In trilingual Petrovec, all inhabitants understand each other

Four young men in the third decade of their lives sit in front of the village store in Skopje Dolno Konjare. It’s noon on a Tuesday, a working day. The sun shyly shines behind the clouds. They freshen themselves up with juice.

Unfortunately, this is how we spend our days. There are no jobs. If we find something short-term – that’s great, if we don’t… We feel powerless. The only hire their own people in the close-by economic zone in Cojlija, so they won’t hire us there”, the young men said.

They do not want to be photographed, but they don’t hide their names: Sahudin Osmanovic, Haris Hodzic, Suad Balic and Elhan Livareka. The first three are Bosniaks, the fourth is Albanian. They were friends since they were kids. There are also a few Macedonians in their group. In fact, who of which nationality is, is not at all a topic of interest to them.

“We all have the same problems: unemployment and no perspective. We don’t believe the in the stories that we will have €500 salary, we don’t trust any politician and we know that neither Zaev, nor Gruevski, nor Ahmeti will solve our problems. We know that if you don’t get to work you will not end up well, but the situation with job demand is really desperate”, they said.

Dolno Konjare is a mixed village dominated by the Bosniak population. On the entire territory of the Municipality of Petrovec, according to the data from the last census, 17-18 percent declared themselves members of the Bosniak minority. As of few days ago, the Bosniak language was declared official in the municipality, which is native to 22 percent of the inhabitants, so Petrovec became trilingual, in addition to the Macedonian and Albanian.

“The idea was raised by counselor Ramiz Durakovic, who, at the last session of the Council, explained that it would be nice and proper to make the Bosniak language official, and to enable the Bosniak community’s compatriots to use their mother tongue while performing their administrative duties and tasks. The proposal was voted unanimously by all 11 councilors,” said Mayor Borce Mitevski, who is one of the few municipal fathers who come from VMRO-DPMNE.
He says that, in Petrovec, there is a coexistence that cannot be found in any other place, and supports this with various examples. He mentions that it is being built equally in all the villages in the municipality, regardless of which population is dominant. He points out that they have two football teams competing in the third league and two in the fourth league and they receive equal financial assistance. There are no divisions on any basis.

There are 11 councilors in the Council: five from VMRO-DPMNE, three from SDSM, one from DUI and one from Alliance for Albanians, as well as one independent. The calculations they have made indicate that the Municipality will have no additional financial implications due to the trilingualism, because the administration employs Bosniaks, and the plans for new employments also make sure that the ethnic communities are adequately represented.

“I moved here with my family in 1969, and since then we have had no problem with our neighbors and fellow citizens. Even in 2001, when there was a war in the country, or in 1999 when the war in Kosovo occurred, there was not even the slightest incident. Yes, the situation was tense, but all of them remained sober. Everybody speaks in their own language, and we understand each other. I would like to see that throughout Macedonia,” Durakovic said.

The municipality of Petrovec counts a dozen thousand inhabitants and has 17 settlements. The officialization of the trilingualism is expected at the next session of the Council. For the time being, only four municipalities are trilingual: Gostivar, Vrapciste, Krusevo and Cucer Sandevo. 26 municipalities have two languages ​​in official use, while 50 municipalities only have the Macedonian language as official.

Goran Adamovski