June 26, 2012 – Thessaloniki (Solun) and Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is proud to announce its first official representative for Greece, in Aegean Macedonia. Eugenia “Evgenija” Natsoulidou, a long-time activist and co-founder of the Educative and Cultural Movement of Edessa (Voden), was appointed by a unanimous vote of the UMD Board of Directors.
“Expanding our human rights operations into countries neighboring the Republic of Macedonia, which are home to significant ethnic Macedonian populations, is an essential step for UMD. Not only is this where many of our members originate, but it is also where the Macedonian culture and heritage is under the greatest threat,” said UMD Board Chairman Stojan Nikolov. “Evgenija’s passion for Macedonian human rights is inspiring, making her an obvious choice for this important role, which is the first of its kind.”
Born in the town of Edessa (Voden), Greece in 1955, Natsoulidou moved to Turin, Italy at the age of 9. She would study hotel management before moving back home to Voden in 1974, after the fall of the Junta Regime. She worked for various hotels in Corfu and Halkidiki before moving to Chicago, in the United States, in 1979. Later, she would return to Greece, and continue her hotel management career in Mykonos and Rhodes.
“In 1991, I first started to fully realize how dangerous our situation was as Macedonians in Greece, when the Greek government denied recognition to the Republic of Macedonia, and engineered a huge rise in fanatical anti-Macedonism across Greek society,” said Natsoulidou. “Like many Macedonians of my age in Greece, I had been largely ignorant of the past atrocities committed by the Greek State against our people, because the elders would not talk about it, and the official Greek textbooks teach a total perversion of history regarding Macedonia… not only the history of ancient times, but especially the history of the 20th century.”
In the following years, Natsoulidou would learn much more about her true heritage. She forged friendships with other Macedonians from across the Aegean region (in Greece), from Pirin (in Bulgaria), from Mala Prespa / Golo Brdo (in Albania), and from the independent Republic of Macedonia, as well.
“In 2006, I began following UMD’s activities closely, as they have moved our cause forward in a very positive way. Their efforts helped inspire us to form the Educative and Cultural Movement of Edessa (ECME). Our cultural projects were made possible by generous support from (UMD Board Member) Jim Daikos, and many of his fellow Macedonian patriots in Toronto, Canada. These projects have included the Zadruga Magazine, our folk dancing events, the Voden Makedonsko Internet Radio station, and translations of many important Macedonian books. Most recently, we worked together to publish The Message of the Local, a book about the 100-year anniversary of Greece’s forced annexation of Macedonian territory in 1913, which we have begun distributing for free throughout the country,” added Natsoulidou.
When asked about the conditions for human rights activists in modern-day Greece, she said: “Of course, the conditions we operate under are not easy. We continue to receive threats, not only from extremist individuals, but also from the operatives of major political parties, who consider us like a “foreign body” which pollutes Greek society. Since the Greek Civil War era, our people have been raised in a state-sponsored culture of fear. Therefore, the biggest challenge is to convince our own people to freely declare themselves as Macedonians. Fortunately, we do see many encouraging signs, as more and more of our people are getting actively involved, including the younger generations.”
To get involved in UMD’s activities in Greece, please contact Eugenia Natsoulidou at [email protected].
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