Who doesn’t love a good prediction? Come on now, we all do, be it mild prognostication about the outcome of a game of sport or something a little bigger, something like predicting the end of the world. ‘What do you think will happen?’ is a phrase that is all too common in modern conversation, as we use our clairvoyant powers to work out such vital things as when the bus will come, who will score next, whether the bar will be busy or what hand the sweet is in.
Which brings us to Vangeliya Pandeva Gushterova, a woman born in Strumica (then Ottoman Macedonia, today North Macedonia) who spent most of her life in poverty before dying of breast cancer at the age of 84. All of that sounds relatively unremarkable (not that living to be 84 should be dismissed) until her popular identity is revealed; we’re talking about Baba Vanga. Everyone’s favourite blind Bulgarian mystic has only grown more famous in death as her predictions and apparent ability to see the future has seen her branded the ‘Balkan Nostrodamus’, as one world event after another is ticked off from her list. Baba Vanga was particularly worried about 2020. Why?
Well, we’ve long contended that the world is going to the dogs, so we don’t need Vanga for that general assumption. Still, the Strumica Soothsayer had some strangely specific things to say about this year. First of all, she predicted that Vladimir Putin’s life would be in danger, as an attempt on his life would take place in the year. Not only that, but the assassination attempt would come from one of his own men, a Kremlin stooge. We can only guess at how often Putin assassination plots are foiled, so we’ll wait and see on this one. We reached out to Vlad for comment, but then we got scared and decided against sending the email.
Baba Vanga wasn’t exactly thrilled about the future prospects of Putin’s American counterpart. It still depresses us to have to follow the words ‘American President’ with ‘Donald Trump’, but there we go. Baba Vanga predicted that the US leader would face serious health issues in 2020, problems that would leave him deaf and with a brain tumor. Now, predicting health issues for Donald Trump is about as visionary as predicting a Liverpool Premier League win this season, but there we go.
What else? Vanga wasn’t too optimistic about Asian prospects, although we’ve got our suspicions about that. She foresees a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hitting the continent, while Pakistan, China and Japan will see a large water surge at some point. Does that mean a natural disaster? The earthquake bit obviously does (being a natural disaster and all that), but the water surge could mean anything from a tsunami to rising tide levels to an increase in overly-air conditioned swimming pools.
Asia might bear the brunt of Baba Vanga’s fury but Europe isn’t exactly going to go unscathed. The prophet wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the continent’s economic fortunes, with a major financial catastrophe on the cards. Of course, hardened Brexiteers will tell you the same, so we’re hoping Vanga gets this one wrong. We can’t take any more Nigel Farage, we just can’t. Baba Vanga’s issues with continental pessimism continued as she predicted that Europe would suffer an invasion of Muslim extremists brandishing chemical weapons. Oh, and Russia will be hit by a meteor.
How seriously should we take these divinations? Well, not very, to be blunt. There is very little evidence that suggests that Baba Vanga made any of the predictions attributed to her, what with her being a semi-literate blind woman and all that. All of the comments come from people who claim to have known her, as the legend of Baba Vanga has grown and grown in the years since her death. Millions of people believe she had paranormal abilities, but then millions of people have paid actual money to buy Razorlight albums, so make of that what you will. Even the most passionate of Baba Vanga supporters (let’s call them Baba Bros, for now) says that she has an 85% success rate, which just about correlates with our accumulator success rate. There are many Baba Bros who say that none of the predictions have anything to do with Vanga, that such tabloid gossip detracts from her work and misrepresents her.
What isn’t up for debate is her relative fame, both in life and death. She was the child of IMRO activists who became blind after a tornado lifted her and threw her into a field. She eventually went to a school for blind children in Zemun (Serbia) before returning to Strumica, which by then was under Bulgarian control, and the celebrity visitors soon started to arrive, among them Tsar Boris III (died in suspicious circumstances after meeting Hitler), Leonid Brezhnev (died in Soviet secret) and Silvana Armenuli, the latter of whom passed away in a car crash that Baba Vanga predicted.
So are we taking Baba Vanga’s supposed predictions seriously? No, in a word, but that doesn’t mean we won’t consider them from time to time. If anything, the main moral we can take from the story is that it is possible to leave your mark on the wider world no matter your circumstances, whether you are a blind Bulgarian mystic from Macedonia or a ragtag group of enthusiastic yet cynical travel writers.
The above text was written by senior In Your Pocket editor John Bills. All opinions expressed therein are his alone – especially those concerning the US and Russian presidents and the excellent band Razorlights. More of his work can be found here.