Hey, did you know I’m a Canadian of Macedonian descent? Some people don’t think I exist.

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.

tree of languagesIf 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.)

This is not me!
This is not me!

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 Macedonian Truth Forum.

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.


  1. Bad Greeks. Bad, Bad Greeks. Now I know why I always root against them in the Euro and World Cups.

    As for ms MSGP – shaddap ya face! Don’t worry I will never ask you to speak greek.

  2. I completely understand your situation because I am Macedonian (and honestly I am not proud of my native country;one word politics). It all starts with Alexander the Great who came from a place called Macedon in the northern Greece and this is where the trouble starts. The father of Alexander Philip II (359–336 BC) saw the rise of Macedonia, which would overthrow Persian rule and come to control the entire Greek world.( With the innovative Macedonian army, Philip defeated the old powers of Athens and Thebes in the decisive Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and subdued them, while keeping Sparta in check. His son Alexander the Great pursued his father’s effort to command the whole of Greece through the federation of Greek states, a feat he finally accomplished after destroying a revolting Thebes. Young Alexander was then ready to lead this force, as he aspired, in a large campaign against the Achaemenid Empire, in retaliation for the invasion of Greece in the 5th century BC, in which he succeeded.) and etc. You know the basic history…My main point is that what the Greek don’t accept that Alexander was from a royal macedonian blood line, but he was so fasctinated by the Greek culture that he accept it concurred the Persian empire (Mesopotamia, Babylon) and Egypt.
    And then 20 th century the cruelty from the Greeks that happened.
    Every time when I go on vacation in Greece or go shopping in Solun at the tool or when we ask for directions we don’t really have to use English we just simply talk Macedonian that area is populated with ancient Macedonian that’s where my grandfather Axil( remember greek name, but he was also macedonian) comes from before he was kicked out of the country with his brothers and sisters to Serbia in foster homes. He talked about how they were banned from speaking Macedonian listening to Macedonian music and writing in Macedonian.
    And today the Greeks say that 99% are Greeks and 1% others which is not true at all. (sorry about the long comment)

  3. You need to understand something fundamental; Modern Macedonians/FYROMians are from Yugoslavia. They speak a slavic language. A language, along with a people, that didn’t come into existence until 1000 years after Ancient Macedonia existed. Ancient Macedonians spoke, over time, many different forms of Ancient Greek. They also worshipped Greek gods and had identical customs and culture. They Hellenic through and through. So let’s face the FACT that your country, which has always spoken Slavic, was created some 25 years ago, were claiming to be Macedonian only after Yugoslavia broke apart. Why? To establish an “Identity” for the sake of fitting into a historically rich Balkans, at the cost of stealing the history of their neighbouring country. Literally, and I do mean LITERALLY, the only connection modern FYROM has to Ancient Macedonia, is that it shares the northern most, smallest mass of land where Alexander’s troops marched every so often, whereas, the majority of the ancient kingdom, along with the capital and where Alexander the Great was born, has always been in Greece. Even during Roman and Ottoman occupation, the region was predominantly Greek. Please tell me, are any tablets from Ancient Macedonia written in your language? No. Tell me what the name Alexander even means? In Greek it means “Protector of man.” All of the things you mentioned which happened in Greek Macedonia was done to a Slavic minority. Same thing happens when an immigrant comes to Canada, they are required to learn either English or French, learn the laws, and accept the norms. The vast majority of the Macedonian region’s population has always been Greek. Please understand, that you are speaking a very Bulgarian language, and when your country of 1.3 million (Minus the large ethnic minority) refers to it as Macedonian, is very insulting to the 3 million historical Macedonians that live in northern Greece. I understand that you find it frustrating when someone identifies you as something you’re not, and if you left it that that, I would’ve enjoyed your story, but you turning this into a political debate by referring to Greeks as brainwashed, has resulted in me giving you the facts. If there is anything here you don’t agree with, please post some facts from scholars proving your case. Unfortunately you won’t find any.

  4. Hey Tom, I approved your comment since I’m cool like that. But you might want to consider paragraph breaks — they would make it easier for you to rebut points I *actually did not make* in my post.

    As I said, I am no historian — all that stuff is Greek to me (see what I did there; cute right?) — but I can tell ya that my Baba and Dedo said we were Macedonian before Yugoslavia collapsed. Are we the same “Macedonian” as the ancients — I don’t know and don’t care — that’s why I did not write about that. I do care when Greek people think I should speak Greek.

    Oh and Greeks who are of Macedonian decent who refuse to admit that are brainwashed; that was the plan… Did you skip over the assimilationist policies section of my post?

  5. Well thank you for letting me post. I apologize for the rushed writing, but many of my statements were also directed to fellow commenters and readers that seam to have similarly skewed ideas of what Macedonia truly is. As per you being told to speak Greek, I completely agree, you should be able to speak your own language and celebrate your own culture. A language and culture that would’ve remained it’s own if Tito didn’t try to claim it as “Macedonian,” if he didn’t introduce the controversial Vergina Sun as the flag, and if he didn’t push his right-wing agenda onto the people. All of this happened overnight in the early 1990’s when Yugoslavia broke apart, so “Macedonia” was literally created from nothing (one politicians agenda). You’re parents may say they are Macedonians because you’re family are from the actual region, but in reality, they speak a different (Slavic) language. Unfortunately, the current political party in Macedonia/FYROM is the only ultra right-wing party leading a European country, so this nationalistic agenda will continue to be pushed onto the youth and history will continue to be provoked and skewed (As it has with statues of Alexander being erected, airports being renamed). Hopefully a more sensible leadership will take charge soon.

  6. Macedon is Greek Kingdom. Macedonians walk like Greeks and talk like Greeks from since the days of King Karanus 808-778 BC.

    Conclusion: FYRoM is not Macedon…FYRoM is Paeonia, and then Dardania north from Skopje. The peoples there [now Slavicized) carry something native from the Haemus in their biology, you can see it in their morphology, in their manners, and in their temperament.

    Those who confuse FYRoM for Macedon are anti-Hellenic by default.
    Those who mistake ex-Yugoslavians for Macedonians are anti-Western by extension.

    Those who indulge FYRoM by calling the place Macedonia, and calling the ex-Yugoslavians there, Macedonians…just prolong the name dispute that exists between FYRoM and Greece.

    Stop indulging them!

  7. I guess it’s just a touchy subject on both ends, so you will always see comments from both ends. It doesn’t help when people’s comments are rude. I am sure if a Greek person wrote a post on their stance and their facts, it would receive a lot of looney comments too.

    It’s hard when the land was under Ottoman Empire ruling and there were no borders. It was a land with many people calling it home for centuries. All the places had names in your language, Greek and Turkish. I know Greeks during the same period that had to leave Greece, not because they were Greek, but because they were communists. They were sent to the Czech Republic, or I guess Czechoslovakia at the time. Greece was strongly against communism. There is a Byzantine Greek church in Kastoria called Mavrotissa, and all the icons of the Saint’s eyes are carved out by the Turks. It’s so barbaric and sad. War is never good.

    I guess it will always now be considered both because no one can change their viewpoint. You can’t tell someone who was raised something that they aren’t that. It’s such an emotional topic on both sides.

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