Is Macedonia in Anatolia?, an engineer asked me one evening, a rotary machine designer in a multinational company in Nantes, France, more than 30 years ago. I looked at him with disbelief and I already got up to leave the dinner because of the provocation. His wife managed to stop me, who called her husband illiterate and a jerk in front of everyone at the table. After I showed him where Macedonia is located on a map, almost in the middle of Europe, in two hours of flight from here, he apologized ten times, he thought that Cappadocia is the same as Macedonia, and since Cappadocia is in Anatolia… and all three names seemed ancient Greek to him, so he mixed them up. Etc., etc. My anger turned into calming down, confronting reality, why would all people in the world know about Macedonia, although, the geographical areas Cappadocia and Macedonia are mentioned several times in the most widely read book in the world, the Bible.
Later, in Manhattan, amid New York, the director of a well-known bank at a reception, asked me if Macedonia is in Slovakia. I said "NO" through my teeth, and he quickly replied: ah, I remembered, he said satisfied with himself and smiling, it's an area in Russia. This time, I was the one who said ‘jerk’, but not aloud, to not unnecessarily offend the man. But I still told him that the error was as big as if I asked him if California was in Canada. Now he was amazed, and I found that I was exaggerating the in the comparisons of my excessive sensitivity that some people not only never heard about Macedonia, but as if they had no basic knowledge. In Dusseldorf, a taxi driver, native German, he bet me that Dostoyevsky was a Macedonian. I would very much liked if you were right, I told him, but unfortunately you are not right. Dostoevsky is Russian. The man was persistent - No, sir, he told me quite authoritative, Dostoevsky was a purebred Macedonian. The next day at the hotel reception he left me a note with an apology, saying he was Russian after all, and added “Such a shame”. Yes, I said to myself, it really is a shame.
Later I became indifferent on this ignorance about Macedonia, so I began to joke with people on my own and their own account, while constantly explaining where Macedonia is, how many inhabitants there is, what kind of society it has, some of its history, you know how it goes with the facts about Macedonia. The quickest way was the understanding when I said that it was the former Yugoslav republic just like Serbia, Croatia, Monte Negro, Slovenia... Very likely, many citizens of Macedonia, just like all former Yugoslav republics, during their stay abroad, as well as our numerous emigrants, faced this with a tantalizing reality when intellectuals, well-known public figures, politicians, writers, scientists, journalists did not they know where Macedonia is, or have never heard of it. Today, the explanation, with the help of the Internet and Wikipedia, goes much easier, but there are also great imprecisions because two Macedonians regularly appear, one Greek, one Macedonian, entitled as the Republic of Macedonia. But still the greatest surprise for such interlocutors who have not heard of Macedonia is when I tell them that Mother Teresa is from Macedonia and that she was born in Skopje, that she finished her high school and lived in the capital of Macedonia until she was 18 years old. It somehow made it easier for them and me in our further communication. They, know because they have heard about Mother Teresa, and I because we have a saint and world-known humanist and Nobel laureate.
This is regarding the so-called ’first world’. But these days, what is more surprising to me is the ignorance of Macedonians of the basic facts about their neighbors, but also their ignorance about Macedonia. An average person can be embarrassed and really feel like an idiot from some media articles and statements by politicians and citizens in Skopje, Thessaloniki and Athens, as well as from various nebulosus voiced in debates whether it was about Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kosovo or Albania.
To a great extent, this is the tragic result of the propaganda from kindergartens to the highest education, to science and distorted history that have caused the void of consciousness of the majority of citizens throughout the Balkans, where hatred and intolerance accumulated for centuries.
But it's not just the horrible propaganda present from the past in this region. Today, more terrible is the basic ignorance of the real facts and the non-acceptance of reality among first neighbors. At issue is primitivism and provincialism, complexes of higher value that confirm that all of us in the Balkans are the same in many things. We are so mixed with each other that if we are not of the same origin, we are equated with the contents that we carry in our heads. There are still living heirs of Alexander the Great, who want to prove that there are big differences between the Balkan nations, who the worried and runaway seekers for a better identity and glorious Aryan origin by proving it with their spit in the labs for DNA investigations. For about a hundred euros, you can get a certificate from a reputable institute that ancient genes flow in your blood. I met people who boast that they did this test and that they feel much better after that.
When one listens to these things, as if it is a pandemic of provincialism and ignorance, they publicly spill tons of crap on television and internet networks. When there is little knowledge, and many emotions, the famous aggressive explosion goes to everything that comes from the neighborhood, from Europe, the international community and the West. But the biggest problems ever come from home, if it is different from what is cemented in the minds of the guards of happiness and the joy that make the ignorance and insanity.
Basically, this is the biggest problem in the mutual approximation of the remaining Balkan nations and countries waiting in the European waiting room. For years, Europe has made it clear that it does not want to import problems along with the admission of new members, and asks those countries to complete their domestic tasks if they want to be members of NATO and the EU. In its founding documents, the EU made it clear that it is on the side of its regular members. Such are the club rules for those who want to enter.
The tasks set by the EU will be successfully resolved on the day that Serbia and Kosovo do not have unresolved issues and establish good relations. The same applies to Serbia and Croatia. The same applies to Macedonia and Greece, Macedonia and Bulgaria, Greece and Albania ... The day when these things will be solved, the trust will return. The key question is whether someone is stubbornly working on this, whether they build or break down. It seems like they build during the day, and disintegrate at night. Decisions that are not good, honest and just, cannot be permanent.