Pejov Vane

The spring of 1946 arrived with quick steps. Leaving the green fields and the blossoming trees of the plain, it climbed the peaks of Vich and as though by magic dressed the grey hills and yellow forests with beautiful green. The birds sang of the beauty of nature with their lovely melodies.

The first partisans crept up the mountain along with spring - fighters persecuted by the monarcho-fascist police and the English occupying army.

If I remember correctly, it was 21 May when a small group of former ELAS fighters from the Lerin villages of the plain moved toward Vich mountain and through the thick forests climbed the Trsjanski slopes.

Our arrival at this place was unexpected and would have had dreadful consequences if the comrades from Trsjanka group had not been cool-headed. But they quickly recognized us and after we had embraced we joined with them and began to talk, happy that we had become one large group.

In the group, most of the people we met were from Trsjani - mostly young people with only a small number of older ones. Vane Pejov made the biggest impression on me - a 45 year old worker - sawyer was how he described himself. He was modest but an experienced and intelligent man. It was pleasant to hear him talk about life and even about the sufferings of the people who lived in those mountain villages. When he spoke, the others were quiet. They knew he spoke for all because they all had the same pain and the same destiny.

"Our village," Vane began to tell, "is one of the poorest in Vich. Our life is very poor. Five to six sheep, some barren mountain fields and a crooked pen. That is why the men roam around the villages, near and far - they go to Sveta Gora and even as far as the Peloponnese - looking for work as sawyers so as to earn enough for a loaf of bread for their families. The life of the villagers is bleak and cursed; previously under the yoke of the Ottoman Turks' chiflik land system and later under that of the Greek reactionary forces. Ilinden passed through our village like a glittering ray full of hope. It set a fire in the hearts of the Macedonians but soon faded to ash…"

It was not enough that we had to endure poverty; we also had to pay heavy taxes to the government and to also endure, standing over our heads every day, the gendarmes, the tax collectors, the mountain guards. Even darker days arrived. They banned us speaking our mother tongue.

That is what it was like when the Second World War exploded. When the German fascists came the situation in Tasjani became even worse. No one was building any more so no one needed a sawyer. Once you are without work… hunger. The knife reaches bone. What will happen in the future?

It was just then that the voice of the Party was heard and showed the correct path to the Trsjani, the whole people of Greece. The path of struggle toward liberation and life. The men grabbed rifles and set off in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers - the Ilinden fighters. This struggle was different. With the help of the renowned Soviet army we were liberated. But we did not enjoy for long the freedom we got with the Greek people. It was grabbed by foreigners - the English imperialists and the domestic janissaries. That was not enough for them; on top of that they persecuted us like rabid dogs…

"It was hard to join the partisans afresh," Vane said, making a heavy sigh, "but it is even harder to accept them beating you like a dog on the road, or for them to lock you up like a bird in a cage." With a decisiveness that spread throughout like a current, he completed his life story. "It is better to die free in Vich defending our honour, than to give in to the enemy or to die in jail…"

The group was quickly transformed and with a few old rifles that group began its defense operations. As a member of that group, I often had reason to test the wisdom and the courage of Vane Pejov.

The next day an enemy company attacked us. Some in the group expressed the view that we should pull back. But Vane did not agree for us to let the burandari (which is what we called the Greek police patrols) pass by. And that is what happened. We repelled them heroically, despite our inadequate weapons. For the first time they experienced a defense effort and drew back, embarrassed.

After a few days, the group had to get some food. A part of the group took on that task and we set off to one of the closer villages - Statica. It was in the evening.

When we got close to the village we heard strong, ceaseless shooting. They seemed to be quite close and it was dangerous for a person to enter the village. Some in the group said we should go back. But again Vane, along with the man in charge of our mission, encouraged the comrades, "Do not be afraid. We have to get food. We cannot manage otherwise."

Many times when the group could not get down into the village, Vane's wife brought us provisions and food. And finally, when the movement widened, the whole of Vane's family - his wife, his daughter-in-law became partisans, fighters for the people. His son had become a partisan in the group right at the start and later became an officer of DAG. Vane, until the last moment, with all his 48 years of suffering, fought bravely, faithful to the party and to his own people and died as a revolutionary worker in the front line in Negush in the winter of 1949.

M Velaki


From: For Sacred National Freedom: Portraits Of Fallen Freedom Fighters

© 2009

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For Sacred National Freedom: Portraits Of Fallen Freedom Fighters