The recent ugly incident in Ohrid, a picturesque lakeside town in southern Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, (FYROM), involving the defacement of a bus carrying Greek and international tourists into this beautiful city has caused this writer great sorrow.
In approximately 1949, my maternal grandparents, hailing from Argos Orestikon – a komopoli (small city) just outside of Kastoria – along with one of their daughters and one of their sons, settled in Ohrid.
My mother and her late brother, Peter, were left stranded in Kastoria, before eventually migrating to Melbourne in approximately 1962.
My uncle Peter made a trip to Ohrid, with his entire family in 1969.
Uncle Peter died tragically in 1973 but not before re-uniting, albeit briefly, with his entire family.
Unfortunately, my maternal grandfather died in 1975.
My mother was never given the opportunity of having a father to love and idolize.
I remember her quiet sobs when she read of her father’s death in a letter that we received from Ohrid.
My maternal grandparents are buried in Ohrid while my uncle, auntie and my several first cousins live in this multicultural town.
It’s not a unique story but an essential one at that, as we should not sanitise the brutality, barbarism and life-long trauma caused by the Greek Civil War.
Mum got around to meeting her mother (for all of three months), as well as her remaining siblings, in June 1980.
Meanwhile, back in a Kastorian village in the 1930s, my paternal grandmother died during pregnancy, leaving behind a distraught father, and three little boys without a mother.
Mum lost her dad while my dad lost his mum.
Now this madness in Ohrid!
What I will suggest in the passages to follow are my own personal views.
One does not need a Masters degree in Mediation from Harvard University to recognize that the “Macedonian” question can only be resolved by both warring parties agreeing to accept a proposal that they can both live with, not necessarily warmly embrace.
As only one of thousands of Greek Australians whose life trajectory has been inexorably altered by the Greek Civil War and the ensuing fall-out of the “Macedonian” question, enough is enough.
Good and decent people live in Florina and Kozani in Greece, and good and decent people live in Bittola and Ohrid across the border in FYROM.
With regards to issues pertaining to religion and ethnicity, it’s a damn shame that people sharing similar DNA and essentially observing the same Christian religious denomination, Eastern Orthodox Christianity (or variants thereof), should be pitifully prolonging and protracting an inane dispute.
Enough of the blame game ; I’m not going to bucket Bakoyiannnis, Karamanllis or the FYROM leadership.
My personal view is that from perspective of both Athens and Skopje, the characterization of the geographical area comprising the current nation state of FYROM as “Upper Macedonia” is not prejudicial to either Greece or FYROM.
We Greek Australians need to realize, respect and accept the fact that from Skopje’s perspective, the name FYROM is simply an ad-hoc, transitional name.
As Greeks, can we really expect the citizens of FYROM to be satisfied with having an acronym as the name of their State?
On the other hand, the agit-prop emanating from certain extremist elements in Skopje must cease.
Both camps need to snap out of their historical self-absorption and realize that the entire Macedonian region has been a thoroughfare for Ottoman, Roman, Venetian, Vlach, Greek and Jewish civilizations over the course of the last two thousand years.
A pro-Greek Obama administration, in tandem with the unquestionable intellectual vigor of Senator Hillary Clinton, French leader Nicholas Sarkozy and Britain’s Gordon Brown will hopefully sought out this thoroughly unnecessary and unpleasant mess.
There’s enough pain going around in this issue for everyone to hold on to a never-ending grievance.
To paraphrase the Israeli novelist and political writer, Amos Oz, if we can’t be friends, then let’s be civilised enough to obtain a divorce in order to put this unfinished business behind us, once and for all.
Theo Giantsos is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to NKEE