Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Mancevski Gives Greece A History Lesson

Milcho Manchevski Source:

Prominent Macedonian movie director Milco Mancevski in an interview with Athenian newspaper 'Eleftherotypia' calls on Athenians to consider the damage that may be caused by the nationalist hysteria against Macedonia, to learn about history from unbiased sources and realize that they are not entitled to interfere in the decision of Macedonians on their name.

- Your readers should think about the harm such nationalist hysteria, narcissism and manipulative politicians may cause. First of all, people should study unbiased sources and learn a bit more about their own history. Denial, propaganda and hysterical reactions from a position of power will not alter the historical truth, Mancevski says.

He says that his movie 'Shadows' presents the suffering of Aegean Macedonians without mentioning Greece.

- It is sad that the ethnic cleansing of Aegean Macedonians is not a publicly known fact in Greece. There are many historical, independent data, including the 1914 Carnegie Commission Report, and I will ask you to speak with tens thousands of Macedonian refugees and their children that live in Toronto, Melbourne, Tashkent, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic ... I am not talking about a movie characters, but about real people of flash and blood who suffered the pain of a genuine ethnic cleansing. They have lost their families, been expelled from their own homes in Greece. Yes, some of them under a threat of napalm, used for the first time in Gramos - according to witnesses - or bayonets. I would ask you to consider the fact that in 1923 official Greece published a primer for the first grade in Macedonian language in Cyrillic alphabet for Macedonian pupils in Greece, to withdraw it later on and to deny that it ever existed. I would also like to point out the fact that Macedonian toponymes, which you call Slavic, in what official Greece in that period was calling 'newly occupied territories', were erased under official decrees, while the language was banned. Even the word 'Macedonia', which is seemingly in the focus of the current, ridiculus dispute, was not used in Greece before the last 20 years. Yours Ministry of Macedonia and Trakia was the Ministry of Northern Greece and Trakia until the late 1980s. And the repression over the word 'Macedonia', and afterwards changing of the course for 180 degrees with insisting on the exclusive rights of using this particular word - are two aspects of the same strategy - (Greece's) strategy that attempts to assimilate the country, its culture and heritage. However, Macedonia had never been a part of Greece until 1912. And no extent of political hysteria, denial and violence will not change the fact that the Greek province Macedonia has been part of Greece for just a blink of an eye form the historical point of view - only 95 years, Mancevski says.

I have friends Macedonians, born in Uzbekistan, Checkoslovakia because their parents during their childhood had to fled across the border in order to save their lives . They grew up in orphanages, Mancevski says.

- I have a female friend in Cologne, whose grandmother died in the snow in an attempt to cross the Greek border. I know people with broken hearts for being unable to return, visit the graves of their parents, houses of their birth, already confiscated as (Greece) issues no visas to them. As a student, trying to obtain Greek visa at the Liaison Office in Skopje, I had to present a birth certificate of my parents to prove that Greece is not their place of birth; otherwise I could not have gotten a tourist visa. I have a friend in the US, who was banned to enter Greece because he had spoken about ethnic cleansing in the past. My grandfather was executed by a firing squad in Greece, Mancevski says.

He points out that the end of his 'Shadows' - when the main character buries bones and ghosts - sends a message to young people in Macedonia to move on, something that should also be done in Greece.

- But, first of all (Greeks) should admit the sins of their fathers. There is no progress and forgiveness without admitting the sins of the past. Recently Australia has apologized to Aborigines. Willy Brandt pleaded for forgiveness on his knees. Germany has admitted and accepted the responsibility for its deeds and now it moves on towards better future. Actually people in my country desperately wish to move from the past and head to the future, believing that NATO, EU and global integration is the road to the future and having hardship to achieve this goal. Our integration has been blocked exactly by Greek politicians, who are stirring up the nationalist hysteria for own political benefit at home, while making attempts to hide the atrocities of the past, Mancevski says.

For him the name dispute is ridiculous, and Greece's attempt to impose a name that suits Athens is an act of ultimate rudeness.

- Let's admit that the name dispute is preposterous, as if it is a product of Becket or Jonesko. It is a justification for imposing a blockade on this poor country, which ruins its economy, and for it to be destabilized by vetoing its rise within the international community. This selfish behaviour is dangerous. The claim that small Macedonia with 8,000 soldiers might be an irredentist threat to the powerful NATO member Greece with 240,000 soldiers, air force and equipment is extremely ridiculous. The macho-elephant is afraid of a mouse. The issue of good upbringing is more important. What is giving you the right to come to my home and tell me how I can or cannot call myself? Don't you think that it is a result of extreme rudeness, Mancevski says.

He also points out the difference between Macedonians in Macedonia and those living in Northern Greece (also called Macedonia).

- People in Greece that you refer to as Macedonians are Greeks that live in Macedonia (Northern Greece). They are ethnic Greeks, such as a Greek from Trakia, who calls himself Greek Trakian. On the other hand, majority of people living in the Republic of Macedonia are ethnic Macedonians. That is how I feel, how my father, grandfather felt. At the beginning of the 20th century there were migrants from the Ottoman Empire heading to the US, who declared themselves as ethnic Macedonians. These facts cannot disappear, no matter how many childish, angry statements the Greek politicians will give or how many vetoes and embargoes Greece is going to impose. It may be difficult to explain this concept to the citizens of Greece, considering the fact that it is the one and only European country that denies the existence of minorities, their rights, for which the country has been reprimanded by many international institutions. But this is a matter of identity and dignity, which are essential for every human being and it is extremely insulting when someone is trying to play games in this respect, Mancevski says.