Bapchor Then, Bapchor Now

By Lita Grakini

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I recently went to Europe including all four parts of Macedonia as well as Turkey, Denmark and Greece. On my passport my place of birth says Bapchor, therefore I entered Greece from an EU country. Later as I was in the Kostur/ Lerin area and had intentions of going to the Republic of Macedonia, I saw no point in going the long way around through another EU country. As a result we arranged for a cab driver to take us through the border and then to Bitola. This should have been easy enough, but not so.

At the border, the cab driver took my and my partner's passports to the Greek border control officers. During this process we waited in the cab for a long time and saw the cab driver conversing with the border control personnel, in a very animated way. Tired and apprehensive while sitting in the cab, we were aware of my situation - meaning that as I was born in the Greek occupied part of Macedonia, no doubt it was my passport which was taking such a long time. Eventually the cab driver, himself a Macedonian, returned to us. He said that he could not talk the border control into letting me go through, even after he told them that my village has no inhabitants now. Instead the cab driver was told to have me go to the window, as they wanted to see me.

To cut a long story short, they were interested as to how I got into the country. I was informed that in future I will not be allowed back in unless I changed the name of my place of birth on my passport, to something unintelligible to me, the Greek name. Therefore they wanted me to falsify my Australian passport, to suit their egos and paranoia. I know the “new” imposed Greek name of the village, but it is offensive to me and I choose not to use it.

The village has not had anyone living in it since the period of the Civil War. We lost our orchards, barns, animals, homes, way of life and village. As did the other Bapchorians. Most importantly we lost a generation of young beautiful people in this war. We who survived became destitute. Some went to other villages to survive as best as they could. Many children from the village were sent to neighbouring countries to grow up in children’s homes, away from their parents and families.

My father was killed in the war when I was under two years old. I visited my birthplace, which was not easily accessible and personally saw the village ruins. There was evidence of bears there and perhaps there may be wolves and other animals which roam about, but that is all. Even the village ruins have crumbled to such an extent that they are almost completely overgrown by shrubs. Yet the Greeks have the indecency to be wielding their power over the name of the village. This is indecent, almost sacrilegious; it is like robbing a mass grave of the inhabitants of the village. A bit of our soul will always be there. Someone’s place of birth is a very powerful thing and the name of the birthplace very important. Bapchor is a place in which so much Macedonian blood has been spilled and so many dreams and futures destroyed. I was too young to remember the village well when I was an infant. However it was Bapchor when I had to leave it and as far as I am concerned, it is Bapchor now.

What a stupid thing the Greek border control people did. I am not a criminal to be targeted like this, nor wanted by Interpol, but a respected professional woman of mature age. Perhaps it was just as well the cab driver dealt with most of this confrontation with the border control officers, as I would have gotten very angry. I was already very tired from my trip from Kostur to Lerin and had to deal with a lot of emotional experiences, the border control difficulty was the last straw.

When the two border controllers saw me I do not know what they made of my fair complexion and blue eyes. I could see them studying my face. I was relieved that they did not call me Greek, that would have been the ultimate insult. Surely these people know the history and know that we are Macedonians - they could not be that ignorant. No doubt they choose to believe what they want to, even if it is not the truth. What a burden we Macedonians have to carry. I urge especially second and third generation young people of Macedonian origin to visit their parents’ birthplace. It is an eye opening experience and well worthwhile.


Copyright 2008.