Nikola Vaptsarov was born in the village of Bansko. His father Yonko Vaptsarov was a Macedonian freedom fighter and their home was visited by three monarchs, as well as notable intellectuals such as P. K. Yavorov, Elisaveta Bagryana, Konstantin Shtarkelov, Ivan Penkov, among others. Nikola Vaptsarov studied in high school in Razlog (1924-1926) then graduated from the Marine Mechanical School in Varna (1926-1932). He was employed as a stoker and a mechanic in Barakovo and Kocherinovo. Following an industrial accident at the factory in 1936, he was fired and moved to Sofia. His first poem was published in 1926 in the newspaper Borba. Between 1936 and 1938 he published a number of poems in different newspapers and the collection of his poetry Motorni pesni [Motor Songs] appeared in 1940. Vaptsarov was arrested for his antifascist activities in March 1942, sentenced to death and executed on 23 July 1942 at the Garrison Shooting Range in Sofia.
In 1953, during the Second Congress of the World Peace Council in Warsaw, Nikola Vaptsarov was posthumously awarded the Honorary International Peace Award which was established in 1949 at the WPC Congresses in Prague and Paris. The award was received by his mother Elena Vaptsarova.
Vaptsarov’s innovatory verses charge poetry with energy. His poems combine the “romanticism of motors” and the everyday, political engagement and universal humanism, both the universal and the nationally particular.
Nikola Vaptsarov’s poems have been rendered in English by Peter Tempest, Vladimir Filipov, Ewald Osers, among others.