Battling Bulgarian Brothers Taso and Asen Hadjiev's Forty-Year Feud Rages On
Even as kids there was never much brotherly love between Taso and Asen Hadjiev. But over the years their mutual hatred has become a weird game of one-upmanship.
For 40 years, the battling Bulgarians - who berate one another as evil and involve the police and council in their personal complaints - have thrown all their energy into getting the better of each other in court.
Since a 1968 dispute over land left to them by their parents, they have sued each other more than 200 times.
In fact, Taso, 74, and big brother Asen, 75, have spent so much money fighting legal battles they have none left to leave the home they grew up in. Which is why it is now divided into two with distinctly unhomely barbed wire - as is the surrounding land.
At pains to keep apart, brick walls and wooden fences keep going up - only to be pulled back down again after the brother who didn't erect them successfully sues in court.
Still, the antics of the squabbling siblings provides some sort of entertainment in the remote village of Malka Arda, which has one store and a pub that opens only in the evenings.
There is even a makeshift bench outside the Hadjievs' house, where villagers gather to watch the brothers' latest battles and abusive exchanges.
As neighbour Sabka Shehova, 67, puts it: "Most people don't have a TV and this is better than a soap opera. And it's the only interesting thing to do round here when the pub's shut. They go to court for any old reason - just to sue each other."
As the Mirror pulls up outside the brothers' barbed-wire ringed house, Asen is leaving to visit his sick wife who is in hospital in Smolyan, 20 miles away.
"Rumyana has a heart problem - it's Taso's fault," whines Asen. "I am going to complain to the police about him for harassment, and then I am going to see her in hospital."
As he goes, Taso comes out of the house waving a stick, yelling: "Anyone that talks to my brother isn't going to talk to me! He has made my life a misery."
He turns his back and goes inside.
Over the road, Petar Hadjiev, 91, is watching the developments with an amused resignation. "That pair have been fighting since the Second World War," he says with a sigh. "I know because I was their schoolteacher.
They were in the same class and argued all the time. If one brother got a better mark, the other would complain to the headmaster. They were always trying to get each other into trouble.
"The constant rivalry comes from their parents always making them strive to be better than the other, they just never stopped. They've never had any physical fights, but they have fought each other just about every other way."
The constant feuding has affected their families.
Asen's daughter, called Rumyana after her mum, left home as soon as she could and moved to Kardjali. Now married, this is the first time she has visited Malka Arda in years - and only because her mother is ill.
"I couldn't cope with all the stress," says Rumyana, 48. "I felt sorry for my mother, who is now 83, but I just could not cope. I had to get away.
"I have a brother and my uncle Taso has children, and we all get on pretty well - although they tried to stop us having a good relationship.
"As we got older our confusion became anger, now it is resignation - they are never going to change.
Once my father sued Uncle Taso claiming he was sending his chickens over the fence to eat our grass. Taso sued him back for wringing their necks.
"When one of them puts up a fence, the other takes him to court demanding it be pulled down. Then he puts up a fence of his own which starts the whole process again.
"Dad even put a sink on the balcony to annoy Taso. And when the electricity was cut off from not paying the bill they sued each other over that.
"I don't think my father really cares about my poor mother or me - he only cares about beating Taso."
Certainly the in-fighting is indirectly responsible for her mother's collapse.
Neighbour Sabka explains: "Yesterday court officials turned up again with the police. They had a court order awarded to Taso to knock down a little hut built by Asen.
"Rumyana knew nothing about it - she rushed outside to stop it but had a stroke. It's typical that the first thing Asen does is make a complaint against his brother before going to see her in hospital."
Asen finally returns - and the first thing he does is lay into Taso.
He says: "There is no reason for all the things he has done... he is just evil. He has accused me of attempted murder, sneaked into my part of the garden and destroyed the trees, and even tried to have me declared insane and sent to an asylum.
"I have made hundreds of complaints, not only at the local court but also to the council, my MP - I've even written to our President.
"I have called the police, too, but they don't come any more. Taso has friends there - he was a policeman once. In the Communist years he told the authorities I was an enemy of the state and had me thrown in jail, but I proved my innocence.
"He even blamed me for his first wife's death but she passed away because he was always cheating on her. He is pure evil, and stupid.
Asked if their feuding would ever end, Asen says: "I am still putting my faith in the law. I am suing Taso for harassment that has made my wife ill - for trespassing, for stealing one of my chickens, and for poisoning my cow.
"He had the electricity cut off once to try and harm me and tried to flood the place as well.
"Yes, I am sick of it and it is a nightmare to live next to him, but I won't give up. I will sue him until justice finally settles on my side."
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