Testify

Author’s note: Every fifty columns, I try to write something a bit more reflective, thoughtful, and, hopefully, inspiring, for my Macedonian family and friends. This is the 850th column I have written over the years, and I hope this column meets those self-imposed requirements.

“Testify.” Among the definitions of the verb, we find “to serve as evidence of,” or “to serve as proof of.”

I find that definition useful and helpful, in making this point: Macedonians, through their words, actions, behaviors, and more, testify, or serve, as both evidence and proof, of not just the existence of, but the necessity and beauty of Macedonia and Macedonians in our world today.

As we have witnessed over the years, and especially over the past two weeks or so, Macedonians have, and are now, testifying to who they are as a people and what Macedonia is, as a land, a country, an idea, and to what Macedonian means in every sense of the word. Macedonians are testifying, serving as evidence of and proof of Macedonia, the Macedonians, the Macedonian language, culture, spirit, and much more.

It’s odd in a way: the more that Macedonia and Macedonians are under attack — this time from the Bulgarians but with the help of the French Government, the EU, the US State Department and, critically, the Macedonian government — the more that Macedonia and Macedonians are under attack, the more the Macedonian spirit soars.

Back in March, I made this point in a column: “During my recent visit to Macedonia, I made the observation to two friends, when asked about my perception of how Macedonians feel about the past four years of a SDS/DUI government, that Macedonians are worried, angry, and in a bit of despair, all at the same time. They countered with the idea that while all of that may be true, there is something else to consider: that because of the reckless, and frankly, illegal moves of the SDS/DUI government with respect to Macedonia’s name and identity, Macedonians are actually taking more of an interest in their own identity, history, culture, language, and more. Subsequently to that conversation, another friend — this one a retired diplomat from an EU country who has spent a great deal of time in Macedonia — made the exact same observation. He wrote, among other things, that ‘The vast majority of Macedonian have learned more about their history, identity, language, culture and (more) in just a few years than in decades before.’”

This is all true.

The nightly peaceful protests and demonstrations in which tens of thousands of Macedonians across Macedonia come out to gather, march, wave flags, sing Macedonian songs, and support each other testify to that Macedonian spirit. And while smaller, protests and demonstrations of Macedonians around the world testify to this as well.

The pictures, and videos, shared across social media platforms from those peaceful protests and demonstrations, testify, powerfully, to the simple desire to be known and recognized as Macedonians speaking the Macedonian language, and engaging in the Macedonian culture.

The many messages, shared across those same social media platforms, and directed at the Macedonian government, the EU, US State Department, the French, the various EU member state governments and the alphabet soup of international organizations, testify that Macedonians do not want to enter an institution that refuses to take the time to understand the Macedonian position and instead, sides with a member state that insists that Macedonians are something else. And to this crowd I think I have at least one satisfying response to them and their claims: make fun of them and laugh at them. Use satire and ridicule to show them what pitiful creatures they are.

Macedonians know what they are talking about, singing about, and demonstrating about and one sentence makes this perfectly clear. The Greek newspaper Kathimerini published an article on July 9 in which it describes the Bulgarian veto over the start of EU accession talks for Macedonia. The author writes “However Bulgaria, another EU member state, lodged a veto in 2020 over history and language issues, which opposing North Macedonians say attack their national identity.”

The individuals and institutions who supported the so-called “Prespa agreement” all said the Macedonian identity would not change. And here Kathimerini writes that “North Macedonians” oppose the French-Bulgarian proposal because it attacks their identity. Because it does. Because the so-called “Prespa agreement” did and still does to this day. And because Macedonians know — they know for a fact — that this current proposal will not be the end no matter who says this is final. There will always be just one more compromise. And it will either end with Macedonia being in the EU but without its soul, its identity, or it will end with Macedonia continuing to wait until a better day, but with her head held high, the Macedonian identity, language, and culture intact.

Testify.

I cannot predict the future but no matter what happens, I know Macedonians will continue to testify, again, not just the existence of, but the necessity and beauty of Macedonia and Macedonians in our world today.

Hold your heads high. Teach your children what is right and true and just and pure. Tell them the stories of Macedonia’s proud history as you work with them on their history and language lessons. Teach them to sing the songs of old and then sing them with them. Show them, by word and through deeds, how all of this testifies to Macedonia and Macedonians.

And keep fighting.

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Jason Miko

Jason Miko

Proud American & Arizonan w/Hungarian ethnicity & passion for Macedonia, Hungary & Estonia. Traveler, PR man, history buff & wine, craft beer & cigar enthusiast