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Another Side of the President

February 27, 2004

By Christopher Deliso

According to our report yesterday, the Western mass media is writing the eulogy for President Boris Trajkovski, without enough input from the people whom he served- the Macedonians.

Perhaps it is a testimony to the Macedonian reality, but the near monopolization of the public discourse by the Western media and its political representatives is unfair, in that it gives outsiders a limited understanding of Trajkovski, his people, and their relationship. Rather, the one-sided encomia is more like a distorting mirror in which the West seeks to give to Trajkovski all of the qualities it would like to assert of itself, in deliberate exclusion of whatever he may have meant to the Macedonians.

That said, we would like to offer a small corrective to this somewhat narcissistic and exclusive monologue, by relating the reactions and opinions of ordinary Macedonian citizens to the death of their president, with minimal interpretation or judgment.

We hope that this partial record of their statements, once translated into the globally-endorsed English language, will find a place within the greater discourse of apologia, encomia and other reflections on the death of Macedonia’s second president, Boris Trajkovski.Immediately after it was reported that the president’s plane had crashed on Thursday, the Macedonian media began recording public testimonies. We relate some of the reactions carried by the Macedonian-language ‘Dnevnik,’ as well as the A1 and Channel 5 television channels.

The first reaction was of shock, said ‘Dnevnik.’ In the words of Gavrilo Andonov, a Skopje resident: “…when I heard about this, my reaction was like everyone’s in this country. I was confused, and I couldn’t understand what had happened. When I heard this information I was in the hospital, and I just froze. He was a young man, and president of our state. It’s really a big loss for us.”

“…The death of President Trajkovski is a great tragedy. It is so sad because he was a family man, father of two children, husband, and after that, president,” said one sad Skopje resident for TV Channel 5.

Some Macedonians felt a sense of ominous uncertainty in the president’s passing. “I am still upset,” said one Vlatko Vasilev for ‘Dnevnik.’ “I don’t know really what reaction will happen in Macedonia after his death, but still I think we will have negative consequences.” And, added one Elena Eftimova, “…I was so confused when I heard about the president’s death. I am very sad. In that plane were young people who have families. I am sure this will be negative for Macedonia and for us citizens.”

This note was also sounded by a student in Skopje, Aleksandra Jovcevska: “…many bad things have happened in the Balkan in the last few years, starting with our neighbor and continuing with us. I really don’t know how this will finish.”

Another man surveyed, Aleksandar Todorovski, added, “…I am so sorry for Boris Trajkovski, not only because he is President, but first of all because he is a man. Leaving politics on the side, he is a man with family and children, and I am so sorry. The whole population is upset because of this… it is a bad thing for us.”

A1 TV visited the outlying Skopje suburb of Cento, where Trajkovski lived before becoming president. Here former neighbors spoke about their relationship with the late president. “…I was shocked. I’ve known him for 15 years. (Trajkovski was) a very good, very wise man,” said Milorad Simic. Another neighbor, Slavica Giceva, added, “…we were neighbors since 1986. He was a good man and good president. I am sorry for his wife, children, and family.”

Although it did not reveal itself much to foreigners, the president was known for his populist touch. Examples abound regarding this. According to ‘Dnevnik’, Trajkovski sometimes paid visits to a home for people with special needs in the southern town of Demir Kapija. He was casual and spontaneous, and maybe for this reason the people there liked him. One old woman from the home, Slavka, started crying when workers told her of Trajkovski’s death. The president had been born in her village, near Strumica. When he visited the home, many years later, it was exciting for the old woman to see the village boy who became a president.

Everybody from the Demir Kapija home remembers that meeting, the paper relates. When he came into the room, Slavka recognized him immediately: it was, “little Boris who’s become an important person.” For a few minutes he talked with her, in a friendly, relaxed way. In fact, when she offered to knit Trajkovski a pair of socks, the president took off his shoes and let her take measurements of his feet!

Another lady in the home begged the president to let her sit for a moment in his Mercedes, so she could “feel like an important person.” He let her. Trajkovski spent time with many other people there, including a young boy confined to a wheelchair, Stefan. The president promised to send birthday congratulations to the boy over the radio. In return, Stefan started singing for him, “…one famous song that the president’s daughter liked the most.”

The whole Strumica area is in shock from the news of the president’s death, reports A1 TV. The village of Monospitovo, where Trajkovski was born, is in mourning and their usual agriculture activities are stopped. With tears in their eyes, the people talk about Trajkovski and the times they had with him.

“…He was a good kid and then a wonderful man. He was coming here even when he was president. He had time to visit us and meet with us,” Said a citizen of Monosipovo. “…We are so proud because our Borce was president,” was one of the first reactions from people in Strumica.

The last time the president was in Strumica was Tuesday, when the town’s annual carnival- traditionally the merriest day of the year for Strumicans- took place. This year, the euphoria was short lived.

All Macedonia is in mourning over the president’s death, the various media attest; nobody can believe that it is true. On A1 TV’s website there is a special page where reader can pay their sympathies to the late president. We will reprint here some of statements people from different nations and ethnicities have left.

“…In this moment is very difficult for all of us, to have taken from us one big man who fought for Macedonia. He was with us in the most difficult moments and now he is not anymore with us. I hope that something like this will not happen again to Macedonia, to lose a great son,” wrote Sefedin Djemail from Paris, France.

“…Macedonia has lost a great man and dignified son. I don’t have words for this suspicious tragedy. Boris was a man with a European vision for Macedonia. We will never forget you. From one Macedonian patriot,” wrote Dejan Boskovski from Gostivar.

“…I am so shocked because of the president’s death. Macedonia lost a great leader. I am so sorry for his family and the families of the other dead people. I can’t believe that they (i.e., the government) let him fly with tha
t plane. Rest in peace,” wrote Aleksandra Kralevska from Brisbane, Australia.

“…I want to express my sorrow to all Macedonian people and to the family of President Trajkovski. Everybody knows that Macedonia lost one of its greatest politicians, who with his diplomatic activities worked for a new and democratic Macedonia,” wrote Zaneta Todeva from Bansko, Bulgaria.

“…I’m sorry for the President’s family, for the citizens of Macedonia and for Europe. Boris was a really good man, and after that, president,” wrote from Belgium Avduali Ismail.

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