I’m no scholar and I don’t claim to have a lot of understanding about the whole Macedonian issue from a historical perspective But there are a few things I do know:
- I sometimes talk to my aunts, uncles and cousins in Macedonian — very childlike Macedonian — since I can barely string a grammatical sentence together and my vocabulary pretty much only covers food, pleasantries and household things like pots, pans, brooms and mops (thanks, Mom)!
- The language I can barely speak is not Greek. Not even close. Oh look, here’s a handy language tree that can explain it better than I can.
If you look very closely you can see wee Macedonian beside Bulgarian. Okay, so Macedonian is related to Bulgarian. And Bulgarian is a Slavic language .. .Slavic — you know — like Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and Czech. (What I can’t explain is why I am not tall and blond, but trust me, I am of Slavic stock. Short, chubby Slavic stock.)
But my last name is Elias — that sounds Greek, right? That’s because it is Greek. And my family emigrated from Greece. But we are ethnic Macedonians. (Oh boy, now the thrills begin … just saying that can incite some serious shade!)
Here’s why: The names of villages, towns, cities and people (like the ones now named Elias) were changed. That and a whole lot more.
And there is the whole “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYOM) kerfuffle.The Greeks really are not letting this go. Yeah, this is all sad, but it doesn’t impact me day to day. And of course, it cannot ever compare with the other far, far greater horrors others have suffered. Never.
But this is not just something that happened back in the old country. You might not believe it, but this whole “Macedonians are really Greek” business affects me personally on a fairly regular basis. Like just last week and the week before that, too. Really.
Let me tell you about it — or stop reading and wait until I post something funny again.
There are many Canadians of Greek extraction who understand the whole Macedonian business — quite a few of my friends and relatives, in fact. None of them expect me to chat with them in Greek. (Which is good, since I can’t speak Greek beyond a few words of greeting and profanity.)
There are also quite a few Canadians who emigrated from Greece — but are ethnic Macedonians (like my family) — who don’t consider themselves Macedonian. (Note that they are/were Greek citizens — I am speaking only of ethnicity). Try to wrap your head around that. Suffice it to say, the Greek assimilationist policies worked very well on a lot of people.
I come across one such person at work sometimes. She tries to talk to me in Greek, but I tell her I’m Macedonian and I can’t speak Greek. You’d think that would be the end of it — but no! This person then switches to Macedonian (Greeks can’t speak Macedonian) and tells me how we are not really Macedonian at all (silly me)…that we are true Greeks. There’s a word for this.
“They are so brainwashed that they believe everyone is brainwashed. This is a disgrace, don’t they remember there grandparents that only spoke Macedonian? Don’t they remember their grandparents who struggled against the Greeks all those years? The people of Lerin (link is mine) are bilingual now but at one stage they had only one language and that was Macedonian. They are not proud Macedonians, they are brainwashed Macedonians.” — “Daniel the Great” on the
I do my best to be polite — I am at work, of course, but I am naturally a polite person regardless — but it can be difficult. Our last conversation went something like this:
Macedonian Speaking Greek Person (MSGP): “Ti kanis?” (How are you in Greek. But this phrase I do know.).
Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Greek. Please let’s not speak Greek, okay?”
MSGP: “Like it or not, you are Greek. If you go back home, you know you have to speak Greek.”
There was another incident in my personal sphere as well, but I am so very tired of this topic now … for those of you who endured reading this … I am sure you get the idea.