An Extraordinary Macedonian Woman’s Story

Mirka was the most outstanding Macedonian woman freedom fighter, organizer and leader of the Greek Civil War. She was a teacher and an outstanding fighter for national, political and cultural equality of the Macedonian people. She was the first woman to become a victim of Greek monarcho-fascism in Greece.

An Extraordinary Macedonian Woman’s Story
Mirka Ginova (1916-1946)

By Risto Stefov
[email protected]
November 5, 2005

Mirka was the most outstanding Macedonian woman freedom fighter, organizer and leader of the Greek Civil War. She was a teacher and an outstanding fighter for national, political and cultural equality of the Macedonian people. She was the first woman to become a victim of Greek monarcho-fascism in Greece.

Mirka was born in 1916 in the village Rusilovo, Voden Region. She was not even two years old when she lost her mother to influenza.

After finishing elementary school in Katranitsa she applied to the school of home economics in the city of Voden but was not accepted. Failing that, she enrolled at a similar school in Lerin and was accepted. Later she went to Kostur and graduated as a schoolteacher. Although she enjoyed learning, Mirka’s experience in school was not very pleasant.

After graduation and placing numerous applications, Mirka was unable to get a teaching job for the next six years. The reason: she was Macedonian.

Given her revolutionary family background, the Greek authorities found it very dangerous to have her as a teacher in any of the Macedonian speaking villages. Fortunately, just before the start of WW II, Mirka was finally given a teaching job in the village Kutugeri, in Voden region.

Later Mirka found a teaching job in the Macedonian-speaking village Vlkojanevo, in Voden Region. In view of the outbreak of the Greek-Italian War and later the German invasion, she felt compelled to return to her own village and together with her neighbours she joined the underground movement against the occupation.

In the spring of 1943 Mirka joined the newly-formed youth organization EPON (National All-Greek Youth Organization) and became a committee member in the organization.  Soon afterwards her talks of patriotism caused her popularity to rise not only among the Macedonian youth but also in the entire general public in Ostrovo region.

During the summer of 1943, Mirka joined the KPG (Communist Party of Greece) and EAM (National Liberation Front) and began campaigning against the German-Bulgarian occupation and organized resistance movements in the Macedonian villages of Ostrovo Region.

Around the end of 1943 Mirka came into contact with the Macedonian Partisans, in the now Republic of Macedonia, who during that time were stationed in the mountains Kozhuf and Kajmakchalan.

With the formation of the Voden Macedonian Battalion in the summer of 1944, within the ranks of ELAS (National Peoples Liberation Army) Mirka worked very hard as a recruiter of young Macedonians. She was very patriotic, charismatic and a big influence on the Macedonian people. As a result of her efforts many joined the Voden Battalion in Kajmakchalan.

During the battle of Muaren-An, at village Ostrovo near Voden, on August 2nd, 1944, when the Partisans attacked a German compound filled with troops and munitions, Mirka, with a rifle in hand, was at the forefront fighting the enemy face to face.

After Germany’s fall and the capitulation to ELAS, according to the Varkiza Agreement, Mirka did not surrender her arms. She went to the Macedonian people and continued the war against the new reactionary Greek government which, with greater fanaticism continued to terrorize and murder the Macedonian population.

In March 1945 Mirka, through Vangel Shamardanov-Ilindenski, came into contact with the leadership of TOMO (Secret Macedonian Liberation Organization) the newly formed Macedonian organization in Voden and became a valuable and active member. TOMO was created to defend the Macedonian people against acts of aggression from the Greek Monarchists and their nationalistic henchmen. 

On July 20th, 1945 in the Tupchesto Region, between the villages Krontselovo and Vlkojanevo near the city of Voden, TOMO held a regional conference. Among other things, the work in progress with regards to TOMO’s districts was reviewed and a decision was made to change TOMO’s name to NOF (Peoples Liberation Front) for the Voden Region.

During the same conference a new ruling body was elected and sworn in to run the newly formed NOF for Voden Region. The new ruling body members consisted of: Vangel Ajanovski-Oche political secretary, Vangel Shamardanov-Ilindenski organizational secretary, Risto Kordalov in charge of military matters and of the Partisan detachment of NOF; Petre Popov in charge of propaganda and campaigning; Risto Bukavalov, in charge of financial matters; Tashko Hadzhijanev leader of the youth movement and Mirka Ginova in charge of the women’s movement.

From this moment on Mirka worked even harder and together with her associates formed two new NOF associated organizations, the NOMS (Peoples Liberation Youth Alliance) and the AFZ (Women’s Antifascist Front) for Voden Region.

Mirka, besides being a devout patriot, was also a charismatic leader and knew how to arouse people’s emotions. She quickly became very popular with the youth and with all the Macedonian people with whom she came into contact. In no time she became the most famous fighter in Voden Region.

NOF for Voden Region soon began its actions against the Greek Monarchists who terrorized the Macedonian population in the region. Its armed wing, remnants of ELAS fighters, first attacked the Monarchist gendarmes in the villages Lukovets, Pozharsko and Sarakinovo. Then they attacked the Greek army watchtowers in Jankulovi kolidi, Kajmakchalan and in the village Gorno Rodivo. They also liquidated a number of traitors who collaborated with the Greek police.

Mirka Ginova, member of the district committee of NOF and secretary of AFZ for Voden Region, was by now deeply involved with organizing serious resistance against the Monarchists and former supporters of the Fascist occupiers. That is why the Greek police and gendarmes pursued her with all their strength.

A series of event started taking place which eventually led to Mirka’s demise. The first was on June 28, 1946 when two NOF couriers Vangel Goglev-Bezandako and Tashko Bobev, going from the village Vlkojanevo to the village Krontselovo unexpectedly ran into a Greek patrol and had a skirmish. The encounter tipped off the Greek army that there might be a Partisan presence in the region around the village Vlkojanevo.

A little later the same soldiers grabbed a couple of goat herders from Vlkojanevo and under extreme duress forced them to reveal the position of the NOF detachment in the Pochep woodlands. Fortunately the NOF contact Vani Barev from Vlkojanevo got wind of the situation and was able to warn the NOF fighters, avoiding the ambush.

On July 30, Risto Kormanov (commander of the NOF detachment for Voden region) and Captain Adamidis Filotas-Katsonis (commander of the KPG Partisan detachment in the Voden region), received orders to go to Mount Karakamen to retrieve arms and ammunition from the warehouse under the command of Captain Hristos Palamas-Mavros.

On July 4, 1946 Dimitar Limbov, Tashko Sapundzhiev-Kuliman and Vangel Goglev-Bezandako were ordered by Risto Bukovalov-Zhikov to go to Dupen-Most, located between Vladovo and the city of Voden, to liquidate the informants Giorgi Panchev and Giorgi Bapka-Daskalot who were expected to arrive in Voden from the village Vladovo.

Unfortunately they didn’t follow orders on the belief that Dimitar Limbov could resolve the situation without killings. Mr. Limbov, who was also from the village Vladovo, was confident that he could stop the informants from informing and would in fact convince them to join the Partisans. So the informants were allowed to enter Voden unabated. Unfortunately, Dimitar was very wrong and as future events would show, his mistake would have consequences for the Partisans.

The same day a group of fighters, under Risto Kordalov and Captain Katsonis’s command, after finishing their duty on Mount Karakamen, returned to Voden and camped at Kusa and Dolga Livada.

The following day Risto Kordalov wrote a letter to Risto Bukovalov-Zhikov, asking him to take his troops to a pre-designated place. He arrived at base camp around midnight.

Earlier the same day the leaders of NOF, among them, Mirka Ginova, Giorgi Atanasov-Blazhe, Vangel Shamardanov-Ilindenski, Lazo Kamdzhev and others arrived.

The political leaders of KPG, Georgios Mustakides-Aleko who was responsible for the ELAS reservists in Voden during the German occupation; his wife Hrisula a member of the regional committee of KPG for Meglen region; another person named Tarzan from the village Orizartsi and the Nun-Nurse Irina from Voden, had also arrived.

The purpose of this gathering was to get the NOF leadership together with their Greek associates to discuss organizational issues as well as examine options for opening a Partisan hospital on Mount Kajmakdzhalan.

By now a whole week had passed since the initial discovery of the Partisan base camp by the Monarchists on June 28th. Unfortunately none of the fighters or the leadership of NOF or KPG was aware that they had been discovered.

On the morning of July 6th around 8:00 AM, courier Giorgi Mitrev-Gunush, from the village Pochep, arrived panting and soaked in sweat. With great difficulty he made it through an approaching group which he believed were enemy soldiers. They were coming from the village Dragomantsi and were advancing towards the Pochepska wooded area. At rough count he estimated there were about 600 of them and they were well armed.

The leaders of both organizations immediately reacted and began to analyze the situation. They should have taken defensive measures sooner, however they had no confirmation that the approaching group was indeed the enemy. For example none of the villages, Vlkojanevo, Teovo, Lukovets, or Krontsevelo, in the immediate vicinity had reported enemy activity in the area. The conclusion was that the Group must have been local riflemen known to frequent the area. They did however take precautionary measures just in case.

The fighters decided to move out and retire at Staro Vlkojanevo. Defense of the headquarters was relegated to headquarters. Risto Kordalov and his group of fighters were made responsible for the defense of the NOF and KPG delegates.

Unfortunately before any of these plans could be put into action, the enemy arrived within firing range. The fighters immediately opened fire and proceeded with the evacuation.

Among the 60 or so armed Partisans there were another 30 political leaders, NOF administrators, Communists from the city Voden and some new recruits who had not yet been armed.

The battle was intense. After a three hour bloody firefight the enemy made headway and squeezed some of the Partisan fighters out. Due to the intense firefight, ten Partisans had to abandon their position and flee. The enemy took advantage of the situation and rushed the camp. During this critical time, while attempting to escape, a judgment error was made. Whoever was leading the NOF and KPG delegates to safety took a wrong turn and ended up face to face with the enemy. 

When Captain Katsonis with his group met up with Risto Bukavalov and his group they realized that the camp was left unguarded and there was a high risk that the enemy would capture some of the delegates. They decided to return and set up position around the hills of Kusa and Dolga Livada in wait. Unfortunately the enemy did not return that way so they eventually left.

Before dawn Bukavalov and Katsonis sent Toli, one of their fighters, to the village Vlkojanevo to find out what the villagers knew. The moment he returned he gave them tragic news. Mirka Ginova, Tome Mihailov from the village Gugovo, regional activist of NOF, Dimitar Limbov from the village Vladovo, activist of NOF, Giorgi Proiov from Voden, activist of NOF, Petre Popdimitrov-Direkot from Voden, activist of NOF, Risto Stojanov from the village Karasinantsi, Gumenchisko Region, activist in KPG in Voden Region, his wife Hrisula, member of the regional committee of KPG for Meglen Region and Irina, the Nun-nurse from Voden had all been captured.

As soon as it became dark, Bukavalov and Katsonis, along with about 20 fighters, left and traveled overnight to Kronchelsko. They spent the day hiding in Momin Grob and during the evening they left for Bunarot, the main NOF base in Rodivsko place. When they arrived they met Risto Kordalov, Vangel Shamardanov-Ilindenski, Giorgi Atanasov-Blazhe, Lazo Kamchev and about 20 other fighters who had succeeded in penetrating the enemy ring and had escaped.

According to eyewitness accounts the group, consisting of NOF and KPG delegates, was led by Mirka Ginova and Georgios Mustakidis during the final moments before their capture. Before entering Kusa and Dolga Livada it seems that instead of taking the path towards the NOF detachment they took an entirely different path. Obviously whoever led them did not know the terrain well so instead of escaping the ambush they literally fell into enemy hands. Mirka was the only one in the group that was armed and only with a handgun.

She held off the enemy as much as she could but when all her rounds were gone the enemy subdued them in hand to hand combat. Enemy soldiers immediately began to abuse and beat their captives, treating Mirka the worst.

A little later the prisoners were transferred to lockup in the Vlkojanevo Monastery just above the village Vlkojanevo.

The moment they were locked-up the Monarchists began interrogations to uncover the captives’ identities.

They suspected that one of the females they captured was the infamous Irini Gini (Mirka Ginova) but they needed verification. Since no one would confess, even after extreme torture, the Monarchists brought in some of Mirka’s former co-workers to point her out. They did the same for the other captives.

After establishing their identities the prisoners were brutally tortured for days. They were beaten with rifle-butts, punched and had their hair pulled. The Greek Monarchists endeavored to break the prisoners’ spirits and then paraded them through the streets of Voden. They wanted the people to see them for the wretches they were. The people however did not see them that way. Instead they saw the Monarchists for the monsters that they were and could hardly contain their hate for them.

The parades unfortunately were only the beginning of the indignities Mirka and the others would suffer before they were put to death.

Mirka was hated the most and as a result suffered the most. According to eyewitness accounts, Mirka was taken outside of Vodev several times and tortured. In Giavaliochitsa she was buried underground alive and shot several times in the forehead with blanks. For three days and nights a motorcycle was left idling under her window to mask her screams while they shoved needles under her fingernails, tightened a metal band around her head and placed boiling hot eggs under her armpits. But nothing could break Mirka and in the end she was as hard as granite.

A few days later, on July 23rd, 1946, the prisoners were transferred to Enidzhe Vardar, where they were tried by a military tribunal and sentenced to death in accordance with law 509. They were accused of being traitors, of having autonomist and separatist desires and of committing treasonous acts against the state. They particularly wanted to ruin Mirka Gineva’s good name and reputation.

During the trial, which was held at the first elementary school in Enidzhe Vardar behind closed doors, the Monarchists made every effort to paint NOF and the Macedonian freedom movement in Aegean Macedonia as nothing more than an autonomous movement aspiring to partition Aegean Macedonia from Greece.

No one besides military types and gendarmes were allowed to enter the court during the trial but some accounts of the trial did manage to leak out. Mirka’s trial was unforgettable. Friend and foe alike admired her. She was fearless and spoke the truth. In response to the trumped-up charges, in part she replied “I am a leader of NOF. During the occupation (German, Bulgarian and Italian) I fought against the Germans and the henchmen Kalchev and Dimchev and hit them with the same fanaticism as I fought against the German occupier. NOF is not a military but a political democratic organization fighting for equal rights for the Macedonians within the confines of the Greek State. We fight for freedom and democracy…”

Mirka Ginova and associates Tome Mihailov, Dimitar Limbov, Giorgi Proiov, Petre Popdimitrov-Direkot, Risto Stojanov and Georgios Mustakidis-Aleko were found guilty of all charges and condemned to death by execution. Hrisula and Irina were sentenced to hard labour and life imprisonment.

Three days after the verdict Mirka and her associates were taken to the Enidzhe Vardar cemetery and placed in front of a firing squad and shot. Mirka met her death singing the international hymn. This heroic act was even recognized by the enemy.

A report to headquarters of the regular army, among other things said, “The seven executed were in good spirits and refused blindfolds. The greatest bravery among them was shown by the teacher Irini Gini (Mirka Ginova) who sang the international hymn and called out slogans of freedom.”

Mirka’s trial received a great deal of publicity both inside and outside of Greece and inspired many young people to join the Partisans.

Associated press, on the same day of the execution, wrote the following: “26 July Solun. Early this morning the execution of Irini Gini and her six associates was carried out. A military court in Andes Vardar found them guilty. Gini is the first woman in Greece to be executed for political reasons”.

The most glittering testimony of Mirka’s heroic death however, came from an anonymous letter sent to her father by a military reporter from a Greek newspaper.

The letter in part said, “At six o’clock this morning, sadly, Irini lost her life. My respects for your daughter who faced her end with a smile on her face singing courageously to the astonishment of everyone present.  She was amazingly heroic and showed no fear in the face of death. It was the same for the other six but mostly for her. I am not writing you to compliment your daughter but to tell you the truth as I witnessed it…”

Mirka Ginova gave her life for the freedom of Macedonia and the Macedonian people. She suffered immensely but died a hero, that is why in the hearts and minds of all Macedonians she will forever be remembered as a fighter and a legend.

References

Hristo Andonovski, Vistinata za Egejska Makedonia, Misla Skopje, 1971.

Tashko Mamurovski, Svetli Likovi Od Egejska Makedonjia (1945-1949), Skopje, 1987.

Makedonija Magazine, Number 519 VII 1996, Page 48.