977 and became FIT President in 1979 after Pierre-François Caillé’s sudden death. She was re-elected at the Warsaw congress in 1981, the Vienna congress in 1984 and the XIth FIT Congress in Maastricht, Netherlands, in 1987. Under the bylaws adopted in Vienna in 1984 she could have served one more term of office but in 1990 her Bulgarian association was unable to nominate her for the XIIth FIT congress in Belgrade. The times had changed and many of the translators association in the eastern part of Europe were struggling to make ends meet. The Council of Elders was established in Belgrade, and she was voted into this honorary function together with Ewald Osers and Hans Schwarz. The Council of Elders was eventually renamed group of Honorary Advisers – a position she was proud to hold until her death. In 1993 she was also awarded the Pierre-François Caillé medal.
Not only the political scene but also the world of translation was changing in the late eighties and early nineties. The focus was shifting from literary translation to “non-literary translation” (eventually “sci-tech translation”). Terminologists claimed their place within the federation. Interpreters asked to be given attention within FIT, and especially court interpreters felt that they would also benefit from exchanges with their colleagues in other countries under the FIT umbrella. As I am a conference and court interpreter myself and also work as a technical translator, I was able to explain to Anna the differences in these occupations as practiced in the east and west of Europe. She quickly reacted to these trends and opened FIT up to the many different facets of the translation profession. When she attended the 50-year anniversary of FIT, which was celebrated in Paris, she was excited to see how the federation had flourished and developed and really “become of age”.
In the early nineties Anna Lilova invited me to Sofia to speak to the members of the Bulgarian association about conference interpreting and court interpreting. This was one of several occasions when she also welcomed me to her home, gave me some glimpses of her private life, and showed me her collection of modern Bulgarian paintings. When EULITA (European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association) held a workshop for a EU project in Sofia – and a few years’ later the annual general assembly – I was able to pay her short visits. She always asked about FIT and remembered her the times of her FIT mandates. Until the end, already suffering from osteoporosis, she worked on translations and continued her teaching.
I am grateful for the privilege of having known her and having had the opportunity to work with her on many FIT activities. And I will always fondly remember her warm smile and cordial spirit.