Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
SVETOSLAV "SVETI" LALOV
On New Year's Eve 2003, Svetoslav Lalov was killed in a car accident along with his son Kiril. Velislava Kirilova Lalova, Sveti's wife, was driving when their car was hit broadside by another vehicle at an intersection. Vel and her father Kiril Karaivanov, who was also in the car, were not seriously injured.
A memorial service, attended by a large number of friends and colleagues, was held as part of the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Grimesland on January 10. The ashes will be returned to Bulgaria for burial later this spring.
We are all shaken by this tragic event and the strange workings of fate. Just last year Sveti and his family had bought a house in Greenville and their son had been accepted into the NC School of Science and Math in Durham. They were part of the Greenville community with many colleagues and friends here at ECU and at Pitt Community College where his wife teaches.
Dr. Frédéric Fladenmuller recalls that on December 30th, one day before the tragic accident, he met Sveti and Vel over coffee at Barnes & Noble. With a gift card that Sveti had received from his students at Oakwood they had invited him on this bright, sunny day of December. They talked for almost an hour and he remembers vividly how happy they were with their life. Since their son had been away at school for the first time during the Fall semester, being back for the holiday meant that the family felt closer than they had ever been. Vel told him laughingly that now that Kiril was not living at home anymore, he had actually missed the company of his parents and was truly enjoying the holiday season with them. Distance had brought them that much closer. Dr. Fladenmuller continues: "I remember of that encounter mostly a happy and cheerful, close-knitted family. Somehow this occasion will always remain in my mind as a positive thought, an image that I will always preserve and cherish. After all, with their work, their new house and their son with them for the holiday season, they seemed then to have achieved the lifetime goal of any family or individual. Their life seemed full and complete, and that is a happy thought!"
Sveti was well liked by his students and coworkers in the department. He was quick to take on projects and do extra work for the Spanish Program. He was always working to improve his teaching and learn new methods. Victor Calderin remarked that, "The students always said good things about him. He was a thorough teacher, caring, responsible, always looking out for the students."
Dr. Miriam Reed met Sveti the first summer he taught here. She remembers being intrigued that someone from Bulgaria was teaching Spanish. (Actually, Sveti spoke Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Croatian, in addition to English, Spanish and his native Bulgarian.) She was pleasantly surprised to learn that Spanish was popular in his country. "We taught the same course that summer and worked together on quizzes, etc. -- he was so grateful for this sort of orientation that he never forgot about it and thanked me on numerous occasions afterwards." She was impressed with how hard-working he was. At first when he only taught Spanish part-time, he also held a job as a security guard in the library "He took it very seriously." Later, even when he worked full-time teaching Spanish in the department, he also taught at an elementary school a couple of days a week. Although he was so busy, "he always was a very friendly colleague," Miriam added. "He would come often into my office with a big smile, saying Como te va? and sitting down to chat about something."
Sveti was also quite politically savvy and, according to John Stevens, 'wily.' He had, after all, been through the university system of one of the old Warsaw Pact countries. Sveti had attended Sofia University (Bulgaria) where he completed both his undergraduate and graduate work in Spanish language and literature. He worked as a Spanish interpreter/translator for the Bulgarian Association of Journalists and taught Spanish at a private language school in Sofia. He could be quite firm with students when the situation warranted it. They were not likely to be able to take advantage of his good nature.
Sveti and his family immigrated to the United States in 1994. He was a freelance teacher of Spanish in Boston during the mid 1990s. He joined the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1999 and had become an established part of the teaching staff. He will be remembered as a cheerful and gracious colleague. Dr. Steve Dock described him as "a real prince in an era when princes are all but disappearing." Victor Calderin added that he remembers Sveti as a very caring person. "He would ask how you were doing, and he would mean it." Dr. John Stevens recalls that Sveti "offered his friendship unstintingly" and made a real effort to establish rapport with people throughout the department. Sveti had a wide knowledge and curiosity and was able to converse with each of us about our fields comfortably. John remembers that Sveti often greeted him with an obscure Latin phrase, pronounced with his distinctive Bulgarian accent.
Sveti will be greatly missed by the entire department. Memorial contributions may be made to the Kiril Lalov Memorial Fund at the NC School of Science and Mathematics. Those interested in making a library gift in memory of Svetoslav and Kiril Lalov should send their contributions to the ECU Foundation as Lalov Memorial Gifts. These gifts will be made to the Friends of Joyner Library Endowment in their memory.
-- Sylvie Debevec Henning, Chair