370 Macedonians Who Died For Freedom

The Greek Civil War of 1946-49 was really two wars: a Civil War between Greece's right wing monarcho-fascists and left wing communists, and a second, less well known Liberation War, a Macedonian Freedom War by a significant portion of the native Macedonian population. These Macedonians lived in a part of geographic Macedonia that only 30 years earlier in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 was conquered by Greece and become first the "occupied territories" then the "new territories", then "northern Greece" and "Greek Macedonia".

Whether we call this Liberation War the Macedonian Freedom War, the Macedonian Freedom Uprising, the Macedonian Freedom Struggle or similar, its history is still being written. This is happening slowly, as the Macedonians in Greece remain under Greek control. But it is happening surely, as new sources of information come to light, new accounts are written by participants and others caught up in the events, and new generations of Macedonians are educated and, because they were born or live outside of Greece, are free to pursue and publish research on this subject.

For Sacred National Freedom - Portraits of Fallen Freedom Fighters will be a new source of information for many people, as this translation makes the book available for the first time in English. Readers will quickly see that the book is a cornucopia of information and first hand accounts about both the Macedonian Freedom War and the Greek Civil War.

But first, the book is a literary memorial - an act of love and respect - for 370 Macedonians who lost their lives fighting for the freedom of the Macedonian people, some against the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupiers during World War Two, most against the monarcho-fascist Greek Government during the Civil War.

In their Preface, the authors say: "The publication of this book is the fruit of the collective effort of a number of comrades who have written recollections on the life and activities of the fallen national fighters… The publication of this book forms a small expression of respect, not only for the 370 fighters named in this book, but also for all of the other known and unknown heroes and martyrs who died in the battle."

Fortunately, most of the authors who wrote the pen portraits give their names or initials, as does the artist who drew the 32 excellent pencil portraits. Unfortunately, little else is known about the book except that it was written in the Macedonian language as spoken by the native Macedonians in what since 1912 has been northern Greece, it was published in August 1962, 13 years after the end of the Civil War and Freedom Struggle, and that the print run was 3,000 copies. The book appears to have been distributed to other Macedonian partisans and to families of the fallen.

Despite the authors' modest description of it as "a small expression of respect", I believe the book, and this translation, will make an enormous contribution to many people.

For Macedonians, the giving of the names of 370 men and women who died for Macedonian freedom is an act of honour that is of immeasurable value to the families of the fallen and to their fellow freedom fighters then and now.

For Macedonians everywhere, receiving their names and their stories means they can start to honour these people and their families for their struggle, their sacrifice, and their ideal of freedom for Macedonians.

For later generations it can offer a window, perhaps in some cases the only window, on their close relatives or more distant forebears in their extended families.

Because the Macedonian and Greek communists lost the war, the contribution of the Macedonians has been written out of or never written in to many histories of the Greek Civil War. The Macedonians are simply ignored, or cast euphemistically as "locals" or "communists" fighting for communism. Such representations are mainly by Greek writers and their sympathetic western academic cohorts. This book is an antidote to such misleading or partial histories.

This book clearly shows that where Macedonians were communists or fought alongside the communists, their overarching motive was freedom for the Macedonian people, whether through independence from Greece, autonomy within Greece, or official recognition of the Macedonians as a separate people.

Communism was not the only ideology among Macedonians of this period. There were also Macedonian partisans who wanted freedom but did not ally themselves with the communists or the Greeks, and there were many Macedonians who did not play an active role or sought to stay outside the war. In giving us new insights into those Macedonians who fought with the communists, this book also begs many questions about these non-communist and non-combative Macedonians; it highlights how much still remains to be researched and written about the Freedom War.

For historians and general readers, this book contains a wealth of information about military and political events, skirmishes and battles, torture, executions, and possible war crimes. It names many of the Greek government's prisons and islands where communists and Macedonians were tortured and died. It also gives accounts of several Macedonian villages where it says Nazi forces committed mass killings.

But there are also many wonderful moments. We see the fighters as children, as idealistic youths, as poor Macedonian villagers struggling to improve their lives and the lives of their families, friends and countrymen.

The book also offers something positive for the usually strained political relations between Macedonians and Greeks evident in both the ancient and modern eras. In the decades leading up to the Macedonian Freedom War, Greek government forces killed many thousands of Macedonians in conquest. In this book we glimpse a rare and short period in history when a part of the Macedonian people and a part of the Greek people fought on the same side, together as comrades in arms. The Macedonian fighters were aware of this historical achievement, even if their idealism was later shown to be naive and their trust misplaced.

To conclude, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mr Bill Vlashev, who made available the original copy of the book that has been translated here. Mr Vlashev received the book from his cousin, a Macedonian partisan of the period who died in the Czech Republic in 1995. Mr Vlashev was himself a Macedonian child refugee of the Civil War and is now president of the Child Refugees in Sydney.

I also express my sincere thanks to the translator, Ms Elizabeth Kolupacev Stewart. Ms Stewart has made an outstanding translation, despite numerous difficulties such as the text being based on the language spoken at the time, dialectical influences including the dialects of the various authors, and many political and military terms relating to the events, organizations, roles, weaponry and ideology of the period. Although the translation has taken much time and labor, she has done it pro bono as a contribution to the Macedonian cause.

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of Mr Vlashev and the skill and generosity of Ms Stewart, Pollitecon Publications is proud to make this book available in full on the internet. I am confident Macedonians and many others will agree with me that Sacred National Freedom - Portraits of Fallen Freedom Fighters deserves to be read as widely as possible.

Victor Bivell

June 2009


From: For Sacred National Freedom: Portraits Of Fallen Freedom Fighters

© 2009

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For Sacred National Freedom: Portraits Of Fallen Freedom Fighters