When Fear Rules - 'Talking Is Over In Macedonia'
(on the impact of global Media)
By Terence Sheridan, Pacific News Service Article Dated 10/10/2001
EDITOR'S NOTE: A Christian farmer in Macedonia who watched the Sept. 11 attacks on satellite television waits for fear to turn to rage in his country, and wonders what his Muslim neighbor is up to. PNS Commentator Terence Sheridan, a former reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has been living and writing in the former Yugoslavia for the last eight years.
PIROK, Macedonia--Nineteen days after he watched the horrific collapse of the gigantic twin towers in New York on his television in the sticks, a Christian in a dangerous Muslim neighborhood thinks he has a handle on terrorism.
"It's fear," says the 44-year-old Macedonian farmer. "Here, we fear the Albanians and they fear us. The militant Muslims feared America and now America fears militant Muslims. And, very quickly, fear becomes rage. "My nearest neighbor is a Muslim. Once we helped one another at harvest time. Once, together, we took our cattle to mountain pastures in the summer. Once we were friends. Not anymore. Now fear is in the air."
Call him Branko, for he fears even to use his real name. He is a short, broad-shouldered man with thick black hair and a thick black mustache. He has 22 hilly acres, five cows, a dozen sheep, eight pigs, and a satellite dish on the tile roof of his small stone house.
It's a gorgeous autumn day at his hill farm -- between towering mountains and a river plain, between green-gold trees and white minarets. But no one here is untouched by the wider struggle in Macedonia between ethnic Albanians -- mostly Muslims -- and national soldiers. On the ground, here at the end of a harvest, beauty and trepidation go hand in hand.
Red and white roses are blooming, and the grape arbor where Branko is laying out lunch on a plank table is covered with lavender morning glories still in their splendor.
Only the assault rifle, a battered Kalashnikov AK-47 leaning against a nearby fig tree, seems out of place.
When civil-war trouble began months ago, he sent his wife and children to live with her parents in eastern Macedonia. But Branko, a first-rate cook, is not stinting on a thing. His cousin from Belgrade is visiting and has brought an American guest with him.
There is tomato and lentil soup, cold roast pork with a mustard sauce, cucumbers in yogurt and dill sauce, potato salad, marinated peppers and crusty bread. He opens two bottles of Macedonian wine. The deep-red wine is T'ga Za Jug, which translates, in this southernmost of six republics that once comprised Yugoslavia, as "Homesick for the South." At a buck a bottle, it's the wine bargain of the world.
Branko says, "So now I fear my neighbor, who has less reason to fear me, because there are many, many more Muslims than Christians in this part of Macedonia. Still, we are the same, my neighbor and me. I keep pigs. He is Muslim so keeps no pigs. He keeps goats instead. I have two children, he has five.
"But we are the same in most things. Except of course for religion. We are the same age, and he got his land the same way I did, from his father who got it from his father who got it from his father. The same soil, the same weather, the same crops, the same fruit.
"But now he goes in his truck on the road and never waves to me. He looks neither right nor left, only straight ahead, and the truck is on the road day and night. Where is he going? What is he doing? I don't dare ask. This morning he went north and has not returned."
Ethnic Albanian rebels - Muslims -- control most of western Macedonia north to the Kosovo border. After an August agreement, NATO collected 4,000 rebel weapons (many of them inoperative) in return for improved political and language rights for Albanians, who constitute a third of the country's population of 2 million.
Before the agreement, tit-for-tat violence rocked a land where gunrunning is a cottage industry. In a single 48-hour period, rebels killed 18 Macedonian soldiers. Then came Sept. 11.
Pointing to his white satellite dish, framed against a backdrop of high, dark mountains, Branko says, "I saw it all. I get BBC and CNN. I saw it over and over. It was horrible. It chilled me to the bone.
"Not that I think America is always right. Macedonians did everything the Americans asked us to do during the Kosovo civil war and the NATO bombing. We set up camps for Albanian refugees from Kosovo, treated them like fragile glass, and now look what is happening. Our Albanians, led by Kosovo Albanians, are killing Macedonians. Does anyone doubt that someday Albania, Kosovo and part of Macedonia will be one big Albania?
"But those high towers in New York," he says, shaking his head. "It was like the end of the world. 'If this can happen to America,' I thought, 'what chance does poor Macedonia have?' I thought, 'Is this how it will end -- anger the Americans and they bomb the world to dust?'
"I wanted to talk to my neighbor about this. I wanted to invite him to my house to watch the television -- he has no satellite -- to see this horror. I wanted to talk to him about this, as two Macedonians. But talking, I guess, is over in western Macedonia.
"Still and all, my neighbor is a good man, and if he is doing bad things I feel he has no choice. What is he to do, tell guerrilla fighters to leave him alone? They would kill him and burn his house down."
Holding a glass of the robust wine up to a ray of sunlight rifling through the lavender morning-glory blossoms and autumn-brown grape leaves, he says, "You know, the name (of the wine) can be translated another way. It can also be translated as 'Sorrow for the South.'"
"Like fear," he says, "there is more than enough sorrow to go around. Sorrow for Macedonians, sorrow for Americans. You know what I'd really like to do?" Branko asks. "I'd like to trade my land to an Albanian living in eastern Macedonia. It would be less fearful for both of us."
(c) Copyright PNS
Copyright © 2001 The Black World Today. All Rights Reserved.
The Black World Today P.O. Box 328, Randallstown, MD, 21133 Phone: 410 521 4678 | Fax: 410 521 9993 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box, CH-8031