Perhaps nothing else so precisely encapsulates my connection to Macedonia, as much as the poem written for me by my dad in 2007; when I was merely 10 years old.
“Тука сум родена но нешто ме влечи, кон земјата убава кај што вардарот течи…”
“I was born here but something is tugging me, towards the beautiful country where the Vardar River flows…”
Being Australian-Macedonian I loved coming back to Macedonia, spending the summers or winter holidays with my family and friends, ever since I was five. So, I somehow always knew I would one day come back [I say “come back” as if I was born here, as we first and second-generations feel a limbo of belonging, not here nor there, but rather a mix of both], and with my completion of the Birthright Macedonia 2019 program, I took a leap and made it happen. It has now been over a year-and-a-half.
Living in Macedonia has been exciting, frustrating, challenging, stressful, inspiring; and with the outbreak of COVID19, even more so. With a clash of mentalities, you learn to understand and appreciate a different way of life, despite how much being “Macedonian” you believe influences your way of life in the diaspora. You learn patience and composure when someone jumps the queue at the doctors or the bank, when your water and or electricity goes out without any notice in advance, when politics influences… well, just about everything; you have to learn to adapt to the winter and the poor quality of air and pollution it brings with it; you realise the state of the healthcare facilities people have been receiving treatment in for years, once it’s your turn to lay on that hospital bed; you have to accept your business is your neighbours businesses too [even though it really isn’t]; you understand what budgeting with a minimal wage means; how local level political favouritism effects whether a family and its crops survive or don’t.
You learn to understand that you cannot readily change 500 years of accumulated mindset, regardless of how many times you try. You appreciate the anger, the frustration, the reasons why the youth want to emigrate, because you still cannot completely adapt to the mentality, surroundings and the lack of economic and social improvements yourself, let alone those who have battled with this their whole life here. But you also re-discover the beauty of the country you somehow missed before. You realise the immense potential that Macedonia has to offer the world, which we often overlook ourselves. And you realise, you’re home, as despite the challenges, this is our Macedonia.
There has come a different form of appreciation for my roots, which I now believe is impossible to attain simply from afar. And this is exactly what continues to inspire me; in my studies and career aspects. I am grateful to be spending part of my twenties here, meeting different people and taking on the different opportunities Macedonia has presented to me. From interning in government, to working with local businesses and firms, advocating on behalf of the Macedonian diaspora and its minorities across the Balkans, to writing and presenting a paper. Macedonia has so many opportunities to offer you, you just need to be willing to take them on.
Perhaps one opportunity currently open to us all, is to bring an end to our community’s tendency to cause division amongst ourselves. This was perhaps the most morally disheartening and visible aspect, albeit not new. Without that division, I somehow believe we would not be facing the degree of challenges we currently are, as peoples and a nation. Which is something Macedonia and its diaspora need to work collectively on together; Macedonia needs its diaspora, as much as the diaspora longs for Macedonia. Despite those that claim, out of epicaricacy, that the diaspora should not have rights, or in contrast, that those in Macedonia should act a certain way. In what position is anyone to take another’s rights away? So, if we want change – social, political, economic, and other – we need to start with ourselves, and not as a divided people.
Although we think we know Macedonia, she will continue to astonish us in every way possible, which is why we all need to preserve the uniqueness of Macedonia. It is that uniqueness and sense of belonging that tells me I will always find myself coming back, because it’s my Macedonia.
“Секој треба да си ја сака земјата своја, Во Австралија сум родена ама Македонија е моја.”
“Everyone should love their country, although I was born in Australia, Macedonia is mine.”
Any opinions or views expressed in articles or other pieces appearing in UMD Voice are those of the author alone and are not necessarily those of the United Macedonian Diaspora and its young leaders’ program Generation M; the appearance of any such opinions or views in UMD Voice is not and should not be considered to be an endorsement by or approval of the same by UMD and Generation M.