The Village of Bouf

By Anastas Dimitroff

The village of Bouf is nestled on the south end of a wide valley on the east side of the Baba (Grandmother) Mountain. The south end starts from Bigla Valley and extends about forty kilometres north. The west side of the village reaches to the valley above the city of Bitolia (Monastir). Across the high peak on Mount Pelister there is a plateau about three kilometres long and is used as a grazing pasture for the livestock of the village. Also on the plateau is located a stream which runs through the village of German and empties into Lake Prespa. Lake Prespa runs into Lake Ochrid which runs into the river Drina. The Drina River is connected with the Sava River and they both empty into the Danube River and both terminate in the Black Sea.

On the south end of the village near the Baba Mountain there is a little raised hill which is called Bakarno (copper) Gumno. At this point we have a seemingly long hill about fifteen kilometres running northeast down to Lerin lowlands. Also in this route is located Boufski Fort or Kula; guarding the main highway leading to the cities of Monastir, Florina, Korcha, and Yanina.

On the west side of our boundary is the hill Varteshka, which is the habitat of wild goats. Varteshka is the terminating point of the boundaries of the villages of Bouf, Rakovo, and German.

The first foundation of our village was laid near the village of what is now Kleshtina and here united with Bouf’s boundary is a place called Skala (ladder). The name of the place was and still is Grodishta. Grodishta means a rocky territory. From the west above Grodishta is our Mechka (bear) Hill. From the northwest is the same hill which is extended down from Varteshka, but at this point it is called Bitushky Hill. The hill is on an angle and there is a lowland which makes an excellent place for raising bees.

The majority of the living quarters in the village were built from stone and clay, and with thatched roofs.

In the year 1357 the Turks from Asia Minor invaded Europe covering Thrace, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia and reached almost to central Europe. After they occupied Macedonia they started to migrate and then settled in what is now known as Upper and Lower Kleshtina. The habitants of Upper Kleshtina were all Asiatic Mohammedans and Lower Kleshtina was inhabited by a few Mohammedans and the rest Bulgaro Christians.

From Grodishta to Upper Kleshtina is only two kilometres. Our people suffered at the hands of the new-comers. They were beaten and their livestock stolen. From day to day they feared for their lives. It was this maltreatment that forced our people to leave this territory and move across the river to a place called Pelihore Dragna. Here they started life anew, but it wasn’t to be for very long for again they were being persecuted by the Turks and forced to look for another settlement. This being their second and final movement, is the present site of the village. The new site was called Bouf, meaning owl, which was very common in that territory.

From the heights of the Baba Mountain there are three peaks situated in such a manner that they look like guards on top of the village. They are Kostrets, Chukata, and Chulevevts.

The wooded territories around the village contained such woods as pine, spruce, beech, oak, ash, hickory, and elm. Until 1886 all of the territory known as Prisovo was covered with small oak bush. After much labor the villagers succeeded in clearing the territory to make it suitable for farming. For many years they reaped an abundant crop of rye, wheat and barley.

Below the peaks of the mountains are many small springs and they form into small streams. They are Krilska (wing), Meshkovska, Laleshka, and Vlashkogumnska. Meshkovska and Laleshka run through the village; just outside the village they unite as one.

In the village we have fourteen springs used for drinking purposes and they are located at vantage points. In the village we have twenty-five flour mills run by water power and outside of the village on Vlashkogumnska Stream are located ten mills.

The main occupation of our ancestry was wood working. They made such articles as bowls, cups and spoons. They made their own plows, yokes and handles for tools.

Our rivers are stocked with three kinds of fish: carp, trout and another which we do not know the name of. The mountains are inhabited by such wild life as bears, deer. Fox, wild goats, jackals, rabbits and wolf. Hunting for birdlife in this region was excellent. The forests were plentiful with such birds as crow, eagle, hawk, bluejay, cuckoo, owl, pheasant and pigeon.

Our church was built in 1872 and it took three years to build it at a cost of three thousand golden Turkish liras, equivalent to thirteen thousand and three hundred dollars. In comparison of beauty and size there is no village in all Macedonia that has such a church. On such holidays as Easter and Christmas two thousand people could be accommodated.

In the period between 1908-1909 a census showed a population of three thousand and twenty-five people.

The foundation for the school was laid in August 1908, which took approximately a year to finish at a cost of three thousand golden Turkish liras.

The village is divided in seven wards or mahaly, namely: Varosh, Sarbino-Alabakova, Central Gorna, Vasilovska, and Dolna.

The village government consists of a mayor and a committee of seven: one member from each mahala. The mayor’s salary is fifteen gold liras per year and out of this amount he is obligated to pay his secretary six liras. The member from each mahala serves without pay. They are elected by the villages for a term of one year, every November 8th. Also on this date are elected for a year, a secretary and a cashier for the church. They also serve without salary.

During the Macedonian uprising of Aug. 2, 1903, the village was almost totally burned to the ground by the Turks.

The foregoing outline covers the period from 1357-1910. At present it is very difficult to emphasize and translate in words the conditions and turmoil that exist in that grand old village of Bouf. In short, it is no man’s land on account of the present political conditions that exist in Greek Macedonia. The village is deserted by the inhabitants. People had to flee for their lives because they are caught between the crossfire of the Partisans and government troops.

*The author has written two books. “The Sufferings of the Macedonian Under the Turkish Yoke” published in 1913 and “Bouf” to be published. He has been in the baking business for the past 32 years at 445 W. Hopocan Ave., Barberton, Ohio.

The article was published in “25th Anniversary of the Bouf’s Mutual Benefit Association.”

The author's grandson, Basil Stephanoff, reports that his grandfather's birth is recorded as 1880 and his year of passing 1970. The Bouf Mutual Benefit Association that he was a member of was founded in 1924. The article on Bouf was in their 25th anniversary booklet in 1949. Anastas Dimitroff first came to the United States in 1904 to St. Louis and returned to Macedonia in 1906. In 1910 he returned to America and went into the bakery business, operating his own bakery until 1942. He was ordained a deacon in the Orthodox church in 1939.

July 2015