By Aleksandar Mitreski, Co-Founder; Vice President; Chair, Advisory Council, United Macedonian Diaspora
I was 13 years old in 1991. At that time there was a lot of uncertainty given the breakup of Yugoslavia, and Milosevic sending troops to Slovenia and Croatia to quash their independence movement. But you could feel the energy among the Macedonians in the Republic and that something monumental was going to happen. As the polls closed on September 8, 1991, I arrived at the Skopje city square when the successful results of the referendum were announced. The independent Macedonia that was only a dream centuries ago, was now a reality! There were tears of joy and celebration among the Macedonians around me despite the fear that Yugoslav armies might arrive the next day and deny our independence.
We, at UMD, are spending time to genuinely reflect on the centuries-old struggle for Macedonian independence and the countless lives lost to ensure this dream and vision of a free and sovereign nation-state comes to fruition. The Ilinden Uprising in 1903 against the Ottoman Empire was the initial step, with grave sacrifices for independent Macedonia. At the end of World War II, the Republic of Macedonia got its statehood as part of the confederation of other republics in Yugoslavia. Even then, in 1944, Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia still tried to work toward independent Macedonia but folks like Eftim Gashev were arrested and served 7 years in prison for his dream of independent Macedonia. The pinnacle of the Macedonian fight for independence was September 8, 1991, when in a referendum, over 95% of Macedonians overwhelmingly voted to exit Yugoslavia and build their own independent country.
It should not be forgotten that the groundwork leading to the independence referendum in 1991 was laid by the Macedonian diaspora in Germany, Sweden, Canada, USA, Australia where in the 1970s and 80s Macedonian immigrants financially supported Dragan Bogdanovski, Blagoj Shambevski, Boris Mitskovski, Mile Ilievski and the rest of the Macedonian DOOM movement (Drustvo za Osloboduvanje I Obedinuvanje na Makedonija). The DOOM movement, and similar other organizations in the diaspora continued to print papers, met secretly in places like Staro Skopje in Munich to organize and support the Macedonians in the Republic in the late 80s and ensure that the communist regime in Yugoslavia will fall. There were sacrifices, Blagoj Shambevski was assassinated by the Yugoslav secret services, while Dragan Bogdanovski was imprisoned and served 9 years in prison.
Over the last 30 years, Macedonia’s path toward becoming a strong, modern independent country has been thorny. During this time, Greece has consciously blocked Macedonia’s right to self-determination by forcing the country to change its flag, name, and constitution to hide its considerable Macedonian minority. Bulgaria continues to blackmail Macedonia in its path toward EU membership by trying to re-write history. Some internal forces in Macedonia have worked to destabilize the country toward forming greater Albania.
The Macedonian struggle is far from over and Macedonians need to be vigilant in protecting our sacred land, history, ethnicity. The rule of law, corruption, nepotism and political machinations have continued to plague the country over these last 30 years. Macedonia needs to rise, stand up to the bullies in the Balkans, and focus on continuing to become a strong and modern country. The Macedonian diaspora worldwide will continue to be the bedrock to protect, promote and preserve our Macedonia. United, We Can and we will make a stronger, more successful Macedonia in the next 30 years.
Za mnogu godini neka ni e 8mi septemvri!