Source: Macedonian daily Dnevnik
Translated by UMDiaspora Staff
It is about time somebody raised this issue, initiating a dialogue with Greece on the problems of the expelled Macedonians, incoming Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.
During a pan-Macedonian gathering in the Pelister village of Trnovo yesterday, Prime Minister-designate Nikola Gruevski promised the expelled Macedonians that he would initiate a dialogue with Greece on their repatriation in Aegean Macedonia. According to Gruevski, it is odd that this issue has been veiled in silence over the past 16 years of independence and that none of the previous cabinets has advocated for the rights of these Macedonians.
It is about time that somebody in this state raised this issue, initiating a dialogue with Greece on the problems of the expelled Macedonians. There is nothing embarrassing about it, nor does it mean that our relations with the southern neighbor will deteriorate. Neither the EU, nor Greece will object if we address this problem, as other countries have consulted Macedonia about their nationals here. After all, this was also our campaign promise, Gruevski said.
Aleksandar Popovski, honorary chairman of the Association of Organizations of Ethnic Macedonians Expelled from Greece, complained about the previous governments’ disgraceful attitude towards their burning problem.
-It is terrifying that a state has been unable to resolve this issue for 60 years, while building good neighborly relations based on the tragedy of these people expelled from their homes. We have therefore organized this event to send out a message to the government to raise this issue to an international level with Greece, but also with the United Nations, Popovski said.
Over 2,000 people crowded the courtyard of the SvetaBogorodicaChurch in Trnovo, which hosted the 26th all-Macedonian gathering (Sunday, July 30, 2006). With tears in their eyes, Macedonians from all over the world recollected the ordeal of leaving their homes.
-We fled Buf, a beautiful village in Aegean Macedonia, in 1947. I was only eight years old then. My mother held my hand while holding my little sister in her arms, and we were off. I just remember the image of laundry drying outside. We thought we’d be back in a week. In the past 59 years, I managed to enter Greece only once and only with an Australian passport, which states that I was born in a village near Bitola — this is the heart-breaking account of Lefterija Todorovska, who has lived in Melbourne, Australia, for over 30 years.
Macedonians living in Bulgaria and Albania conveyed their problems at the meeting, as well. According to Ivan Gargavelov, Bulgaria continues to spread nationalist propaganda for the Macedonians’ complete assimilation in Bulgaria.
–Bulgaria claims to be a democratic country, but does nothing in practice. If we declare ourselves as Macedonians, both we and our children will lose our jobs. Even though 300,000 Macedonians live in Pirin Macedonia alone, it is this sort of events that force them to declare themselves Bulgarians, while they feel Macedonian, Gargavelov said.
Edmond Temelko, chairman of the Organization for the Protection of the Rights of Macedonians in Albania, says that the situation there is no better, either.
There are some 250,000 Macedonians, and yet, only 5 percent study in their mother tongue — only in primary school, at that, and only in Mala Prespa. In other places, such as Golemo Brdo and Gora, which are inhabited by purely ethnic Macedonian population, there is not a single Macedonian-language class. Albania‘s policy bans even the introduction of census form fields where we can declare ourselves as Macedonians, Temelko said.
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