The presentations of the majority of the academics participating in the 7th “Macedonian”- North American Conference on “Macedonian” Studies at the University of Utah that took place from November 5-7, 2009, amounted to an anti-Hellenic delirium. The Universities of Utah and Chicago jointly organized the conference, in cooperation with the United “Macedonian” Diaspora (UMD) of Skopje based in Washington D.C.
Most of the presenters, with a few exceptions, aimed to launch an aggressive propaganda attack against Greece, presenting their views without scientific and academic research criteria, without references to sources thereby promoting unilateral research.
Dr. Vasiliki Neofotistos in her presentation “Alexander the Great and the mythic lands”, implied that the educator Thanasis Lerounis approached the Kalash tribe in Afghanistan through an education program, funded by Greek ministries and thus created the myth of the Kalash as descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great. However, she claimed that “Macedonia” approached the tribe of the Hunza in 2008 on private initiative. Dr. Neofotistos used the term “Macedonia” freely, rather than the Republic of “Macedonia,” creating the impression that the entire region of Macedonia (in Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania) belongs to Skopje. Dr. Neofotistos referred to FYROM as “Macedonia”, and she only named the Slavs as “Macedonians”, while the Albanians citizens of “Macedonia” were referred as “the Albanians”, which is academically unacceptable.
An unrivaled individual in anti-Hellenism was Dr. Philip Shashko, whose presentation titled “Tasos Kostopoulos on Macedonia and the Slavs in Greece: When a forbidden language speaks truth to power”, was an eruption of hatred against Greece. Dr. Shashko cited, and presented as scientific evidence, the contents of Tasos Kostopoulos’ book (journalist of the Sunday addition Ios in the Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia)!
The culmination of the political-activism and racism with a “scientific” cover was Dr. Loring Danforth’s presentations. Dr. Danforth spoke about the research he has completed for the book he has co-authored with the Dutch anthropologist who teaches at the University of Thessaly, Dr. Riki van Boeschoten, entitled “Macedonian refugee children from the Greek Civil War”. Although it was stated that during the Civil War in Greece, Greek and “Macedonian” children were kidnapped and led by the communists into communist countries, their research did not include any Greek children.
Mary Rossova from a village of “Aegean Macedonia" in her presentation “From Trnaa to Toronto: The life story of a dete begalec”, recounted how her family with the help of partisans fled to escape the “bad” Greek soldiers in locations across the Iron Curtain countries. She talked about her life in the communist countries and how she finally arrived in Canada, “although,” as she mentioned “a capitalist country” she lives happily with her family there. Trying to give a bad image of Greece she said that upon visiting her homeland in “Aegean Macedonia”, she found her old house in ruins and complained that one…Greek official at the border treated her with arrogance!
Traian Dimitriou, also a dete begalec (refugee child) in Dr. Danfroth’s research presentation titled “A Macedonian child in a Greek technical school during the Greek Civil War”, narrated how he ended up in a children’s camp of Queen Frederika in Leros. His vast criticism was that the trip by boat to the island “was awful because the sea was stormy!” He only took weekly baths (!) and was forced to sing the Greek national anthem daily! There was reporting by the ‘victims’ of the camps that many of the children were sold to wealthy families. When the members of the panel were asked by a representative of the Pan-Macedonian Association if there are documented sources for these allegations, they admitted they had none.
Both children of the Greek Civil War stressed that they did not want to leave their homeland, but had to remain in the former communist countries against their will. Since the communist governments kept them against their will in what way is it Greece’s fault? They failed to indicate that they had every opportunity to go back and stay in Greece when the Greek government through various U.N. resolutions, called on all Greek citizens who were displaced during the Greek Civil War in communist countries to go back to their homeland (see: UN Resolutions 382 (V Section C), 1950; 618 (VII), 1952; 517 (VI), 1952). There is no doubt regarding Greece’s and the UN’s position on this issue, even though Dr. Danforth implied that the U.N. resolutions were inconclusive. Therefore this claim is not true as is also evident by the strong support of the U.S. Government at the time at all levels. President Harry S. Truman addressing the Congress and with reference to Resolution 514, did not leave any doubt about the strong support of the U.S. to the U.N. resolutions: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=13766.
It is indeed noteworthy that FYROM accuses Greece that she banished her children, while the Slav/communists kidnapped the Greek children from all over Greece in order to “protect” them. Obviously they chose to forget that the mastermind behind the mass kidnapping of the children was the right hand of Tito, Edvard Kardelj. If the “child saving” was done to protect children, how do they substantiate their claim that the camps of Queen Frederika were not protecting the children?
The Danforth /van Boeschoten research was unilateral, and only examined the cases of children who willingly were led by their communist parents, or even sent to Iron Curtain countries with the consent of their parents. Conversely, among the expatriates who attended the conference was Mrs. Irene Damopoulou Karatzios. Mrs. Karatzios was one of the children amongst thousands of other children with or without parents who were abducted by partisans and were led into several Iron Curtain countries against their will. When Dr. Danforth was asked if Mrs. Karatzios could speak about her plight, he prohibited her to speak in a peremptory manner. In a private discussion with Mrs. Karatzios, Dr. Danforth said he read the book “The Cry of Irene” which was written about her and implied that her claims are untrue!
An excerpt of Mrs. Karatzios’ plight in the book “The Cry of Irene”, authored by Dr. Ioannis Bougas, is provided: (ISBN: 969-454-022-X email: email@example.com):
My mother’s denial to give my little brother and myself away to the communist guerillas, so that we might be delivered into the iron curtain countries, a deed organized by the KKE, placed her in the ranking of a shady “ reactionary” and put the entire family as KKE’s target for revenge. First they took my mother to help the rebels in the mountains carrying materials, where she was often physically tortured. My brother, along with other residents of our village and I, were ordered to abandon our homes and forced to live in makeshift huts in the nearby forest.
Later, they led us cross the borders secretly and we entered Albania. After walking on foot for several days, almost without food or water, we arrived in a dirty prison labor camp. Once reunited with our mother, we spent some time in various prisons in Albania, and finally we were dragged in the galley of Loulé in Romania, where my brother and I attended the Russian-Romanian schools of their “father” and “god” Stalin. In addition we suffered incredible pressure from the leaders of KKE to give up our motherland Greece and become Slavomacedonians
One of the most balanced and informative presentations was that of Dr. Bill Darden titled “Greek articles vs. Slavic relatives in the Strumchki (Makedonski) Apostol and other early Slavic text” which focused on the difficulty of translating the Bible from Greek to Slavic.
Dr. Emilija Crenkovska presented on “The language of the Old Church Slavonic writing of Macedonia in the period of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire”, in the “Macedonian” language, without translation or even a written summary of the content of her speech. Members of the Pan-Macedonian Association, knowledgeable of the language of FYROM and the local Greek slavophone idioms explained that Dr. Crenkovska spoke in the Serbo-Bulgarian language of FYROM that she named “Macedonian”. When a member of the Pan-Macedonian Association conveyed this information to the panelists he did not receive an answer, and some individuals in the audience urged the presenters not to pay attention to such interventions!
Quite notable was the reaction of the Dr.Victor Friedman, Professor of Linguistics and Balkan Studies from the University of Chicago. When a member of the Pan-Macedonian Association tried to approach him in a friendly manner, the academic exploded and started shouting, “the ‘Macedonians’ have a right to exist!” Also one could characterize as inappropriate the efforts of Dr. Friedman and Andrew Graan (doctoral candidate under the auspices of Dr. Friedman) to distract the university journalist who was interviewing Mrs. Karatzios and the writer of this article. Addressing the journalist, Dr. Friedman said: “take everything they say with a grain of salt…”
Members of the Pan-Macedonian Association U.S.A have attended several propaganda events organized by FYROM and its Diaspora in American universities. Unfortunately, while the Greek embassy is being informed of such events, the Greek state is absent in FYROM’s efforts to defame Greece. It is particularly important that representatives of the Greek State participate in such conferences to refute the ignorant argumentation of the academic community of FYROM. Moreover, relevant scientific conferences with the participation of foreign academics have to be seriously considered by Greece in the future. In addition the libraries of American universities should be enriched by contemporary English-language material on the issue of Macedonia. These failures generate “data” which Hellenism will be forced to face in the future.
*Mrs. Gatzoulis is the Supreme President of the Pan-Macedonian Association USA