The Spark and the New Leaf: The Aromanians of Macedonia

Introduction: Researching the Aromanians of Macedonia

My sabbatical research on the Aromanians of Macedonia (former Yugoslavia) began in late March 1999, and I left Macedonia on January 23, 2000. My husband Phillip Guddemi, a cultural anthropologist, was with me to assist with the research. Our arrival corresponded with the beginnings of the Kosovo war, which was a very troubling event for the citizens of Macedonia, as well as for us. But we were received very hospitably and generously, spending two weeks in the home of one of my distant relatives. They introduced us to a private tutor for the Macedonian language. We did not begin interviewing elders in Bitola or in the mountain villages until after the end of the Kosovo conflict in June 1999, partly because we felt it was inappropriate to try to commence such a project during the conflict. It also took time to develop contacts, since we knew that the only way that we could find elders to interview is via a network of personal contacts.

By June of 1999 we felt more settled and we were able to begin the work we had originally planned. Our contacts began to expand, both through my relatives and their social circles, and through others which we were able to develop. We were not focusing only on self-identified or activist Aromanians, but on the larger universe of people who possess some Aromanian heritage. We based ourselves in the city of Bitola, the “second city” of the Republic of Macedonia with a 1994 population of 84,002. Aromanian activists in Bitola estimate an Aromanian population of between 10,000 and 15,000 in that city, although the 1994 census of Macedonia lists only 8,462 “Vlachs” (a term which in Macedonia is synonymous with Aromanians) in the entire country. The larger figures almost certainly refer to Aromanian heritage rather than to the number of fluent Aromanian speakers in Bitola. We have discovered that the speaking of Aromanian in Bitola has declined precipitously in the last 90 years and especially in the last 50 years, and even in the historically “Vlach” neighborhoods it is increasingly rare to hear the ancient language on the street, where Macedonian is spoken by all. In the schools, there is something of a revival of the Aromanian language as an elementary school subject, and we studied some of the language from an elementary school textbook used there. But for purposes of everyday communication it is rare to hear Aromanian in Bitola, except within the bosom of a declining number of families.

During the course of our research we also visited the five Vlach mountain villages near Bitola. One of these, Magarevo, was the village from which my grandfather Mihali Kara emigrated; today it is only 20 minutes from Bitola by taxi. Trnovo is just below Magarevo, and Nižopole is also a similar distance from Bitola. These villages were largely destroyed in World War I and today they are often lived in by “summer people” rather than year round. The other two Bitola mountain villages with Vlach heritage are Malovište and Gopeš. We also visited the famous town of Kruševo, a largely Vlach settlement which is a shrine to Macedonian nationalism, and the capital city of Skopje, which has a large Aromanian population; and we saw near Štip a rural Aromanian sheepfold where cheese was made in an ancient manner.

The Aromanians’ own name for themselves is “Armân,” but their neighbors generally call them some variant of “Vlach” (for example, in Macedonian the adjective form is “Vlaški,” a male Vlach is a “Vlav” and a female Vlach is a “Vlanka”). The origins of the word “Vlach” are ancient but it refers to a people speaking a Romance language, a language deriving from Latin. In the Balkans, the word “Vlach” has been used for four or more different groups, including the Romanians (the region of Bucharest is called “Wallachia” which is pronounced “Vlachia”). The Aromanians are the “Vlachs” of the southern Balkans, including what is now Greece, Albania, southern and western Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia. Other terms for the Aromanians include the Serbian word “Tsintsar,” which comes from the Aromanian word for the number “five,” and the Greek word “Kutzovlach” which is somewhat insulting.

Romanian linguists have written that the Aromanian language is related to Romanian, sharing most of the latter’s grammatical features and much of its word stock including words derived from early non-Latin sources. On the other hand, within Macedonia some Aromanian activists we know are just as likely to stress the resemblances of Aromanian to certain dialects of Italian. Greek activists claim that Aromanian derives from Greek, but this is not believed by scholars outside of Greece. As with all cultural matters in the Balkans, the question of the origins and relationships of the Aromanian language is a political question, and in Macedonia many active Vlachs are wary of associating themselves with the Romanian or Greek “propagandas” which have since the late 19th Century claimed in some manner that the Aromanians are “really” Romanian, or “really” Greek.

By asking elders, aged 60-90, about their own grandparents, we were able to develop a picture of Aromanian life — beginning in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, when Macedonia was still under the rule of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The occupations of our interviewees’ ancestors were from the “trading Vlachs” and, more rarely, the sheepherding Vlachs. But other occupations of Aromanians in those times included a number of “townish” trades and the profession of pechalba — someone who works abroad to send money home.

This picture of the Aromanians which emerges from these interviews is of course not “the unadulterated historical truth.” It is memory not history, and it is constructed always from the point of view of the present looking back. Stories of events can change over the lifetime even of individuals, and the stories of the Aromanian past may be especially idealized because of the difficult history which followed that past. But that idealization itself has a function in the life of Aromanians, who are now trying to find pride in a heritage in a new time in which minorities are officially recognized but not always unofficially appreciated, particularly in the Balkans. Of course, as someone of Aromanian background myself, I recognize my own predilections for constructing an idealized past — and as a “diaspora” Aromanian, I recognize that this idealizing tendency has worked some mischief in the case of other peoples and nations in the region.

The Aromanians as They Defined Themselves by Occupations

Since their emergence into history in the 10th Century (see e.g. Winnifrith 1987), the Aromanians have always been considered people of the mountains. This distinguishes them from the so- called Daco-Romanians, that is, the Romanians of Romania and one river valley in Serbia, who have had for centuries large farming populations in lowlands. In the Southern Balkans, so-called Vlachs or Aromanians have mostly been associated with mountains and mountain passes. Even when flying over some of the sections of Greece and Macedonia where Aromanians live, when one sees a village which is surprisingly at the top of the mountain rather than down in the valley, it is often a valid assumption to conclude that it is an Aromanian village.

This kind of settlement pattern is of course associated with certain ways of making a living. These high mountains are not suitable for grain farming, and indeed the so-called “peasant” lifestyle has stereotypically been spurned by Aromanians of the Pelister area. We have heard that they would do almost anything else, but not farm. “Our women do not stoop or work with a sickle”. Rather, the Aromanians from the earliest times have been associated with a way of life called by anthropologists transhumance. This means migrating from lowland winter pastures to highland summer pastures, and it is associated usually with sheep and sometimes goats (although Aromanians have also bred cattle, horses, and other livestock). The word “Vlach” has become associated with herdsmanship in languages throughout the Balkans and even through Central and Eastern Europe.

Something which has been insufficiently appreciated is that the full-time herding of livestock is not a self-sufficient lifestyle, and in fact always exists as part of a trading relationship between the herdspeople and either agriculturalists or townspeople. The herders, or pastoralists, trade the products of their way of life — leather, wool, dairy products, and occasionally meat — with agriculturalists who provide cereals and other plant products. This is the earliest and simplest exchange which allows the specialization of pastoralism to develop, according to anthropologists. In historic times trading networks became far more complex and involved urban populations. The Latin-based speech of the Aromanians demonstrates that their ancestors were deeply involved in economic and social relationships in the Roman Empire, probably with urban as well as agricultural populations. Unfortunately, no one has proved definitively who the ancestors of the Aromanians were in that period, or where they lived in the wider Balkan area, and both scholars and local people themselves have in the past decided their views on this matter according to political and national perspectives rather than strictly “impartial” grounds. We did collect some folk theories on the origins of the Aromanians but they were not as such part of our research. They will be discussed in a later section.

In my research I asked a number of elders about their own grandparents and their ways of life and professions. The period which these questions illuminate is that of the very late “Turkish time,” that is, the declining years of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th Century and earliest 20th Century. This is also the best documented period for the ways of life of the Aromanians, and it is the heritage which my grandfather Mihali Kara brought with him when he emigrated to the United States in 1912. At this time, the Aromanians or Vlachs in the Pelister area were engaged in many ways of life, including but not limited to shepherding and the trading of pastoral products, artisan work, and the life of the “conquering Balkan Orthodox merchant” (as a famous article called it (Stoianovich 1960)). They themselves say that their ancestors would do anything — except agriculture. (Parenthetically, although Aromanians tended to define themselves as non-agricultural, in the Pelister villages today some families grow a few small crops for their own consumption.)

Shepherds of the Pelister region would have flocks of thousands of sheep with which they would move from summer pastures in the Pelister mountains near Bitola to warmer, winter lowland pastures most often in what is now Greece, near Salonika (Thessaloniki) or Larisa. The transhumant shepherd lifestyle was also prominent in the Štip area near Skopje, and in the west of Macedonia in the Belica villages near Struga. There is evidence of this type of shepherd Vlach going back hundreds of years in the Balkans; however, all of the transhumant shepherds in then Yugoslav Macedonia were “sedentarized” by the Communist government in the late 1940s, and the ancient Aromanian transhumant way of life in the Southern Balkans only exists in some parts of Greece (although a similar transhumance persisted in Romania, even through the Communist period). In Yugoslav Macedonia, large and even small flocks were nationalized and the proud owners were put to work for a pittance caring for collective (i.e. government) flocks — which was the nature of the operation we saw near Štip, in the northeast of the Republic of Macedonia.

Even from the 10th and 11th Centuries, and possibly before, the products which the Aromanians traded to lowland and urban populations included “Vlach cheese” (as noted in 11th Century Byzantine poetry), wool and wool garments, leather, rugs and carpets. The most common and everyday cheese of Macedonia has the name of kashkaval which is Vlach for “horse cheese” or cheese transported by a caravan of horses. This cheese was traded throughout Europe and we have even seen smoked caccia cavallo in an Italian supermarket in Sacramento, California. In the division of labor among the “nomadic” Aromanians it was the men who herded the animals and made the cheese, while the women wove rugs and carpets and did other textile work. It was legendary that hardworking Aromanian women would knit socks as they walked from Magarevo to Bitola. The “rug culture” of the Old World extends from Central Asia to Turkey and into the Balkans, and the Aromanians participated in this culture by making kilimi (this is originally a Turkish word referring to colorful flat woven carpets) and flocati (which is an Aromanian word for single-color, high-pile rugs made by a process involving flowing water, which tightens the weave).

But the shepherd Aromanians were only one sort of Aromanian in the Balkans. Particularly in the Pelister area, a trading elite had developed which was prominent in the mountain villages of Gopeš, Malovište, and Magarevo, but which also extended to wealthy Vlachs with a Pelister background in urbanized centers such as Bitola, Ohrid, Struga, Prilep, and Skopje, not to mention Salonika, Belgrade, and Istanbul. The long distance trading activities of these Aromanians also appeared to have an ancient, if not well documented, history, similar to their counterparts in Kruševo and in the Aromanian communities in what is now Greece. In our interviews with descendants of traders, we were told about karvani or caravans of up to fifty horses, and donkeys and mules were also important in transport. Trade routes organized in this manner extended from Vienna to Istanbul and Salonica, although we most often heard about trade routes in modern Albania and Macedonia, and thence to Belgrade or Istanbul. They were like long-haul truck drivers of today in that they sometimes would take goods which were not their own on a for-hire basis. (With an odd appropriateness, one of the founders of the Vlach association in Bitola has traded in his pre-independence office job for work as a long-haul truck driver.) Caravan drivers who did this were called kiradji (a word of Turkish origin). Of course, more typically the caravan drivers would engage in their own buying and selling. Some trading Vlachs worked as innkeepers along the trading roads where the caravans stopped for the night. We interviewed a man who was born near Malovište who had very interesting stories about his innkeeper ancestors on the main trading road which ran along the route of the ancient Via Egnatia. He told of their relationship to the ruling Turks as well as marauding bandits, whom he and our other interviewees most often identified as having been Albanian bandits. These bandits were of course hazards to the long distance traders, who would hire Albanian guards to help them through difficult regions. For example, a prominent retired professional in his 90s told us that one of his caravan driver ancestors once hired an Albanian who stopped the caravan and disappeared for hours. It turned out that the guard had gone ahead into a notorious Albanian village, and made arrangements that the caravan could pass safely. But some Aromanians have family traditions that in this period there were Aromanians who were killed by Albanian “thieves”.

Pre-World War I Magarevo

(Ironically, we believe that the main reason that ethnic Albanians figure in accounts of this time as brigands, and protectors from brigands, is that the Aromanian traders in the Pelister area were concerned, perhaps more than other traders were, with trade routes through areas of substantial Albanian population, including Albania proper. As scholarship has shown, brigandage was a danger in many areas of the Balkans during that era. There was of course constant contact, which was later interrupted by borders, between the sizable Aromanian population of what is now Albania and that of the Pelister area. Today Macedonia’s Aromanians, including those of Bitola as well as Skopje, are again re-establishing ties of friendship and heritage with their fellow Aromanians in Albania.)

Others of the “trading Vlachs” were storekeepers, both in the mountain villages and in Bitola itself. Many of our interviewees told us that there had been a particular section of Bitola which was called the Vlaški čaršija (“Vlach market” in Turkish-influenced Macedonian). In fact, at least two different areas of Bitola were called the Vlaški čaršija by different interviewees, and others maintained that there was a strong Vlach presence in many other market areas of old Bitola, including the stara čaršija (the “old market” dating back many centuries, which is still an important feature of the town) and the bezisten (the covered market, still important in Bitola, and also dating back many centuries to the Turkish era). The flourishing of Aromanian businesses in Bitola was mostly in the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century. These businesses were equally prominent in Magarevo, Trnovo, and Gopeš, and it was also told to us that many of the Bitola storekeepers and traders worked in the city during the week and returned home to Magarevo for the weekend.

We discovered that there were not only Vlach storekeepers but also artisans, especially in the Bitola area. For example, my great-grandfather Costa Kara’s close cousin Lazar was known as one of the best “tinsmiths” of the area. This trade consisted in making copper vessels, for example cookware, and then covering them with tin because it was not considered healthy to cook with or eat off of pure copper. Lazar plied this trade in Bitola.

Probably a more common artisan pursuit in Magarevo and the other mountain villages was that of tailoring. Some of the best tailors had customers coming directly to them, while other tailors would go from village to village taking measurements and then returning with the tailored garments which had been ordered. They would make garments for each village according to the traditional colors and designs of the particular village. My own great-grandfather Costa Kara, according to family remembrances, combined the former type of tailoring with embroideries specially made for the Turkish customer base. His Turkish clients came directly to his home in Magarevo, because of his reputation for fine needlework. After the Turks left, he may have had to take a job in one of the textile “factories” in Magarevo, which were run by the wealthier Pikuli family — however, this factory itself only existed until the Communist expropriations of the late 1940s, after which time its equipment was reputedly taken to the Titex factory in Tetovo, in the ethnic Albanian region of Macedonia. This state controlled factory was still in operation as of 1999. The Pikuli factory was run using water power from the stream that forms the border between the villages of Magarevo and Trnovo.

Other artisan occupations of the Aromanians in the region included watch repair, shoe construction and repair, hatmaking, and home construction. (We interviewed an elder hat maker who is still working in his hat store in the stara čaršija; Costa Kara had helped him start his business in the 1940s and he is still in business in his 90s.) These traditional occupations were filled by Turks, Macedonians, and Albanians in other regions of Macedonia, but in the Bitola area in particular it was the Aromanians who were prominent in filling these social niches. Interestingly, Wace and Thompson (1913) note that the Aromanians in Samarina, which is now in Greece (but which shared its Ottoman history with other parts of Macedonia), spurned these types of artisan roles.

There was definitely a class hierarchy among the Aromanians in this period. In general, the traders felt themselves to be at the top, the artisans in the middle, and the shepherds somewhat less prestigious. However, this can be somewhat misleading as it seems that wealth was its own reward, whatever the occupation. A very wealthy shepherd with several thousands of sheep could command a lot of respect. Poorer shepherds with 50 or sometimes even 20 sheep might double as woodcutters in season, but a pastoral Aromanian without sheep was hardly to be imagined. Hired shepherds were said in many of our accounts to have been taken from the neighboring Macedonian or Albanian communities, although it did emerge that there were in fact some Aromanians who were unfortunate enough to fill such a role. In general, we were told that the trading Aromanians were socially separate from the shepherd Aromanians, and even that the two groups did not intermarry, although my own family history and others contradict this in particular cases.

At the opposite pole from low-status shepherds were the Aromanians who even in this period were establishing themselves in the professions and even in politics. These often came from the very wealthiest Aromanian trading families, whose names were bywords for wealth in the region the way that the Rockefellers were in an earlier America and perhaps Bill Gates is today. One such family was the Economou family of Magarevo and later Bitola. When winter delayed payment of the Ottoman army in Bitola, one famous member of the Economou family fronted the money so that the soldiers could be paid. It is unclear whether contemporaries were more amazed that he helped the Turks or that the money was paid back, as there was no collateral on the loan except the word of the pasha (the regional Ottoman leader). Other families who were bywords for wealth included the Danabash and the Lala families. Parents would say to female children with extravagant dreams, “do you think that you are the daughter of Danabash?” One member of the Lala family became a musician and studied with Wagner; today in Bitola his home is now a museum which showcases not only his musical career but also his typical German upper-middle-class home furnishings. When referring to this time, Bitola residents often refer to how many family homes in that city had pianos, another symbol of the wealth and status attained by some Aromanian families of this period.

One of the main strategies for gaining wealth beyond what could be made in the southern Balkans was to work elsewhere. The emigrant worker, often a single male, moving to a more developed country and working to send money back home, is something we think of as a late 20th-Century phenomenon. But this was in fact an old strategy in this part of the Balkans, and it has its own word in the Macedonian (Makedonski) language, pečalba. The pečalbari is a migrant for economic reasons who hopes to return and re-establish himself at home, meanwhile serving as a support for family left behind. Many Aromanian songs are poignant farewells for sons who have gone away to the United States, to Romania, or elsewhere for this reason. But a few pečalbari made their fortunes abroad, sometimes in unlikely places like Egypt, and returned to their local villages or cities to live as some of the wealthiest people there.

Those of our interviewees who were or had been academics stressed another aspect of the influential Aromanians of that time and later. They referred to such works as O Cincarima by the Serbian writer Popovic (1998[1937]), which demonstrated that many Aromanians who had emigrated to Belgrade became important figures in Serbian commerce and history. One example was the dramatist Branislaw Nucic. Clearly these academics had for a long time been asserting themselves in a Serbian dominated Yugoslav intellectual climate. Other Aromanians of the 19th and early 20th Centuries had had important roles in Greece, for example one man who built and donated the stadium for the first Olympic games in Athens in 1896. Still other Aromanians were prominent in the Romanian national movement, and there is evidence of an Aromanian role in the Albanian national movement as well. These were Aromanians who gave themselves fully over to the cause of nations and nation-states which on their part failed to return the favor by recognizing the rights of Aromanians themselves to their own ancient language and culture.

The Places of Aromanian Identity — The Villages and the Town Neighborhoods

Out of the hundreds of villages in what is now the Republic of Macedonia, there are only a few which are considered Aromanian villages. For centuries Aromanian villages were noted for being in high places, often commanding isolated valleys which are encircled by mountains. This was not only because shepherd Aromanians used these high mountain areas for good grazing. Another reason was that Turkish officials were much less likely to visit isolated mountain areas. There is evidence that the Balkan population in the last couple centuries of Ottoman rule moved en masse to the mountain regions in order to escape governmental scrutiny. Actually, in some regions the Aromanians who were near mountain passes were valuable to the Turkish administration, and were given special rights as a result. Their status was freer than the Christian agricultural population who in some cases were hardly better than serfs.

Some of the wealthiest and highest status Aromanians in the world were located near the Pelister mountain in the southwest of what is now the Republic of Macedonia. The Pelister mountain is a peak, on the Baba range, which is 2,601 meters high. The Aromanian villages are located on the foothills of the Baba range in the region of that peak. Magarevo, Trnovo, and Nižopole are located on the eastern side of Pelister, facing the city of Bitola (which under the name of Heraclea was founded by Philip the Great in the 4th Century B.C.) Nižopole has the more hidden site inside a cleft of the mountain, while Trnovo and Magarevo sit on the side of the mountain, separated only by a small stream. Magarevo is located above Trnovo. To the west is the village of Malovište, hidden in a mountain massif south of the Macedonian village of Kažani. The ancient Aromanian village of Gopeš is not located on Pelister but on a ridge of a different mountain to the north, but historically its fate and populations have been linked with the Pelister villages.

Beginning in the 19th Century, Christians began to migrate to the cities of the Ottoman Balkans. In the previous centuries since the Ottoman conquest in the 14th Century, urban populations had largely been Muslim and Jewish. The Aromanians were the first Christian group to achieve prominence in the commerce of Bitola, which was usually known at that time by its Greek name Monastir. (The Aromanian place name is Bituli.) The Aromanians made their homes in the area which is now considered the center of town, a district of 19th Century houses on both sides of the main street called in Turkish the širak sokak (a paradoxical designation meaning something like the “wide alley”; its most recent name was Marshal Tito Boulevard, which is still used for addresses). Aromanians established businesses in a number of the market districts of old Bitola, both as merchants and as craftspeople in a great number of fields.

Aromanians and Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire

The history of the Balkans is tangled and confusing, and the smallest event always seems to have to be explained in a complicated historical context. In the 19th Century, people all over Europe were “awakening” ethnic groups and transforming them into “nations,” even though they might never have thought of themselves as such. Often this was deliberately so these nations could later serve as the core of independent nation-states. Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire had a unique, nonterritorial way of administering its subjects, based on religious (and, later, national) categories called millets. Each millet, such as the Muslim, the Jewish, and the (Orthodox) Christian, had its own code of laws and law courts, and its own responsibilities to the Sultan. For example, the Muslim millet had lower taxes than the Christian, but Muslim young men were conscripted into the army and Christian young men, in the late 19th Century, were not. At first all the Christians of the Balkans were in the millet of Rum, a word which actually referred to the “Roman” Byzantine Empire.

Greece, in 1830, was the first of the new nation-states of the Balkans to emerge from the Ottoman rule. Then Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania became independent. In 1878 Bulgaria was awarded all of Macedonia, including large portions of what is now Greece, but the Treaty of Berlin later that year returned Macedonia to Ottoman rule. This was the first example of great power “adjustment” of the status quo in the Balkans, but it has been far from the last. After the Treaty of Berlin it appeared to everyone, including probably the Ottoman Empire itself, that Ottoman rule over Christian peoples in the Balkans was living on borrowed time. The independent Balkan Christian nations surrounding Macedonia saw it as a pie ready to be divided and consumed. There was a move for Macedonian independence, but it was small and poorly financed compared to the movements supported by nation-states. The Macedonian (Makedonski)-speaking people of what is now the Republic of Macedonia, of Bulgaria, and of Greece were the primary targets of what their descendants in the Republic of Macedonia now call “the propagandas.” Bulgarians, who by now had an independent church called the “exarchate” and separate millet status within the Ottoman Empire, financed churches and schools throughout Macedonia to influence the population toward a Bulgarian “national consciousness.” The Greeks, who inherited the millet of Rum, in their turn financed schools and churches influencing the people toward conceiving themselves as nationally “Greek” whatever their ethnic origin. A significant number of both Aromanians and Macedonian-speaking people in fact were so influenced.

In the Aromanian villages it was not the Bulgarians and Greeks who strived for the national consciousness of the Vlachs. It was the Romanians and the Greeks. The Greeks had the advantage of being a long-established, wealthy, commercial culture with a respected language and a dominant church. But some Aromanians, keeping in mind that their language is closer to Romanian than to any other living language in the Balkans, accepted the Romanian position that the Aromanians are really Romanians. The Romanians supported this position with money for schools and churches, but it was the Romanian language of Bucharest, rather than the Aromanian language of the Pelister villages, which was taught in schools and which formed the basis for the church services. The first Romanian-language school in the Aromanian world was established in Trnovo in 1864, but later in the 19th Century the split between Romanophile and Grecophile Aromanians turned bloody. One of our interviews mentions that the Greeks killed the Romanian teacher in Trnovo and then the people of that village could only attend the Greek school.

It was repeatedly claimed in our interviews, as something like a proverbial saying, that a Vlach who was rich became a Greek. Thus the conflict between the different propagandas of Aromanian national identity took on a class meaning, the rich merchants (who often traded with Greek speakers throughout the Balkans) taking the Greek side, the poorer shepherds and some of the artisans taking the Romanian. But this was not a hard and fast rule, and people changed their “sides” based on all sorts of factors. Regarding the incentive for the rich to take the Greek side, we have to remember that Greek speakers were very important in the trading community of the Balkans in those days, so it was a rational “business” choice to give one’s children (especially boys) exposure to Greek, over and above any political commitments this might have implied. The street on which we lived in Bitola, Belgradska, was a street of the Grecophile Aromanians. Nearby is the church of St. Dimitri, built in 1835 “by the Vlachs and Greeks” (in the phrase of one of our hosts). According to contemporary observers the “Vlachs and Greeks” were in fact almost totally Aromanians if one uses as the main criterion the language they learned at their mothers’ knees.

A few intellectuals maintained an independent attitude, considering the Aromanians to be neither Greeks nor Romanians. After beginning on the Romanian side, the Apostol Margarit, who established the Trnovo school, began to talk about a distinct Aromanian identity. He is remembered in Bitola for donating land for a cemetery near the ancient Roman ruins of Heraclea. This is called in Bitola the “Vlach” cemetery and there is an inscription on the entry gate describing his donation. He is buried in the center of this cemetery. Also buried in this cemetery is Constantin Belimaci, the Malovište -born composer of the “national anthem” of the Aromanians, a dark song called “Parenteasca Dimandare” in which parents who do not teach their children the Aromanian language are cursed for all time. The song expresses fears about the survival of the Aromanian language and culture which were clearly valid fears even then; they are more valid today.

Right next door to the Vlach cemetery in Bitola is the Bukovo (or Bukovski) cemetery which was begun by the “Greek” contingent. The split between Grecophiles and Romanophiles, during this “period of the propagandas” before the Balkan Wars, is well remembered and was a major problem in the Aromanian community. Often the different groups would build different churches. The church of St. Peter in Malovište and that of St. Dimitri, built in 1834, in Magarevo, as well as the church of St. Dimitri in Bitola, were built originally as “Greek” churches. Among churches built by the Romanophile Aromanians were Holy Savior in Gopeš and Sts. Constantine and Helena in Bitola. We have accounts of churches, such as St. Mary (Stămăria) in Trnovo, and also Holy Savior in Gopeš, where the Grecophiles would sit on one side of the church and the Romanophiles on the other.

Because of its troubled history, we made a special study of the church of Sts. Constantine and Helena, which originally was located just off the širak sokak, where the Hotel Epinal is today. In fact, the Grecophile community was against this church’s construction and tried to prevent it. At one point the Grecophiles actually cooperated with the Ottomans in order to prevent further gains by its competitors in the Balkans. The builders of the Church of Sts. Constantine and Elena, in 1902 (according to our interviewee), had to conceal their intent as if they were building merely another house. They had gotten the approval of the local Turkish administration to have a church but were opposed by the Greek “Patriarchate” and, so it is said today, also the Bulgarian “Exarchate.” The builders put up a chimney as camouflage so that the “Greeks” would not destroy it; in fact, Grecophiles said that blood would flow if a church would be built. The Grecophiles ensured that the Turkish police had a gate built of brick to block off entry to the church, but there was a back door. The Romanophiles collected 50-60 “boys who were fighters” from Malovište and brought in icons and candles for the Christmas celebration through the back door. The service began and the candles were lit, and when the Greeks and Bulgarians saw this they brought in the Turkish police. But once they started the service, the Turks would not interrupt it, because the Koran prohibited this. The priests continued until 4 a.m., and it was very cold, so the Turkish police left. People went home, but then the Turks did close off the back door. After a month the authorities in Istanbul came through with a final approval and the church did begin operation.

(There is indirect support for this account, though possibly not for the date our informant gave, in a description, in Brailsford (1906:189-90), of a dispute over the burial of a man who was Grecophile but whose brother tried to bury him in a Romanophile chapel. Brailsford quotes a Greek publication of July 1, 1904 as saying “the suspicions of the public were confirmed by the fact that the said [Romanian] propaganda is building a house which has a strange resemblance to a chapel.” If this refers to the same incident, which seems likely, then it is probable the real date of construction was 1904 not 1902.)

In 1905, on May 22, the Aromanians got from Sultan Abdul Hamid of the Ottoman Empire the status of a separate millet, with rights to their own churches and their own education in their own language. Ironically, Aromanians in Kruševo as well as two other villages now in Greece had rebelled against the Ottoman Empire two years previously, on August 2, 1903. The Kruševo Rebellion on “Ilinden” (St. Elijah’s Day) is today considered the patriotic foundation of the Republic of Macedonia, the equivalent (although failed at the time) of the American Revolution. My husband and I went to Kruševo for the celebration in 1999 of this rebellion. The main night and day of the celebration comprise the most important national political event of the Republic of Macedonia, attended by tens of thousands, some of whom did not seem to know or care that Aromanians had been prominent in the original rebellion, although the Aromanians of Kruševo themselves are fiercely proud of this, and consider the national celebration to be theirs as well. There was Aromanian music later in the 10-day festival called the “ten days of freedom,” commemorating the ten days it took for the Kruševo Republic to be suppressed by the Ottoman soldiers in 1903. Among the most important leaders in Kruševo of the rebellion were the Aromanians Pitu Guli and Nikola Karev. Karev was President of the Kruševo Republic, while Pitu Guli led a memorable last-ditch stand at a place called the “Bear Stone” — sacrificing his life so that other rebels could escape with their lives. Aromanians today sometimes think it ironic that they were so willing to fight against the Ottoman Empire, when it was that very Ottoman Empire which gave them the greatest amount of official recognition. The Aromanians in Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Australia — but not in Greece or the U.S. — have adopted May 22 as the National Day of the Aromanians. As for the Turkish reasoning in allowing the separate status for Aromanians, it was probably simply another variation on “divide and rule.”

Within the villages themselves the Turkish administration recognized one of the prominent (and wealthy) citizens as kmet. The kmet was an intermediary between the people and the government and vice versa. Often the kmet would have prominent officials, judges, lawyers, and diplomats as guests. The position of kmet within the villages would continue in the Serbian administration. One of our older female interviewees was the daughter of the kmet of Nižopole during the Serbian administration (i.e. the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), and she remembers her father discussing cases with eminent lawyers who were guests at the house.

One man’s father’s grandfather was kmet in the Turkish period for the village of Magarevo. He was confronted by the Turkish police during Christmas, or possibly Easter, about the population’s custom of shooting off guns to celebrate. He said that he would tie the policeman to a donkey and transport him to the Turkish judge or valiya, and after that the people were left alone to shoot off their guns at the celebrations. It was this interviewee’s impression that the kmets were elected by the people of each village.

The Balkan Wars and the First World War

In 1912, seeing that the Ottoman Empire was weak (after having been defeated by Italy in a war for Libya), the Balkan nations of Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia made a temporary alliance and quickly drove the Turks from Macedonia, dividing it among themselves. (Under Austrian protection an Albanian state was created as well.) It was the fate of Bitola and its surrounding villages to become part of the Serbian realm. Bulgaria was unhappy with its share of Macedonia and fought Serbia and Greece in 1913 in the Second Balkan War, but Bulgaria lost even more territory in that war. Bulgaria of course had claimed all of Macedonia for its own since 1878.

The First World War began in Sarajevo with the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand. Austria blamed Serbia for this although in a sense it was an internal Austrian matter since Bosnia was under Austrian not Serbian rule. Alliances of all sorts were made manifest in a sort of cascade of confrontations, and by the end of 1914 it was clear that France and England were allied with Serbia, Russia, and eventually Greece, while on the other side Bulgaria, which hoped to use the war to gain territory in Macedonia, had allied itself with Austria and Germany, and eventually the Ottoman Empire.

The so-called Salonika Front was a catastrophe for the Pelister villages and for Bitola. The Bulgarians had reoccupied most of the Serbian sector, i.e. the present-day Republic of Macedonia. The French and the Bulgarians, the latter allied with the Germans, confronted each other along a battle line which went directly through Bitola and through the Aromanian villages of Magarevo and Trnovo. Magarevo had 1,000 houses before the war and 4 afterwards. Trnovo had a similar fate. This battle line was the scene of trench warfare of the typical World War I type and this trench warfare was the main reason for the destruction of the houses, often stone houses, of these villages (and of Bitola).

Gopeš, for its part, was taken as a headquarters of the Germans and was electrified (provided with electric power) because of that. Although this village benefited from the German occupation prior to 1916, one source of ours would have it that Gopeš was subsequently destroyed by Bulgarians in 1916 who “translocated” the inhabitants to Bulgaria, many never to return. He further notes that the “village chiefs” of the neighboring ethnic Macedonian village of Smilevo cooperated with the Bulgarians in this destruction. Malovište, which was not on the same front as the closer-in Pelister villages, also experienced according to one of our sources a similar destruction, going from 700 houses to only “10 or 20” after the First World War. Nižopole, which is in the Pelister area but not directly on the front, was also said by a source to have been “destroyed” in 1916, although it perhaps was more immediately resilient in recovery afterwards (and is the most lively, and Vlach, of the Pelister villages today).

Many from Malovište went to Serbia, as did many from Magarevo/Trnovo. Many of the Aromanians escaped early in the conflict to Romania or to Greece. Of those who remained in the Pelister villages, our sources report that the Bulgarian occupiers interned Vlachs in Bulgaria. This is a historical circumstance about which it is very difficult to find confirmational sources in English. However, our sources are unanimous about it, and these sources include published authors and well-respected leaders of the Aromanians in Bitola and Kruševo. (The Bulgarian internment of Vlachs also, according to a book in Macedonian which we were not able to obtain before leaving, included Vlachs from the Belica villages near Struga, which were not at all near the front.)

The Bulgarians had occupied the villages for some time when the internment took place, possibly in 1916 or possibly earlier. The Bulgarians’ order was that Aromanians could not leave for other countries but could only go into Bulgaria. Some accounts portray the exodus of villages as a “trail of tears” in which the old and the young had to walk long distances and in which many died in the process. From Kruševo this walk was to Gradsko near Veles, 100 kilometers away (but still in Vardar Macedonia, i.e. today’s Republic of Macedonia). This would have been the point from which Bulgarians transported them to Bulgaria proper. In World War I many Aromanians were interned in private farms in Bulgaria where they served as agricultural laborers, or as workers with cattle. They were “under the protection of the State” but were “working for just a piece of bread.” Those who did not find this kind of placement were placed in camps such as one in the Stara Zagora region of Bulgaria, a place which was specifically named by one of our sources and confirmed by another. One of our sources claimed that the Bulgarians had interned “320 families,” probably referring to the number of families interned from the village of Gopeš. As motive for the Bulgarians one Gopešani interviewee mentioned the struggle between Bulgaria and Romania over Dobruja; this assumes that the Bulgarians considered the Aromanians as Romanian nationals. It would also be plausible that many Aromanians were considered “Greek” by the Bulgarians at that time.

After the end of World War I the Aromanians who had been interned often emigrated to Greece, favoring many of the same destinations as those who had emigrated earlier to escape the Bulgarian internment: northern Greek cities with existing Aromanian populations such as Salonica, Veria, Naoussa, and Florina. Others emigrated to Belgrade, joining a sizable Aromanian community there of southern Balkan origin, or to Romania. Slowly Aromanians began to trickle back to the destroyed villages in the Pelister area and to start their old lives again. None of the villages ever became as populous or as prosperous as they had been before the war.

The Interwar Period (Serbian and/or Yugoslav Rule)

Serbian/Yugoslav domination of Macedonia was repressive in some ways to the Aromanians. Although formal agreements existed with Romania to continue the operation of Romanian schools, this was not honored in practice. One school, near where we lived on Belgradska, had been built as a Vlach school but ceased to be one at this time. Teachers were brought in from Serbia and these teachers told children that Aromanian was not a real language. Of course all students had to learn Serbian. Even the names of the people had to be changed. We examined a copy of a census document from around 1919 which was for the village of Gopeš; it had been kept by the church officials and the descendants of these church officials had kept a copy, made by hand by the church official at that time. It appeared that for this official document the inhabitants had been given Serbian names, usually based on their father’s name, in place of their traditional Aromanian family names. Later many people reverted to their traditional names but with a suffix appropriate to the rulers of the moment: thus, to use an example already used by Winnifrith (1988), Babo would become Babov for the Bulgarians, Babič for the Serbians, Babovski for the post-World-War-II Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Interestingly, in some documents dating to the early interwar period of Serbian domination, all Orthodox people were counted on official forms as being “Serbian” whether they were Macedonian or Aromanian.

But during the interwar period, in spite of the aforesaid Serbian domination, people were allowed to live and to practice their traditional crafts and professions. Many Aromanians continued to enter the professions and to trade, although of course the long-distance caravan trade of old could not be practiced due to the Balkan borders. The focus of the Aromanian sense of place became increasingly the “Vlaška maala” of Bitola itself, which, as we have mentioned, encompassed a large region around the central street.

Those Aromanians who remained in the somewhat more rural village of Nižopole were allowed a measure of self-government under a survival of the old “kmet” system. The descendant of the “kmet” of Nižopole talked to us, giving us a picture of the life of a wealthy rural Aromanian of the period. He was actually kmet not only of the Aromanian village of Nižopole, but also of the Macedonian villages of Brusnik and Dihovo. He was a manufacturer and trader of kashkaval cheese, selling kashkaval to Greece “in two wagons at a time.” He had “two mountainsides full of sheep: sheep on one side of the river, lambs on the other.” He employed 20 to 30 people as woodcutters, gardeners, shepherds, farmers, cheese makers, and weavers (the last being female). The farmers farmed wheat, potatoes, and vineyards. Large quantities of both wine and rakia (the strong homemade liquor of the Balkans) were produced from the vineyards. The rakia was served to guests not sold. These guests were very often Serbian lawyers, teachers, and priests.

Nižopole at that time was still a sizable village with a cafe, bakery, shoemaker, and grocery store, as well as tailors. The “fancy work” of tailoring was done by tailors in Magarevo. So we note that, in spite of the destruction of the First World War, the Pelister villages still had a thriving life which only diminished as a result of the urbanization after the Second World War.

We were told stories about how the kmet went to court twice, once because his dog attacked a man, and the other time because he was accused of giving bread to the “komiti.” These “komiti” were Macedonian revolutionaries who were struggling against the Serbian government, and villagers would give them food either because they supported the cause or because they were intimidated. According to another source (in Kruševo), some tensions had existed between Aromanians and majority Macedonians shortly after World War I, based on feelings that some of the latter had supported repressive policies against Aromanians by the Bulgarian occupation. On the other hand, as we have been informed by former and current Bitolans (and as other sources note for Kruševo) , some Aromanians during the Serbian period found themselves in solidarity with majority Macedonians against the forced Serbianization of both populations. The kmet parried the accusation against him, according his daughter, by accusing the judge. The judge said to the kmet that he should go to jail tomorrow, and he said to the judge that in that case he, the judge, should go to jail today. “Why?” “Because you told me to give to the komiti.” “But I never told you to do that!” “You never told me to do that, and I never did that.” After this exchange, the kmet was freed.

The outbreak of war between the Axis powers and Yugoslavia in 1941 resulted in a partition of Macedonia between the Bulgarians and the Italians. The Italians occupied areas of Western Macedonia (including the Belica villages) with an Albanian majority, and the Bulgarians occupied the rest of the country. Our sources claim that the Bulgarians pursued an anti-Aromanian policy in World War II, just as they had in World War I. There were some dramatic statements (and one sinister ethnic joke) to the effect that the Aromanians would be next in line for extermination after the Jews; the Jews of Bitola and elsewhere in Macedonia were, indeed, sent by the Bulgarian occupiers to German custody whence they were taken to Treblinka and oblivion.

One of our older Aromanian sources states categorically that during the Second World War he was in a “concentrational camp” at Sveti Vrach, today’s Sandanski, Bulgaria. His father was forced to work digging fortifications against an expected Allied attack from the region of Salonica (reprising, perhaps, the campaign of World War I). The internees in these camps were permitted to escape in 1944. We were told that this was because the Bulgarians feared the advancing Russian army and did not want to be held responsible for holding people in the camps. This person’s wife states that she was not interned, but that upon her graduation from high school her diploma had written upon it the word neblagodezhen, by the word “behavior,” because of her Aromanian heritage. (We were told the word, in its plural form, meant something like “unwished people by the state.”) This prevented her from working any public job or from continuing her education. Her father, who was a trader, was unable to buy materials for his work.

It is conceivable that the internment of some Aromanians at this time was justified by the occupiers on the basis of alleged or real Partisan sympathies, rather than Vlach ancestry. But this is implicitly contradicted by the young man who claimed that “the Bulgarians kept camps for Vlachs and gypsies” from which his grandfather had escaped. There is evidence from others of our sources that the general attitude of the administration was anti-Aromanian. For example, one of our sources says that children who were in elementary school during the occupation were “fined if they spoke Vlach.”

There was another phrase in Bulgarian which was alleged to be used against Aromanians, either in the First or Second World Wars or both: nebulgarski proizvod. This has a somewhat comical sound in Macedonian as proizvod in that language generally means industrial produce. However, the meaning would seem to be racial and to mean “not of Bulgarian descent.” Vlachs were, according to the account from which we obtained this phrase, sometimes able to escape internment by claiming to be “Bulgarian products” in this sense.

There is also testimony regarding anti-Vlach feelings and actions by some of the occupying soldiery in the region. A woman said that her father had been beaten after having been identified as a Vlach, and her sister who was five was beaten as well; and that property was taken from self-identified Vlachs and given to non-Vlach neighbors. Ultimately her mother and another, twelve year old, sister were killed, allegedly by the Bulgarian occupiers, although the reasons or circumstances were not given — and may indeed have had to do with Partisan sympathies or activities. The kmet of this woman’s ancestral village killed himself after the war and was said by this woman to have been a “Macedonian who declared himself to be Bulgarian.”

Many of the Aromanians of the Bitola area are proud to have joined the anti-Axis partisan movement, which was the movement led by Tito’s Communists. Most of these Partisans do not seem to have had any Communist background before the war, and they perceived themselves primarily as fighting for liberation against an occupying power.

We encountered stories of eight Partisans in Macedonia, and an ninth in the United States before coming to Bitola. Specifically we interviewed four older men who had been comrades in arms in the Seventh Battalion of Partisans. Their knowledge of the terrain in the mountains was very helpful to their service, which was mostly in the highland regions of western Macedonia. They were extremely proud of their Partisan record. Of course, during the period of Yugoslav Communism, Partisan status was the basis for special State benefits and privileges (which continue). Yet one of my own relatives (Mike Kara), who was in the Seventh Battalion and was fondly remembered by his comrades in arms who we interviewed in Bitola, turned his back on the potential privileges of former Partisan status and emigrated to the United States, making a life for himself there. We did not focus specifically on the war experiences of Partisans, but we heard enough so as not to doubt in any way the sacrifice of those we interviewed and of others. The Aromanian contribution to the Partisan cause in Macedonia was substantial.

The Early Communist Period

We took down two detailed accounts of Communist expropriation of “wealthy” Aromanians in the years immediately following World War II and the establishment of the rule of the Yugoslav Communist Party. This was also the beginning of the Republic of Macedonia within federal Yugoslavia. At this time, the Macedonian ethnic or “national” identity was being established and consolidated by the state. Guarantees were given in the Constitution for minority rights within the Republic framework, but the experience of those in Bitola who wished to establish Aromanian organizations of a purely cultural nature put the lie to these supposed constitutional rights.

One Partisan was the son of a village kmet. He was killed during World War II; he tried to return to his family home after learning that there was a class war within the Partisans. He was idealistic and wanted to fight for the liberation of the country; and he was buried in a Partisan grave. He was killed at his father’s home and at the same time that he was killed, a number of the family’s possessions were taken. It is believed that the killer was someone who had worked in the house.

Another woman remembers the stealing of jewelry from her family’s house. The family inquired in Belgrade (probably years later) about the jewelry that was missing, but they were told that it was the kind of jewelry that would only be stolen locally. Her grandfather was killed during this period, by a fellow Partisan. It was a fellow villager who made a deathbed confession to the killing, decades later. It was a matter of taking from the rich.

These stories were told to us in conjunction with the expropriation of land and property which took place a few years later, during what people call the “hard communism” of the late 1940s. Many Aromanians seem to feel that there was a continuity between the personal resentment of their ancestors’ relative wealth, which caused other local people to steal from them or worse during this period, and the later Communist nationalization of their property. The expropriations of wealth were severe throughout Macedonia but some Aromanians feel that in their case expropriation was done with added pettiness because of their ethnic identity. For example, the fellow villagers who robbed one wealthy Aromanian family returned a few years later and invaded the house. They were told there was nothing left to take, but they ransacked the place and then they tore up the family photographs, which of course had no value except to the family as its own memories. Many years later, we saw the torn photographs which were only a few of the photographs that this family possessed before this incident.

One of Skopje’s important Aromanian activists and poets remembers the expropriation of her family house when she was a very small child. It was not only sheep and land which were taken during this period. The family house was taken to become the Communist headquarters for the well-known town of her upbringing (and the family was instead given a small flat in which to live). Five years ago she saw an exhibit of old automobiles in Skopje. She recognized the automobile which had been taken from her family as a child. She told the organizers that she had the photos and she asked for the automobile; but she was told that the name of the owners of the vehicles could not be given for reasons of discretion. A similar incident took place with the grandfather clock which had belonged to the family. It was shown on a television program, which she called, only to be told again that the name of the current owner could not be given. Her family also had taken from them a portrait by the famous artist Martinoski, himself of Aromanian descent.

These personal expropriations were surplus to the well-known 1948 collectivizations of land and flocks. Aromanians whose family worked with sheep tell again and again the story of going out to herd a huge flock, the result of a lifetime of work and care, and coming back only with the shepherd’s staff. Herd owners were then put to work as shepherds paid a tiny stipend by the state. Those whose families owned land found that land taken — although one person’s grandfather actually kept title to some rugged mountain grazing land in the Pelister range, only to find it expropriated as late as the 1970s for use as part of a government tourism project. Interestingly, Aromanians whose family’s flocks had been taken always emphasize the memory of how “wealthy” the ancestor had been before this happened. The ownership of “2,000 goats, 800 sheep, and 40 horses,” taken from an ancestor of an Aromanian in Štip, is still felt in memory to have been great wealth. For Aromanians, Communism was not merely a political program involving the nationalization of major capitalist enterprises; it was a way in which the majorities in the country could eliminate the material basis of their identity and status, regardless of whether this had been built on trade in the towns or on a rural pastoral existence.

There were however some Aromanians who, because of their family connections, and often because their families had not been as wealthy, remained (and even advanced) in the Communist party. Interestingly, their family memory is of participating in a conscious decision not to emphasize the Aromanian or Vlach identity, but to submerge it deliberately in the Macedonian identity which had been, since 1944, in the process of receiving its first institutional or State support. This was told to us by at least two different families. Those who, on the other hand, wished to use the freedom for which they felt they had fought as Partisans to establish societies for the Aromanian culture and language, found that they were discouraged in doing this, even though they had been given the explicit right to do so in the new Communist constitutions of Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

A key interviewee who had been a Partisan, in an interview said that “in the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946, we formed in Bitola a society for culture and language. That was in the gymnasium hall of “Stiv Naumov” school; there we sang our anthem [presumably Parinteasca Dimandare], but the ink was not even dry from the 2nd of August 1944 when the liquidation came with force.” The 2nd of August 1944, known in Macedonia as the “Second Ilinden,” was when the Macedonian Republic within federal and communist Yugoslavia was first proclaimed in the Prohor Pchinjski monastery on the Serbo-Macedonian border.

The same interviewee recounts that he told the persons who came to suppress this society that in the new Macedonian Republic anthem, Pitu Guli and Jane Sandanski, who had Aromanian heritage, are explicitly mentioned. He was told in response that the Aromanian society was “ordered to be” suppressed. He also recounts that he showed them point 223 of the constitution of Macedonia where it was written (according to his oral recounting), “the minorities that are living in the Republic of Macedonia are equal with the nations and nationalities and they have the same rights and responsibilities.” He blamed “chauvinists” and ethnic Macedonian nationalists for the suppression of Aromanian rights at this time.

The Tito and Post-Tito Periods (the 1950s to the 1980s) within Communist Yugoslavia

Recollections among Aromanians of the 1950s to the 1980s are somewhat paradoxical. At first, the new Communist order was very oppressive to the Aromanians. Furthermore, while in earlier generations the Aromanians were more prominent within the educated professions than was the general population, the Communist achievement in educating this wider population was such that Aromanians were no longer disproportionately the ones achieving these roles. We were often told that Aromanians who wanted to progress in professional careers would deny their Aromanian minority identity and identify as Macedonians so that their careers would not suffer. It was also at this time that Aromanian intermarriage with the Macedonian majority increased greatly.

The Communist ideology seems to have frowned on nationalism (so that identifying as Vlach would give you the stigma of being a “nationalist”), yet at the same time the Communists were promoting the national identity of the ethnic majority in Macedonia. The Communists frowned, ideologically, on religion (so that the rising professionals tried not to be seen going to church), yet, by the same paradox, it was Communist Yugoslavia that supported the establishment of the new Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Evgenia Colakovska and her mother in front of Sts. Constantine & Elena church.

But the largest paradox of Aromanian recollections of the Communist period is that the Tito years, after the initial Stalinist-style repressive period, are remembered wistfully and fondly. This is mostly because of the rising living standards of the period, combined with such socialist benefits as free health care and free education even up to the university level. The citizens of Yugoslavia also had the freedom to travel, both within their own country and abroad, and many Aromanians (as well as other citizens of Yugoslavia) took advantage of this. (Those who had traveled within Yugoslavia made a point of telling us that in those years they did not perceive ethnic tensions, and that they were astonished at the “madness” of the 1990s, and did not understand it.) In the economic realm, some Aromanians were pioneers in the establishment of such private enterprises as the restaurant/nightclub. In fact, we were proudly told that the first private restaurant in Yugoslavia under the Communist rule was that of a Bitola Aromanian.

Urbanization continued strongly during the Communist period, especially affecting the villages of Gopeš, which is today almost depopulated in winter, and Magarevo, which was partly rebuilt during the interwar period but which mostly today seems to consist of summer houses for people who have their main residence in the cities. Of the Pelister villages, Nižopole and Malovište seem to have survived better than the rest.

Ideologically, the overt assertion of Aromanian identity and culture was marginalized. Since by this time all Aromanians were at least bilingual in Macedonian, the Aromanian language itself was never used in mixed company. This can be thought of as a courtesy rule, except that it also meant that cultural expressions such as Aromanian songs and dances were rarely observed by us to be performed in non-Aromanian contexts. These courtesy rules about language and culture tend to spare the majority Macedonian population from any need to consider the existence of a minority Aromanian population in their midst. In 1969, according to the Partisan who told us so much about Aromanians in the postwar period, a “bulgarophile” Doctor of History spoke on the radio “humiliatingly” regarding the Aromanians. He was sued, or tried, and the trial was longer than a year. According to our interview, he was sentenced for a six-month term; although in another place it is mentioned that the term was for three months, which may subsequently have been shortened or possibly suspended. Also according to our interview, this incident, for which we have not yet found further documentation, helped catalyze a sense among some Aromanians that they needed to try again to assert themselves.

In 1968 the historic church of St. Constantine and Elena, in the center of Bitola on a prominent square, was demolished in order to put up the Hotel Epinal on the site. This was experienced by some Aromanians as an ethnic slight, rather than as an expression of Communist anti-religiosity (especially since the Communists, as we have mentioned, had been instrumental in re-establishing the Macedonian Orthodox Church in 1958). A group of prominent Aromanians, many of whom had been Partisans, made the request for the church to be rebuilt on a different site, a request which was granted after more than a year. Our Partisan interviewee recounted that an official in granting this request said “let it be built in the Vlach maala (neighborhood),” and that he rejoindered “You have been saying that there are no Vlachs, so from where has this Vlach maala now appeared?” Today’s church is in a hidden location, not easily seen from the street, within the historic Aromanian district of Bitola. The icons and iconostasis were saved from the original church and brought to the new site. The church is almost unique in the region in its preponderance of icons in the Latin alphabet, used for the Romanian and Aromanian languages. But all priests and services are those of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and use the Macedonian language not the Aromanian one. To this day the Macedonian Orthodox Church does not permit services in Aromanian.

Aromanians who are self-assertive in their “Vlach” identity in Bitola often claim that the suppression of Vlach identity as a policy is often accomplished with the help of others who themselves have Aromanian forebears. Certainly few Aromanians have listed themselves on the census as such, especially if one counts children of mixed marriages as Aromanians. But Aromanian activists in Bitola assert privately that there are many Aromanians who, at least in the older generations, are “full-blooded” (the unfortunate Macedonian term is “čisti” or “clean”) Vlachs, but who have chosen not to make this public and have discouraged others from doing so. One topic of gossip these days among Aromanian activists refers to individuals who are prominent in Aromanian organizations today but who, it is claimed, did not assert themselves as Vlachs back when it might have been dangerous to their careers.

The “Manaki Brothers” Society in Bitola

In the 1970s there arose a new initiative to create an Aromanian social and cultural society. Two of our interviewees were prominent in the attempt to create this “Sociat di Culturish Arti.” and the following description of the creation of the cultural societies in Bitola derives mostly from the account by one of the founders. The authorities did not recognize this society during the period between 1979 to 1989. But during this period, the initiators of this society contacted various key people in order to assemble a record of the culture of the Aromanians in Macedonia which was being lost. There were many books in the Aromanian language contributed by Victoria Tola from Gopeš. And there was a photographer, Trifun Karabatak, from Malovište, who presented to the society a collection of photographs, some of them from the famous Aromanian/Macedonian photographer Milton Manaki. These archives are still in the possession of the society of the “Manaki Brothers” in Bitola, which takes its name from the photographers and pioneer cinematographers Milton and Janaki Manaki who were Aromanian (born in an Aromanian village in what is now Greece) and who lived and worked for many of their most important years in Bitola. The Manaki brothers are famous for making the first motion pictures in the Balkans, and for many years in the interwar period they had a cinema in Bitola.

In 1981 there was a meeting held in Gopeš and a senior Aromanian who had been living in Niš, Yugoslavia, but who spent all the summers in Gopeš, contributed a record of the songs he knew when he was a child. He passionately wished that the “children” of the Aromanians should form a cultural society that “will sing the songs and play the dances.” The request was made again to the authorities in 1983 but they were not receptive. In 1985 the first Vlach song was recorded by Risto Pulevski-Kicha. A tape was made for Macedonian Television and this tape was used to support the request to create a cultural society. In the fall of 1989 the Society was officially registered for the first time, with Hristo Cholako as President and Hristaki Sterjadovski from Gopeš as Vice President. The association had actually been meeting regularly starting in 1987. In 1990 and 1991 the dances of the Aromanians were included in the “Ilinden Days,” which is a dance performance done every year in honor of the Kruševo Rebellion of 1903, considered the founding event of the Republic of Macedonia. The dance performance by the Manaki Brothers dance troupe was the first ever by an Aromanian group. (We attended the 1999 performance, but the Manaki Brothers group pulled out at the last minute, although they had been on the program.) The professor Ilija Aljushevski was remembered as having said, with regard to the 1990 performance, that “with the appearance of the Manaki Brothers troupe in Bitola, the monotony of the festival is no more.”

The Aromanian “Pitu Guli” society in Skopje was actually earlier in its inception; its bylaws or constitution date from 1978. The Aromanian organizations claim an important debt to Vasilo Barba, a professor in the university in Freiburg, Germany, as someone who has always strongly advocated and assisted the organization of Aromanians in all the states where they form a minority (for example in Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, and Serbia, in addition to Macedonia.) His campaign to help form the society in Bitola dates from 1985.

Official Status of Aromanians and Beliefs about Their Origin

The official recognition of Aromanians in the Republic of Macedonia is greater than in any other state except perhaps Romania. This has been true of every Constitution since the establishment of the Republic as part of the Yugoslav Federation. Since independence, as Hugh Poulton points out in the revised version of his book Who Are the Macedonians? (Poulton 2000), the Vlachs have been recognized as a state nationality along with the Albanians, Turks, Roma, and (more recently) Serbs. Since 1994 Aromanian has been taught in some primary schools as an elective course (i.e. if there is a minimum of eight to ten students wishing to take it). Classes where they exist are actually well attended, although, oddly, it was mentioned to us in both Bitola and in Kruševo that a significant proportion (“half” in Bitola) of the students were in fact majority Macedonians rather than Aromanians. The definition of “who is an Aromanian” is, of course, somewhat slippery, and it is possible that many of these so-called Macedonians had some Aromanian heritage; if not, this is actually an encouraging sign of multicultural awareness and respect on the part of these pupils and their parents. Yet, in official meetings and in private conversations there would sometimes be complaints that not enough of the Aromanian children themselves were interested in taking Aromanian language as a subject. They allegedly would rather take English or French and other demanding academic subjects to prepare themselves for upwardly mobile careers. Of course, a preference for individual upward mobility can hardly be thought of as uncharacteristic in Aromanians.

Another part of the current State recognition of the Aromanians, mentioned in such places as the Poulton book, is the Aromanian programming on State television. (In Bitola there was no Aromanian language programming on private television stations.) The Aromanian language program “Scanteao” (“spark”) was on twice a week for half an hour, more specifically on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2:30 to 3 p.m. for most of our stay, although Macedonian television does not always follow published schedules; we had to get the daily paper to confirm the time of the show on any particular day. (In 2000 another half an hour per week has been added.) After we rented a flat where there was in fact a television we tried to watch every show. The show began with a news segment which usually utilized the same video feed as the State news. After that there were often features which had to do with Aromanian history and life in Macedonia. The programming, after the initial news segment, was in fact very interesting and “ethnological,” sometimes featuring interviews of elder Aromanians about the past, sometimes describing the contributions of Aromanian literary and artistic figures, sometimes describing contemporary initiatives such as the Council of Europe Recommendation 1333. The program almost always closes with a musical or dance performance. Much of the programming is presented with Macedonian subtitles (but the songs are not).

Some Bitola or Kruševo Aromanians criticized the dialect in which the show was transmitted, claiming that it was the dialect of the Sveti Nikole/ Štip region, spoken by Aromanians who are active in and around the national capital Skopje, rather than the older and more “literary” dialect of the Bitola/ Kruševo region (which is, by the way, closer to the Aromanian of the Pindus region of Greece). This complaint was also made about an elementary school textbook with which we were struggling. Such a concern reflects an understandable provincialism among Bitola residents generally, a feeling that economic and political power has been overcentralized in the Skopje area. We have also sensed, here and there, an undercurrent of some of the old class feelings on the part of the descendants of old and formerly wealthy trader families as against some of the “upstarts” from relatively more modest backgrounds, or regions. Communism and its aftermath has “reshuffled” the life chances and patronage networks of this region of the Balkans, and there is very little prospect, as far as we can tell, of restitution for collectivized properties in the near future. But the “democratization” of the same period allowed the blossoming of the life chances of a wider segment of the Aromanian, as well as Macedonian, populations.

These dialect tensions were also expressed to us regarding the very active poetry scene. Aromanians, like other Europeans, revere poetry, as well as literature and the other fine arts; and we were constantly having books of poetry shown or given to us. In addition, poetry is a prominent part of all periodicals for the Aromanian community. Of course, the arts have historically been in Europe the key to ethnic self-awareness, and in this light it is notable that Macedonia is now producing not only performers of Aromanian folk songs and dances, but also poetry and songwriting in Aromanian of a more contemporary style and content. This rich cultural life is still almost invisible within Macedonia to those outside the Aromanian community itself. Within the community, the tendency for different communities to feel a dialect competition is based on an assumption, borrowed from the cultural politics and history of European nationalism, that every language which is not a mere “dialect” must standardize to a “literary” form. But Aromanian, not being an official language of a State, lacks the bureaucratic wherewithal to do much at present to standardize the language. It is probably a hopeful sign of the viability of the Aromanian language that it is being fought over, or “contested” to use the current anthropological jargon.

Aromanians in Macedonia are proud that their official status recognizes their uniqueness as a people, unlike Romania which claims their language to be a “dialect” of Romanian, and unlike Greece which claims that the Aromanians are fundamentally “Greek.” Aromanians who are active in promoting their culture in Macedonia have complained to us about Romanian influence or requests that they identify themselves as Romanians. Similar pressures, which are most often strongly resisted, are also coming from Greece, both semi-officially and via the large Aromanian community in Greece which, for recent historical reasons, considers itself intrinsically “Hellenic.”

By contrast, Aromanians in Macedonia tend towards a view of themselves as indigenous to the region and as a separate people. Their views on origins tend to mirror those of majority Macedonians themselves. Some Aromanians, appropriating for themselves a Macedonian claim, see Alexander the Great as being in some sense Aromanian (perhaps mainly on his mother’s side). One author believes that the Thracians actually spoke Aromanian, in the form of dialects which are still in use today; and he actually claims to have deciphered ancient inscriptions to this effect (Stefanoski 1998). These ideas are in contradiction to the scientific wisdom that Aromanian arose, like the other Romance languages, from late “Vulgar” Latin during the time of the Roman Empire – although many scholars (e.g. Winnifrith 1987) advance arguments that this development from Latin probably took place in or near the regions where Aromanians live today. But the new theory of Thraco-Aromanian linguistic continuity mirrors popular theories in the (Slavic) Macedonian community. In contradiction to the received wisdom of the Slavonic invasions of the Balkans in the 4th to 6th Centuries AD, these ethnic Macedonians claim to be themselves the direct descendants of the ancient Macedonians, who, according to the “strong” version of this theory, spoke an ancestral Slavic/Slavonic language. (This competition for the title of the earliest and most indigenous people in the southern Balkans is part of a dynamic well-known to students of nationalism, in which the past becomes a mirror of the present. This dynamic has intensified in the southern Balkans in reaction to the events of the last decade.)

As for more recent charters of origin and respect, the central emphasis among the Macedonian national movement upon the 1903 Kruševo Rebellion as its recent “origin myth” actually should serve the Aromanian cause, since Kruševo is one of the more Aromanian towns in Macedonia, and Aromanians such as Pitu Guli and Nikola Karev were extremely important figures in the Rebellion. Under the Yugoslav rule and for many years thereafter, the Partisans of World War II were respected as playing a role in the establishment of a Macedonian national entity, and the Aromanians could also point to their participation in the Partisan movement as an index of their Macedonianness.

In spite of this sense among Aromanians that they deserve recognition as participants in the creation of Macedonia as it is known today, many if not most textbook and official versions, in the present-day Republic of Macedonia, of the historical events in which Aromanians participated actually fail to mention the Aromanian contribution. The Kruševo rebellion and the Partisan struggle are shown as achievements of the ethnic Macedonians, implicitly excluding Aromanians. Among themselves, the Aromanians consider themselves to be intrinsically Macedonian, as much if not more so than the so-called Slavic or Sloveni Macedonians; but these majority ethnic Macedonians do not necessarily share this view, and this is a tension with which the Aromanian community lives today.

Conclusion: the spark and the new leaf

Today there is an active Aromanian community in The Republic of Macedonia, supported by some official recognition and a trickle of State funding. There is the Aromanian newspaper “Fenix,” which is currently put out in Bitola with some State funding and which has both historical and current affairs articles. There is a Macedonian/Aromanian dictionary, written by Niko Popnicola (1997), and a small number of books which are published in the Aromanian language by small presses in Macedonia. There is a small literature on the Aromanians in Macedonia which is epitomized by the classic Vlasite na Balkanot (Vlachs of the Balkans) by Vangel Trpkoski – Trpku (1986), and by the growing library of books by Todor Trajanovski, a former schoolteacher from the Belica villages near Struga, including Vlasite vo Ohrid (Vlachs in Ohrid, 1999) and the very useful Vlasi: Narodnite Obichai kaj Vlasite od Strushko (Vlachs: Ethnic Customs of the Vlachs in the Struga region, 1998). Numerous other books are helpful in understanding historical and regional topics, particularly of the pre-Communist period. These include a life of the Manaki brothers (Konstantinov 1982) and a survey by a number of authors of the period in which they lived (Krstevski-Kosko et. al., 1996). The Kruševo Aromanians have also been prolific in writing about the history of these periods, with of course an emphasis on the revolutionary period.

In Bitola in 1999 the Brothers Manaki society, which had been meeting in a government building (part of the museum complex), was told that it was in arrears and would lose that space which also held its library. This was taken to be a message of sorts from the current national government, dominated by the party called VMRO which had its origins as a Macedonian nationalist party, that Aromanians were not, relatively speaking, in favor. The other major party, the Social Democrats (largely former Communists), has been known to make accusations against VMRO that it is “pro-Bulgarian,” or more precisely that its brand of Macedonian nationalism has its roots in Bulgarophile Macedonian circles, and these accusations have been given credence by some Aromanians who recalled their difficulties under the Bulgarian occupations. Anti-Aromanian rhetoric has been used on occasion by VMRO politicians including the Prime Minister (before he took power). (The Social Democrats themselves were in some disrepute among many Bitolans, including Aromanians, because of their support when in power of a pyramid scheme bank called TAT in which many Bitolans had invested, causing them to lose their savings. On the other hand, the VMRO government has not found a way to reimburse the TAT savers, in spite of its promises and activities with this aim.) The Aromanians, unique among the minorities of the Republic of Macedonia, have not themselves formed a political party; those we knew in Bitola tended to favor small, democratic parties either in the government or the opposition, although they ranged throughout the political spectrum (including VMRO).

Icon of Sts. Constantin & Elena within the church

It would be misleading to assume that there is a negative attitude toward Aromanians among most of the ethnic Macedonians who we met. Of course, we did not undertake a study of this, and there are two sources of bias. Those ethnic Macedonians who knew we were researching Aromanians were positive or at least neutral about this, and our location in Bitola also meant that a large proportion of the Macedonians had a certain baseline knowledge about the Aromanian presence and culture (especially if they themselves had some Aromanian family background). The intermarriage between Aromanians and ethnic Macedonians has gone on for two to three generations, creating a large population in Bitola who define themselves as “Macedonians of Aromanian heritage” (Vlaški poteklo). This hybrid identity emerges from a number of factors: the common reticence to self-identify as Aromanian, the loss of the Aromanian language as an identifier, and the “dilution” of the “pure” or čisti Vlav (“clean Vlach”) through large scale intermarriage. It is possible that from a fourth to a third of the population of Bitola have Aromanian heritage of this kind.

The most common ethnic joke or slur against Aromanians is similar to that in English-speaking countries against the Scots, i.e. that Aromanians are “tight” with money or less generous than other groups. The ethic of generosity, and the related ethic of hospitality, are in fact very important in traditional Balkan cultures, as in traditional cultures throughout the world, and we experienced a great deal of generosity and hospitality among Aromanians and ethnic Macedonians alike. The historical origins of this prejudice against Aromanians probably have to do with their prior role as relatively wealthy traders, particularly among poor peasant communities. Such populations are stigmatized worldwide, e.g. Jews, overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, Indian traders in East Africa, etc. They are perhaps resented for not fully participating in the reciprocity relationships of the peasant majorities, yet these reciprocity relationships tend to work against the sustainability of businesses, thus necessitating such businesses be run by “others.” Today the circumstances of Aromanian lives are not really different from those among other, mostly urbanized, people in the Republic of Macedonia. Any fortunes which had been built up in the period of trading have long since been nationalized during the Communist period, but Aromanians place a strong emphasis on education and individual achievement, and remain strongly represented in the professions.

Today the Aromanians who do self-identify as such remain concerned that their language and culture are endangered. Young Aromanians tend not to be active regarding “ethnic” issues and we have heard older activists remonstrate against their own children for being uninterested in the Aromanian language and heritage. The coat of arms, or symbol, of the Aromanian movement is a withered stump with a single twig growing out of it, producing a few new, green leaves. The symbolism of this is clear: the Aromanian heritage is long and deep, but nearly moribund, and its current revival represents a small, tenuous, shoot of life. Similarly the name of the Aromanian television program is scanteao or “spark” – representing the spark of what was once a raging fire. The potential for new life is evident in both symbols, but at the same time there is a recognition of a heritage which is endangered.

On June 15, 1999 the Council of Europe adopted the Recommendation 1333 (1997) on the Aromanian culture and language. The recommendation which was proposed in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session in 1997, notes that Aromanians make no political demands, but request help in safeguarding their language and culture. According to the Recommendation, the Balkan states where Aromanians live are encouraged to ratify the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages, and to support the Aromanians in terms of education in their mother tongue; religious services in the churches; newspapers, magazines, and radio and television programs in Aromanian; and support for their cultural associations.

The Republic of Macedonia has supported education in the form of courses in the primary grades, and it is up to Aromanians themselves how much they will take advantage of these. The situation is similar with radio and television programs. In these respects the status of Aromanians is recognized more in the Republic of Macedonia than elsewhere in the region, with the possible exception of Romania. There is some State support for the newspaper Fenix but Aromanian activists are not satisfied with the level of this support; and the cultural associations receive State support but are not very well funded in the budget.

What is notable in the case of the newspaper, as well as of Aromanian books and literature, is that these circulate widely in informal or sequestered ways but they seemed to us to be absent from the public space, so that majority Macedonians need not be aware of their existence on a daily basis. This contrasts with Albanian-language newspapers which are available at many kiosks. In general, the availability of Aromanian newspapers in Bitola seemed limited to a few shops in Aromanian neighborhoods and to the historically Aromanian church “St. Constantine and Elena,” as well as distribution at Aromanian events and through friends. Those who are active at any level in the Bitola Aromanian community, of course, do not have any problem in finding Aromanian publications. Although at first we had some difficulty ourselves in finding these publications, or knowing about Aromanian events before they occurred, we were impressed that the November 20, 1999 annual concert was announced by posters in both Macedonian and Aromanian throughout the center of Bitola. Other than the announcement of the hours of the Constantine and Elena Church, this constituted almost the only time we saw the written Aromanian language in the public space of Bitola. Even in the largely Aromanian community of Kruševo we failed to notice Aromanian in many public spaces, with one notable exception – a youth center funded by the Open Society Foundation, a well-known NGO with ties to George Soros. (The Aromanian singing event that was part of the “Ten Days of Freedom” following the Ilinden celebration was listed as one of a great number of events on posters throughout Kruševo town, of course in Macedonian.)

But this should not take away from Macedonia’s achievement in officially recognizing Aromanian culture as existing and having a right to exist in today’s Republic, even if, due perhaps partially to the inertia of Communist-era habits, this culture seems relegated to the margins, sometimes even in historically Aromanian places. In the wider region, the marginalization of minority culture is of course the rule not the exception. We observed in Greece (when we visited such historically Aromanian places as Metsovo-Aminciu and Samarina) that the cultural productions which are particularly Aromanian are much more in evidence than in the Republic of Macedonia (textile art, weaving, music, architecture, dance, etc.), but, in Greece, what is notable is that they are not allowed the label of Aromanian or Vlach. We saw no evidence of the public display of the Aromanian language as opposed to the Greek, or even English, languages; and the official Greek policy remains the one indicated on the December 1999 National Geographic map of the Balkans: “Greece does not recognize ethnic divisions.” Thus, at the museum in Metsovo-Aminciu of the home of Tossitza-Averoff, the Aromanian Greek politician and writer, the artifacts of 19th Century Aromanian culture are more available to the visitor than at any other location, but they are described as Epirote rather than as Aromanian or Vlach, using a regional descriptor to displace the ethnic one.

Yet ironically, in Greece, even if the Aromanian identity exists “under erasure,” a rich Aromanian cultural life remains and serves as the basis for tourism, arguably an economic asset to the nation. In the Republic of Macedonia, much of the material basis for this has disappeared (for example crafts have died out under Communism), and the official promotion of ethnic Macedonian culture, rich and attractive as it is, has, according to what is possibly the usual regional pattern, marginalized the minority cultures away from its public spaces in the interest of promoting a homogeneous façade, a façade which reminds the visitor of the legacy of Communism more than anything else. It is easy to understand the attractiveness of a surface homogeneity for people, including many of Aromanian heritage, who are in constant fear that diversity will not be an asset for them but will destroy their lives as has happened elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. But it is not clear that the enforcement of this sort of surface homogeneity will have the desired effect in the changed circumstances of the present. In any case, for many if not most Aromanians in the Republic of Macedonia the immediate problems are economic and political, and these problems (which we will not describe further here, but which are well known) are so big that the preservation of Aromanian culture and identity becomes for them a lesser priority than survival in the “Western Balkans” region of Europe, a region which receives, from the rest of the world, a paradoxical combination of political and military attention with economic and social neglect.

Call for Support

The Brothers Manaki Society, which is the regional society of the Aromanians of Bitola, would like to ask the readers of the Newsletter of the Society Farsarotul for support to build a social hall on the property of the Constantine and Elena Church. This social hall would serve as a place for Aromanians to hold meetings and social events without having to worry about paying rent for part of a government building. It would also be used for memorials which are a part of the mourning process after a death. (These rich traditions of mourning unite families in a collective remembrance.) Such a social hall would be a space belonging to the Aromanians which would truly be their own. The Fenix, as a publication which serves and informs the Aromanians in Macedonia generally, also needs support to supplement its very limited government funding. Even modest contributions in American dollars pay for a lot in the current Macedonian economy.●

Editor’s Note: If you have enjoyed this remarkable journey through the history and culture of the Aromanians of Macedonia, you can show your appreciation with a donation in support of the Aromanian Society of Bitola. The Society Farsarotul is proud to announce that it will kick off the fundraising process with a donation of $1000. Please give generously; you may send your contributions to the Society Farsarotul, which will gather all donations and forward to the Brothers Manaki Society of Bitola.


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