What I Did on My Summer Vacation, 1999 by
friendly version 2
After the conference
of the International Society for Political Psychology--- fascinating
as always---, I left Amsterdam on Macedonian Airlines (MAT) for
Macedonia where I led workshops in Skopje and Bitola training
for psychologists and psychiatrists in psychotherapy and did
some promotion for an old book that has just been published in Macedonian.
This was my first time
in Macedonia. It being the only one of the six republics of the
former Yugoslavia that I had not visited---- I had previously led
workshops in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia and visited Mostar, Sarajevo
and the Montenegrin coast as a tourist----, I had some notion of
what Macedonia might be like. I was not prepared for how much I
would like and applaud the country.
First of all, the people.
I loved them! A far more warm-hearted, tolerant, generous, peaceful
group of people than one would expect to find in the Balkans
so touted by our media as a region of seething ethnic animosities.
I stayed with families in Skopje and Ohrid and can testify to their
great hospitality to strangers.
There is also a streak
of passivity in Macedonians which I dont like as much, and
I suppose it comes from the many centuries that they were under
the control of some other country. One personal example: Macedonian
Airlines failed to bring my suitcase from Amsterdam for seven days.
What to me was an outrage was met with statements from Macedonians
such as, It happens all the time and It also happened
to our president. This attitude is dramatized by what I came
to call the Macedonian Shrug a lifting of the shoulders, a
tilt of the head and a fluttering of hands. Very eloquent. However,
it is not a hopeless/helpless gesture, but more an expression of
philosophical resignation. It seems to mean: Ive thought
this over and theres nothing I can do about it right now
or The question you ask is a very difficult one and I dont
want to give a misleading answer.
Right now there is a
collective sigh of relief that the Kosovo War did not spread to
Macedonia. It looked dicey for awhile. In the days after the bombing
started, as many as 5000 members of the Serb minority attacked the
American, British and German embassies. There were riots downtown
for several days; about 60 rioters were arrested.
People feared some sort
of retaliation from Milosevic for the stationing of NATO troops
in Macedonia; there were persistent rumors that Arkans Tigers
were on their way. An even greater fear was that the larger Albanian
minority might stage counter-demonstrations and the resulting chaos
would be more than the small police and military forces could contain.
Fortunately, none of this happened, although some KLA caches were
discovered in different parts of the country.
What did Macedonians
think about the NATO War? Virtually all the people I spoke to condemned
the NATO bombing as something both unnecessary and inhumane. At
the same time they found the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo equally
guilty of offenses in the years before the war.
They are struggling
to maintain a peaceful, multi-ethnic society Macedonians (two-thirds),
Albanians, Serbs, Roma, Turks and Vlachs. The significant minority,
of course, is the Albanian one which comprises approximately
23% of the total population and lives mostly in the western and
southern parts of the country. (Some figures I copied off a poster
in the National Television studio indicate this growth in percentage
of Albanians in the population: 1800, 2%; 1840, 6%;1900, 10%; 1953,
19%; 1961, 18%; 1971, 24%.) One city, Tetovo, is now almost totally