In Memoriam: Anna Lilova

It is with deep regret that FIT announces the death,
on 30 July 2022, of


FIT Honorary Advisor, former president and founding member of the Bulgarian Translators’ Union.  

One of the first to be awarded the role of Honorary Advisor (then the ‘Council of Elders’), Anna was ‘a friend and a disciple’ of Pierre-François Caillé, FIT’s founding father. She joined FIT Council in 1974, became Vice President in 1978, was elected as interim President after Caillé’s death in 1979, going on to serve in the role for three successive terms (1979-1990).  While continuing to follow in the founder’s footsteps, she recognised that the demands of the profession were changing with the times.

She wrote “In the Cold War of that period, the federation was able to retain a spirit of understanding, convinced that unity would give us strength.”

Her words echo loudly today, in the current global atmosphere, where so much has changed and so much remains the same. Anna Lilova understood that translators and interpreters are crucial to global understanding and under her leadership the Federation continued to bring together organisations from all continents, establishing regional centres, and promoting activities and cooperation between them. She continued Pierre-François Caillé’s work on collaborating with UNESCO and other UN bodies, and was a key figure in FIT’s publishing endeavours, including as an Editor of Babel

President, Vice-President and Winner of FIT’s highest honour, the Pierre-François Caillé Medal, Anna is remembered for her extraordinary contribution to the progress and reputation of the translation profession at international level, particularly during her eleven years as president.

Her own body of academic research highlighted the relationship between theory and practice, and covered European cultural heritage and translation theory, making a significant contribution to studies of translation as an art and a science essential to our cultural, physical and political existence. She also established translation studies as an academic discipline at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and was a founding and integral member of the Bulgarian Translators’ Union in 1974.  

FIT today has much to thank her for. Through her talent as a diplomat, Anna Lilova made a noteworthy contribution to the recognition of FIT outside Europe, particularly through the organisation of events in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

She was one of the first to emphasise the common problems encountered by members: poor and sporadic remuneration for the work of scientific and literary translators, the absence of respect for the work of translators, publishers’ failure to mention the name of the translator, and protection of translators’ rights.

In her mind, translation was a creative activity important in a thriving society and served three main imperatives, that is, the imperative of communication, to serve knowledge and mutual understanding; the cultural imperative, to fulfil our obligations towards universal culture; and the humanitarian imperative, highlighting our moral responsibilities in an era of forays into outer-space and nuclear power, to bring universal harmony to the forefront of people’s minds and consciences. Again, so much of what Anna Lilova thought, said and did, the clarity of her vision on the main issues facing the profession, remains as relevant today as it was in 1987.

Those who knew her remember her as an academic, diplomat, tireless advocate of the global importance and reputation of the translation profession, supportive colleague, esteemed friend. Those of us who did not have the fortune to know her, remember her as an often talked about, ever-present key figure in the history of FIT. She will be sadly missed and fondly remembered. Rest in peace, Anna Lilova.