Prologue

It's an unusual way to start an essay on my memories in Macedonia, that is to start with a description of our visit to the Centrelink offices in Box Hill in Melbourne, Australia, but this is not an ordinary essay. First of all I never wanted to write anything about myself, mainly because I don't like writing and secondly I am not good at it. I wanted to keep my memories to myself. I feel memoirs are reserved for socially prominent people, who feel they can further help the community with their life experiences. I believed it would be self-indulgence as nobody in the general community can benefit from reading my life history except possibly my grandchildren. But the unrelated visit to the Centrelink offices triggered in me the need to write down at least the more interesting and beautiful memories I have from that short but amazing time that I enjoyed in Mala, Macedonia.

My essay of my memories (I am reluctant to call it memoirs) is as unusual as is the introduction to it. I use the phrases "Dedo and me" and "my Dedo" a lot throughout the essay [Dedo is the Macedonian word for grandfather], and that is because the essay is as much about Dedo as it is about me.

Dedo took me under his wing and mentored me and treated me like an adult, he took me with him almost everywhere he went and included me in business deals that he was involved in and as well as that he regarded me as a friend, not just a grandchild. His intention was for me to take over the running of our property as I was the next male in line to take over the property. All of his sons and one of his daughters had left for a better life in Australia and of course they had good reasons for that difficult but necessary decision that they made. It must have been tortuously difficult for Baba [Baba is the Macedonian word for grandmother] and Dedo to run a property that housed, fed and maintained a dozen people during that tumultuous period in that part of Europe. I suspect that Dedo was under huge stress most of the time, he took up the responsibility of running the property mainly on his shoulders, with some help from his brother Pavle. I have seen Dedo Petre lose his temper several times and I have been told that he has been very strict and sometimes even abusive to his family. Dedo Pavle on the other hand, who was responsible for the running of a similar household to that of Dedo Petre, had a more gentle approach with his family. Dedo Pavle never contradicted Dedo Petre, he was seen as Dedo Petre's shadow. They were a great team together; Dedo Petre was the hot tempered one and Dedo Pavle was the mild mannered partner. I remember one such situation that illustrates the different temperaments between the two brothers; it was during the time when they were feeding their chickens in their respective front yards. Dedo Petre knew all of his chickens by sight, one day during feeding time he saw one of Dedo Pavle's chickens among his flock. I can still hear him calling out to the chicken "chooza" (foreign) and trying to shoo it away. Dedo Pavle's chicken wouldn't go away so Dedo Petre lost his temper, reached out with his hand, caught the chicken by its neck (like a frog catching a fly), broke the chicken's neck and threw the freshly killed chicken over the dry-stone wall into Dedo Pavle's yard. Dedo Pavle, cool as a cucumber, said to Dedo "Thank you Petre, we were planning to have chicken stew tonight."

I have great respect for both of my grandparents, for they started with very little money, worked hard, saved their earnings, developed a great property and raised responsible families. All of this was achieved during the most difficult period of Macedonia's history; starting with that region's liberation from the Ottoman Empire, the Balkan Wars, the invasion of our region by Italy, the Second World War and finally finishing with the straw that metaphorically broke the camel's back, the Greek Civil War. The Civil War was the catalyst for the exodus of the Macedonians from that scenically beautiful and socially friendly part of Europe. Ever since the southern part of Macedonia was annexed to Greece by the Allied Forces life for the Macedonians became unbearable. We lost our human rights, we lost our identity and we lost our names. By the stroke of the Allies' pen we became second class citizens in our own land. Baba Mara made a poignant remark at the departing Turkish migrants; Baba Mara at one time told the departing Turks that she was glad to see the back of them as they were leaving our village. The answer to Baba's remark by the departing Turks was: "Don't celebrate yet young lady because those who will take over from us will be worse than us." The departing Turk's remark has since then been vindicated; there has never been a truer statement said than that.

Fortunately for me I was born during the fading phase of the Civil War and thus didn't experience the horrors of war, but I saw the agony and tension on our people's faces during those years post the Civil War and until the time we left for Australia. It is in this social and geographical backdrop that my personality and character were formed.

It has taken me a long time to write this article because I had to wait until I could virtually transpose myself into that region, I had to wait until I could feel the emotion and then gather the right words in order to paint a picture for you, the reader. Please read this article slowly, read between the lines and even between the words so that hopefully you might capture the emotion that I tried to infuse into this article. If you can see the snow sparkling in your eyes, if you can hear the lambs bleating and if you can smell the sweet musty aroma over the strawberry field then you have captured some of the magic that I have tried to portray.

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