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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / VENTURA

Diplomats Grant a Wedding Wish

March 21, 1998|HILARY E. MacGREGOR

She has a dress. She has a groom.

And finally, less than a week before her wedding, Bulgarian bride-to-be Gergana Tzaneva got the one thing she wanted most for her wedding: a Balkan bridesmaid.

Today at 4 p.m., Michael Mellin, 55, will marry former Bulgarian actress Tzaneva, 40, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Ventura.

They will be surrounded by family and friends, and even a couple of Bulgarians in Ventura who read about the couple's plight.

But until two weeks ago, Tzaneva feared that her best and oldest friend, Nikolita Kolgcheva, would not be able to get a visa from the U.S. officials in the former communist nation to attend the wedding. Last month, the U.S. Consulate in Bulgaria denied Kolgcheva a visa.

According to Mellin, consulate officials told Kolgcheva, 42, that she is an old, single woman with nothing to come back for, so "she may try to escape to the United States."

But empowered by love, Mellin sent letters to congressional leaders and took his story to the press.

A week later Kolgcheva again took the train to the Bulgarian capital of Sophia, stayed overnight with her daughter and rose at dawn to stand in the cold and snow to apply for a visa.

"She never thought she'd get the visa," said a jubilant Mellin. "They were standing there in the yard for four hours. She was the last one. They said, 'It is an honor; the last ones are the ones to get the visa.' "

She was ushered inside. The ambassador himself was there. He granted her a one-year visa--an unheard-of coup for Bulgarians, Kolgcheva said Friday.

"I will be a maid of honor tomorrow," she said. "I am very happy because California is like a paradise. I am so happy to see my friend."

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