The Twenty Two Killed from the Village of Palior

Dawn. Wild voices destroyed the silence of the prison. Cars, planes, soldiers, all in operation. All of us, the prisoners, were awake. All of the noise did not make an impression on us any more; we had become accustomed to it. We knew - either some comrades were to appear before a military court or were to be shot.

That morning in 1947 there was a lot of confusion because the 72 Macedonians from the village of Paljor Kajlarsko, were to appear before a military court. And the crows knew that there would be flesh to peck and so they were crowing loudly too.

The charge was not against the 72 Macedonians but also against the Ilinden uprising in 1903, against the Ilinden fighters, and in the military court they were hearing charges against their sons and daughters.

The military court went for five days. It sentenced 22 brave Macedonian villagers to death. The news that 22 were sentenced to death froze us, but on the other hand, the bravery of the comrades in the way they addressed the military court made us proud of our people. All of the prisoners had family connections; three brothers, two brothers, a grandfather and grandson. They kept them all in prison and later separated them. The condemned were taken to the central prison. We could see them from a northern window. The women who knew them cried. They walked with their heads held high. A teacher and I along with other EPON members greeted them. We looked at the 80 year old man standing next to his 16 year old grandson who tried to support him with a smile on his face. And the son of the grandfather, the father of the boy, was sentenced to four years jail. They had sentenced him two years previously and held him at the central prison in Kozhani and now they took the condemned to that prison; his father and son were to join him. They locked them in a huge room. They took us women out to the yard to take some air. I ran to the window immediately despite knowing the consequences could arise, if the jailers were to see me. With a smile on my face I said to them - "Free people! Hold your head high so that they do not think that with death sentences they can force us to withdraw. Our slogan is: freedom or death! Even when we die we are winning; they are afraid of us and so they kill us."

"Hooray!" they called, smiling and they raised their glasses of water.

My words appealed to the old man. He asked me who I was; I told him and he came to the window, he squeezed my hand and told me "That is why you speak so bravely." I told him that he was a well-built old man.

The women prisoners wished them good freedom and then they were locked up again.

In the evening, when they took us out again to the yard, we saw a number of lawyers searching for the condemned. It was not enough that they had sucked up their blood; they wanted to drink it up to the last drop. They sought from the condemned five lira [currency] each to make an appeal for mercy. One tall man spoke to them, a man named Georgi. He told them "You stripped our houses and now you want to leave our children fatherless on the street, but let's make the last injection of tonic."

Once the lawyers left, the execution squad arrived. The guards told the brave soldiers that they would take them to another camp. They took them into the yard. The old man was the last to come out. In one hand he held a blanket and in the other a basket. The wind blew a dried magazine page from the basket and blew it around. The old man followed it and wanted to take it. Noticing that sad scene, a guard approached me and said "Tell them to take a blanket and to leave their other clothes to their poor wives. It is sad. They have new blankets and they will lose them. Because this lot is going to the barracks and tomorrow morning early they will be shot."

I ran to the old man and said to him: "Old man, let the page go; do not take all your clothes with you. You may return and if you do, tomorrow your daughter in law is coming and she will bring them to you. Just take one blanket so that you can pass the night."

"Why should we not take all of our clothes?" he said to me. I looked at him but did not answer him. "Oh. I see!" he said to me then, "I understand; they are going to kill us."

Speaking with the grandfather I saw his son locked in a cell. From the window he was watching his father and his son, who were being led to be shot. He was crying and sang, "Today it is sad to see…"

I ran and said to the guards, "You are taking the old man and his grandson to be shot and you have locked up the son so that he cannot say his goodbyes to them for the last time, his dear ones!" Just then, there awoke in them a humane feeling. They took the old man and the son, they opened the door and the three of them hugged.

Until that moment the woman teacher and I kept our tears in check. From the moment they brought the condemned, we were cool headed but watching that sad scene we could no longer hold back. And the vicious Cerberus-like guards and the soldiers from the execution squad shed a tear.

When Vasilaki hugged his father he leapt like a deer; he looked as though he was going to a festival. He kissed us and said smiling, "I say thank you to you in the place of my mother. We are going to give our bones to make the foundations of the People's Republic." They took them from the yard and put chains on their wrists. They tied them two by two. We called out in Macedonian as they went, "Hold your heads high!"

I parted from the comrades in the darkness. Two brothers, one 17 and the other 20, were last. They were very poor. The slipper of one of them was untied, and they were bound together, both of them bent down so that he could tie up his lace on his slipper. They were getting further from the prison and the melody of a Macedonian march could be heard from afar. They approached their deaths singing.

The next day their wives came early and we gave them the clothes that had been left. On the third day at dawn, we heard car motors and dogs barking. We ran to the windows to see the graveyards. We saw them take the dead bodies of the brave people. It was as though the carriers were greeting us as they went behind the trees and then showed themselves again.

At the shooting there was present a guard who told us about the courage of the executed. He was impressed by the cool-headedness of the old man. He stood first in line and spoke to the youths. His grandson Vasilaki stood next to him. He gave him courage and said to him "Do not be afraid Vasilaki. You are the son of the Macedonian people." The others all said "Hurrah" for a free homeland and died with a song on their lips. The song was drowned out by the fire of the guns.

S Teodosiadu


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

© 2009

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For Sacred National Freedom: Portraits Of Fallen Freedom Fighters