"Catherine Vida: ” 300,000 Greeks live in FYROM"”

Catherine Vida, 64 years old, daughter of a Democratic Army rebel immigrated to FYROM after a long journey to the Iron Curtain countries. Her family lost the Greek citizenship but not the Greek nationality. She lives and strives for Greece, she is ready to die for Greece and she teaches Greek in Prilep ( Perlepe),where she lives.
Now she is teaching Greek language in Douriopos ( ancient name for Prilep) Foundation. She faces discrimination and oppression from FYROM authorities, along with all people with pro-Greek feelings.The main reason is the harsh regime of Nikola Gruevski ( he has greek origins) which is felt by every citizen in FYROM. Unemployment and bad economy contribute to the effective control of the population by the ruling party. Dependent and scared people don’t react much.
The meeting with Mrs. Vida took place during her short stay in Athens. She visited again Greece, since she is trying
There are Greeks in FYROM. Could be approximately 300.000 They don’t feel Greek all of them ; and how this could be possible when for so many years the borders were closed for them.
to get back her greek citizenship. She is fighting for decades for this cause which deserves it , historically. Legally there are some difficulties in obtaining her right. She considers that the key to the solution of the Greek – FYROM problems is the recognition of greek citizenship for people like her. Without Greece, Fyrom can’t survive, she states firmly. The herebelow adventures of herself and her family could be an excellent scenario for a movie. We wish this life long drama to have a happy end. Now let’s read the story of her life.


Family adventures:
My name is Catherine Vida. I live in Perlepe. Nearest town is Monastiri, at 40 km. I live here since 1957. For 4 years I lived in Czech Republic and for almost 6 years in the USSR. I was born in Variko of the Florina perfecture. Close to my village is Kleisoura and Lehovo. We weren’t expelled from Greece, we left by our free will. My father was a communist rebel. Everyone of these expatriates has his own history. Many soldiers of the Democratic Army realized that communism couldn’t prevail so they managed to save themselves and their families. I know many such cases. My family left Greece at spring of 1948. I was only 2 years old. We were 4 siblings. Argyris the older , Eleonora, me and Yiannis. First we went to Czech Republic. We were living in a foundation for 4 years. Some other rebels left Greece at 1949 and went straight to Tashkent. The communists fought for Greece but in the worst possible war that exists, the civil war.
My uncle was soldier in the National Army and fought against my father. Brother against brother ! My uncle’s name is George and lives in the US. Our house was burnt by the other side, the rightists. My uncle coming back from the war had no place to stay and was wondering why they burnt his house since he fought for the National Army. Civil war was chaos and paranoia.
My father when he was leaving Greece believed that he would come back pretty soon. ” Within a year we’ll be back to liberate Greece”. All in vain.For a year he was in a concentration camp at Tashkent in Uzbekistan. We were in Chech Republic and couldn’t locate our father.Finally we found him through the Red Cross. We went to Tashkent at 1952. I was 6 years old by I remember when he came to the station to welcome us with a bouquet of flowers. I don’t think that I’ll ever get over this scene. My father recognised me at once. He took me by my hand and asked me :” where is your mother?” I was so happy because we were all together , except my older brother Argyri. The Czechs allowed him to see us after 2 years, because he was going to school and the law didn’t allow a child to stop school.
In Tashkent we weren’t all together. We were going to different kindergartens. At 1957 we went to Yugoslavia. We couldn’t come back to Greece since the borders were closed for us. We went to Yugoslavia because my grand father was living in the Skopjie area. He changed his surname form Vidas to Vidovski. He sent a letter to my father saying that if we didn’t come to the area he was living he would suicide. Now that I think of it , would be better to let him suicide. It’s a shame but it’s also true. My father in Yugoslavia had many hardships. Every day they called him in the police station. Every now and then , there was somebody to accuse him for being ” stalinist”. That was a usual accusation in Yugoslavia due to the controversy between Tito and the USSR.



Discrimination against the Greeks :
The reason for the discrimination my father faced ,was ethnic. We’ve been there as Greeks and not as Skopjians, pseudo-macedonians or whatever else. My poor father faced many problems. In Greece he was unwanted as a communist rebel. In FYROM was treated as Greek who didn’t accept their propaganda. At 1987 he died from stroke. I face problems myself. Do you realize how it is to insult, spit and beat you while you are walking in the street? Where I live there are good and bad people. The bad people are getting very upset when I identify myself as Greek. I’m saying that I was born in Greece. What they expect? To hate my country? If you don’t love my country how could I love you? They answer : Go away. And they add: Even Greeks don’t want you. You don’t have Greek nationality. You belong nowhere. I always find something to tell them, not always very convincing.
I had a workshop and I used to teach greek. Now I teach in the Douriopos Foundation. I am happy by teaching greek to my students. I feel that I offer much and that fulfills me. I have a teacher’s pension. 90 euros per month. What can I do with this money? Nothing. My students pay 15 euros per year for their greek lessons. Currently I have 60 students. I wish to increase that number.
 
The solution:
In order to overcome the problem with FYROM, first of all Greece should solve the problem created to her children. Recognize them and give the Greek nationality to all those that want and deserve it legally.Then the bad feelings among many of them, who face close borders for more than 50 years, will be over. It isn’t possibe Greece to grant nationality to Afghans, Pakistanis, Indians and others non related to Hellenism and refuse this right to us. If Greece takes that action then FYROM’s resistance to the solution will crumble from within. If FYROM’s authorities don’t compromise on the name issue then the very existence of their country is at stake. Albania will take one part, Bulgaria the other and the story will end.
 
Gruevski as a dictator:
The regime in FYROM isn’t democracy. It is a dictatorship. All job opportunities are controlled. If you aren’t
The regime in FYROM isn’t democracy. It is a dictatorship. All job opportunities are controlled. If you aren’t member of the Party you can’t find a job. If you have a job and you don’t support them you ‘ll lose your job. You should be a Party member and follow their orders.
member of the Party you can’t find a job. If you have a job and you don’t support them you ‘ll lose your job. You should be a Party member and follow their orders. Even the person who established the pro- FYROM party in Greece if he moved to FYROM he would face trouble. He could be confined in a mental institution. There is fear in te country. My mother calling me on the phone, very often she says : ” don’t talk they might kill you” My response is : Let them kill me. I’m not that young. I’ll live for Greece and I’ll die for Greece. Everybody will be dead someday”. Keep in mind that Gruevski’s descent is Greek. Nikos Gruyos was the name of his grand father.He graduated from Prilep high school and he was the worst student. A friend of mine was his teacher and was really disappointed by his grades.
 
Bitter procedure to ” break your nose” on closed doors :
There are Greeks in FYROM. Could be approximately 300.000 They don’t feel Greek all of them ; and how this could be possible when for so many years the borders were closed for them. The borders were closed for those declaring as Bulgarian in 1945 and for the communists that left in 1949. They were all considered the same. In 1992 when the borders opened I got a 3 days permit to visit Greece. During these days I visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior in order to get back my rights and my nationality. It is a bitter procedure to ” break your nose” on closed doors. For decades I am trying to convince the Greek authorities that I am Greek. I feel old and tired. Everybody else will take Greek nationality except us. The Slavs of FYROM say ” Greeks don’t like you and they don’t want you”. I lie to them saying that I have Greek nationality. I live in Prilep and everybody knows me.
Nobody from the Greek state has been interested in our case although we are many Greeks in the city and the nearby villages. There is Greek minority in FYROM but they never mention it. You’ll hear about Albanians, Serbs and Roma. You’ll never hear about Greeks. We could become EU citizens by getting Bulgarian passports but we don’t want to. We are not Bulgarians. We didn’t come out from the blue sky, we are Greeks and we ask from our country to stop denying to us this fundamental right.
 
TV and Alexander the Great :
I don’t watch on a regular basis TV programs of FYROM channels. I prefer Greek programs on cable TV. But
It isn’t possibe Greece to grant nationality to Afghans, Pakistanis, Indians and others non related to Hellenism and refuse this right to us. If Greece takes that action then FYROM’s resistance to the solution will crumble from within.
whenever I watch their programs and listen them talking about our bilateral relations I call the channel administrators and tell them that the problem is on the FYROM side which desires to enter the EU and NATO. Greece is a member state of both organizations. I also ask them , since when they discovered Alexander the Great. They just recently discovered about him. I remember my grandmother who died 105 years old to sing: ” Macedonia honored, land of Alexander”. My mother , now 88 years was singing at school the same song. Greece always honored Alexander. FYROM’s Slavs ”adopted” him the last 20 years. These people know nothing about Alexander, Macedonia, Thessaloniki and Olympias. I explain to them, in my way , at class and try to transmit to them the historical truth. When I teach them the etymology and the origin of many words in their language they are impressed on the number of greek words they use without even knowing it. Some of them are getting upset. The fanatics not even want to hear the word ” Greece”. One of my students with greek descent from Edessa stopped coming to my class when I told him that since he claims himself as Macedonian that means that he is Greek. He was so infuriated that he never attended my class anymore.
Translation by Cornelius
 
Interview to Panagiotis Liakos of Expresso 28/02/2010


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