The Macedonian Tendency: April 2012

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Family Tree - "If Macedonians in Greece Were Treated Like Gypsies ..."

David Edenden

A frequent topic of conversation at family gatherings was my grandfather re-telling the story of how he suffered for the "Macedonian Cause". He was never a partisan during the Greek Civil War, but most of his relatives were and that was good enough for the Greek police to send him to a prison island near Solon for a year. His younger brother (who also was never a partisan and never went to jail) in a display of sibling rivalry always insisted that my grandfather was imprisoned at the time the Greeks were arresting the women!

He started following hockey when he heard that there was a young Croatian playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His name was Frank Mahovolich. My grandfather had it on good authority, according to someone's brother-in-law's second cousin, that Frank had Macedonian friends and could even speak Macedonian. As part of my grandfather's pan-Slavic "Brotherhood and Unity" fantasy, he switched his allegiance from the Toronto Maple Leafs to Montreal Canadiennes when Frank was traded. This caused a great rift in the family who, although they loved Frank, thought it was treason to turn their back on the Maple Leafs.

My grandfather learned to read English by reading the stories about the Toronto Maple Leafs in the newspaper.

One day at his house, I saw an in-depth article in the paper about Gypsies in Skopje. This was in the 1980's. It said Gypsies had their own suburb, city councilors, a Member of Parliament, and I believe they could learn their Rom language for a few hours a week and I think a radio show in their own language.

Many commentators have praised Macedonia for being relatively accepting of Gypsies, as opposed to their neighbors. My thought: If Macedonia is a model for Gypsies in Eastern Europe, they they must be really treated like s***t in those countries.

I can't remember the article very well but my grandfather's reaction, I do remember very well.
I was watching quietly, and impatiently, as he read and re-read the article making sure, I guess, that he understood the whole thing. When he finished he took off his glasses, and slightly trembling, he said in a quivering voice full of emotion:

"If Macedonians in Greece were treated the way that Gypsies are treated in the Republic of Macedonia, I would be happy".