· The Society warmly welcomes the following new members:
News from Albania
· ELBASAN a small Vlach association has recently been organized to represent Elbasans vanishing Aromanian remnant.
· ERSEKE Care International has provided funds towards improving two educational institutions in this southeastern town with a large Aromanian-Vlach population.
· KORCE this town is key to the intellectual creation of modern Albania and to the history of the Farsharots. The EU has financed two town-planning studies in the city of Korçe: one is to refurbish the colorful, old Ottoman bazaar, while preserving its architectural heritage; and the second aims to transform the offensive industrial region into an attractive, modern productive center for economic resurgence. The completed studies have been presented to the concerned EU bodies, who are funding this rehabilitation.
· SARANDA The British Foundation Butrint, which has been working on excavations near that ancient town, has announced plans to reconstruct the Fortress of the notorious warlord Ali Pasha of Tepelena (1740-1822), alias the Lion of Yannina. This envisioned monument to culture will employ some of its rooms as scientific centers for research scholars.
· VOSKOPOJA This historic and semi-abandoned village of great importance to the Vlachs has been in the news of late.
Last June, the medieval Cathedral of Saint Maria was seriously damaged when its roof collapsed. Community leader Qirjako Ballta blamed the Ministry responsible for protecting cultural monuments, because it repeatedly denied urgently required intervention from outside experts.
On October 23 -25, 1998, a conference was held entitled Voskopoja, an Albanian and Balkan Phenomenon. Organized by the Council of Europe with the cooperation of Albanias Ministry of Culture, the event featured 12 international and national scholars, artists, personalities and politicians who all touted the significance of this once influential medieval Vlach center. At the closing ceremonies, participants urged that the foundation "Voskopoja" receive full support in its goal to preserve and revitalize this important architectural, historical and cultural treasure.
The Tragedy of a City is a new book on Voskopoja written by Mr. Dhori Fallo and released by Dhori Kote Publishing House in Korçe. The book emphasizes the peaceful co-existence of a multi-cultural population which contributed to Voskopojas unique status in Balkan history, especially that of the Aromani. The book portrays the prominent citizens intellectuals, capable businessmen, managers, painters, artists and craftsmen who guided the city's life and substantially influenced the trade and social development of many Balkan cities. Mr. Fallo, 73, was born and served as a teacher in Voskopoja. He has published other books on his hometown.
· WASHINGTON In the Albania Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, under "National/ Racial/Ethnic Minorities," it was noted that "No discrimination was reported against the Vlachs, who speak Romanian as well as Albanian, or against the Cams, non-Orthodox ethnic Albanians who were exiled from Greece in 1944. Both groups live mainly in the south."
· Although we havent sampled it in its entirety, The World Anthology of Music recently released a new CD in its folk music series for Albania. Two German ethnomusicologist traveled the land sampling traditional music from all the different regions and groups. Three Aromanian-Vlach song (one satirical, Valle E Kenduar Arumune) are in the offering,. Contributing performers include the Saza Ensemble of the City of Korca, the Labish Youth Group from Gjirokastra, the Rembec-Korca Singing Group, the Aromun Choral Group; and the Agron Rrapushi Ensemble.
· We just learned of a monastery named St. Vlash outside of Durres and wonder if there is some ethnic link in the name; if anyone has information about St. Vlash, please drop a note to the Editor thank you.
News from Bulgaria
· SOFIA In early 1999, Mihai Razvan Ungureanun of the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry met with Petar Atanasov, the Secretary of the Bulgarian Committee for Ethnic Minorities to discuss the situation of the Vlach and Macedo-Romanian communities of Bulgaria. "We received assurances that the new amendments to the Bulgarian Education law are going to grant a compulsory statute on education of national minorities in their mother-tongue, and this represents indeed a substantial change, on the long-term," Ungureanu stated after his meeting with Atanasov. In 1895 the "Macedo-Romanian" community of Sofia purchased a plot in the citys center where the Romanian Institute was later constructed with aid from Bucharest. In addition to the High School, the Institute had a kindergarten, a boarding school, a gym, a cinema hall, and a library with over 20,000 volumes. Later, the Romanian Orthodox Church was built on the same plot as that of the school. The Romanian Institute was shut down in 1948. The Bulgarian Aromani want the building (currently the Sofia Economic University) returned. According to official statistics, 5,200 Vlachs and 2,000 Macedonian Romanians were registered in Bulgaria in 1994. In the past, community representatives claimed 50,000 Vlachs and approximately 10,000 Macedonian-Romanians.
News from Greece
· ATHENS In May 1999, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos made his first visit to the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece. Included in his itinerary were tours to various cities, towns and villages all over the country, including those with a considerable Vlach presence such as Ioannina, Metsovo, Grevena, Thessaloniki, Katerini, Veria and Naoussa as well as Serres.
· KONITSA An International Conference at the Institute of Urban and Rural Sociology explored the subject of Balkan Mountain Space with a series of scholarly lectures and papers. Among the papers presented were "Handicraft Industry in South Pindos;" The Balkan Mountain Space as Zone-Refuge: The case of the city of Krushevo;" "The movements of the people of Aspropotamos;" "Metsovo: a pastoral community;" "The Gypsies of the Balkans;" "Uplift our hearts: The mountains as mentors of the height, the expression and ethos of mountain people;" "Greek and Albanian songs from the region of Gjirokaster;" and "Tourist Development and the Designation of Tradition: A Case Study from Northern Greece."
· PINDOS MTS. A summer 1999 forest fire destroyed many acres of pinewood forests near Perivoli, in the northern Grevena prefecture of Macedonia.
In late 1998, Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos toured the Pindus area around the Thessalian town of Kalambaka. The President expressed his appreciation for the "cultural traditions of the Vlachs" and praised their "patriotic spirit."
There are some nice pictures of the Pindos mountains on the World Wide Web at:
· METSOVO Many who have visited this popular Vlach town have experienced the breathtaking, if back-breaking and exhausting, trek across the ravine to Metsovos sister village Anilio and then back again. It is not a trek for those who are overweight or who lack physical stamina. It is a ritual soon to be made obsolete with the ARUP Architectural Firms sleek, flowing design for Metsovos 500m, single carriage way, suspension bridge. It proved the winner in a competitive search for an environmentally sound and aesthetically appealing infrastructure along Northern Greeces majestic Egnatia Road. The bridge will hang 150m above the valley floor and feature suspension cables rock-anchored into the mountain on either side, cleverly avoiding the need for unsightly steel or concrete columns. To view a computer enhanced landscape photo depicting the completed bridge, visit the ARUP Web Site where you can also read their press release in its entirety:
· SAMARINA During the summer 0f 1998, viewers of Greek TV in the USA watched New Democracy politician Kostas Karamanlis visit with Samarinas locals for their celebration of Sta Maria (Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary).
· DIASPORA Three Greek-American community organizations joined to take out several full page ads in May 1999, during NATOs bombing of Serbia. Entitled "President Clinton, Why do you ignore the suffering of Orthodox Christians?", the ads claimed that "600,000 Orthodox Christians (Greeks and Vlachs) are being persecuted in the Northern Epiros region of Southern Albania." This caught our attention because earlier in the 1990s, Greek figures were in the 400,000 range, which was considered quite a leap by impartial observers. And whatever the correct figure was then, it has not increased since in fact, it has decreased dramatically as the Greeks and Vlachs of Albania have emigrated en masse to Greece to seek a better quality of life. Finally, our friends and relatives in Albania mention anarchy, not persecution, as the greatest problem they face.
· George Babiniotis had his patridha in an uproar a couple of years ago with his controversial New Dictionary of the Greek Language. The Professors recording of never before published definitions of everyday Greek slang has gotten him into trouble. For example, the dictionarys secondary definition of the word Bulgarian is a derogatory slang hurled by southern Greeks at their northern brothers, and particularly for football supporters of Thessalonikis team. Pontians Greeks repatriated from the Black Sea coast are stereotyped as dimwitted and, therefore, often the butt of countless jokes. A court in Thessaloniki banned the dictionary after that citys former deputy mayor a leader of that citys Pontians filed a complaint. And of late some Aromanian Greek citizens are upset that the word Vlach is included to describe a backward, uncouth villager. However, the Dictionarys 1st edition was almost a sell-out and had the public storming bookstores. What is the reaction of Prof. Babiniotis to all the controversy? In his 2nd edition hell omit the controversial entries, but views the Courts order as placing "a muzzle" on the academic community.
· VERIA The Vlach Society of Veria published a CD of songs in our language in September 1999.
News from Macedonia
SKOPJE. March 1999 On the 2nd day of his visit here, Romanian Foreign Ministry's State Secretary Mihai Razvan Ungureanu held a series of meetings with Aromanian organizations in Bitolia and Ohrida concerning minority rights. At a meeting with students in the Macedo-Romanian High School and with worshipers at the Aromanian Church in Bitolia, Mr. Papa Nicola, leader of this community, said that 8,000 Vlachs living in the region did not have the same rights as other minority groups in this country.
From the 1998 Human Rights Report on Macedonia: "The representatives of the Vlach nationality express discontent for [the Governments] not offering the Vlach language in the regular educational program during 1998. The complete text of the report is available at:
News from Romania
The Aromanian Service of Radio Romania International (ASRRI) debuted on March 23, 1991, and the response from the Balkan, Aromanian and diaspora communities has been enthusiastic. The broadcast consists of news, reports, notes, commentaries, statements, interviews, as well as magazine programs on economics, social life, politics, tourism, history, etc. Its weekly schedule includes such topics as: Monday - "Aromanian folklore heritage" or "Portraits, Personalities;" Tuesday - "Aromanian news;" Wednesday - "Aromanian writers, yesterday and today;" Thursday - "Ancients Language;" Friday - "Guests at the microphone;" Sunday - "Treasures of Aromanian song."
· BUCHAREST Wallachs of Albania in the Balkan Context, a new publication by Kopi Kyçyku, was presented at the end of the Romanian-Albanian Friendship Association conference held in Bucharest. The 320-page book is in Albanian with a Romanian postlude.
Other items of interest
· USA On November 4, 1999, the 30TH MODERN GREEK STUDIES SYMPOSIUM was held at Princeton University. One of the sessions held was on minorities (chaired by British scholar Mark Mazower, author the recently published and highly praised Inside Hitlers Greece), and included the paper "Ulysses' Gaze and the Deterritorialization of Balkan Ethnicity" by Vassiliki Tsitsopoulou, University of Iowa. In a Letter-to-the Editor, a GreekAmerican reader claimed Ms. Tsitsopoulou criticized Ulysses film director Theo Angelopolous for hellenizing the Vlach identity of the cinematographer Manaki brothers.
· EUROPEAN COMMUNITY The European Court of Justice annulled the 1996 EC provision that reserved the name "feta" exclusively for Greeces white cheese, ruling in favor of the appeals made by Denmark, France and Germany, which produce similar white cheeses. The Court decided that if the name of a product becomes so widely used that it becomes a common appellation for that item, it could not be protected. The Danes say the word feta is from Latin meaning "a piece," or "a slice" in Italian and Greek, while the Germans and French argue feta is now so widespread that geographic locale or nationalistic claims of origin prove moot.
· USA The Connecticut Post carried a feature on April 23, 1999, about a member of our community. Entitled "The Son Also Rises," the article described the career of former Major League Baseball pitcher Phil Nastu and noted that his son, Lee, a high school senior at the time, was also a rising star as a pitcher.
· USA The April-June 1999 issue of the Information Bulletin of the Romanian American Heritage Center reprinted a 1950 article by Vasile Musi with interesting facts about our community in the US a half-century ago, including names of people who served in the armed forces during World War II.
· USA Our dinner dance on June 12th, 1999, was a tremendous success. Friends came from near and far to dance to the music of Nick Zallas and his Odyssey Orchestra, which recently recorded a CD of well-known Arumanian songs. Look for information in this issue about purchasing this CD and about our next dinner dance, coming up on June 10th, 2000, 7 PM till midnight!
· USA We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of "An English-Aromanian Dictionary" by Professor Emil Vrabie, which is expected to be published this year by the University of Mississippi as part of the schools Romance Monographs series. The Society Farsarotul is committed to supporting this important project, which we hope will prove a useful tool not only for scholars but also for members of our community who wish to learn or brush up on the Arumanian language. Watch our web site for details http://www.farsarotul.org.
· USA One of the largest church communities founded by Arumanian emigrants to America, St. Dimitrie in Bridgeport, Connecticut, celebrated its 75th anniversary on October 31, 1999. The celebration was a huge success and the accompanying souvenir journal is a must for anyone studying the history of our people in America. Our congratulations and best wishes for continued success in the next 75 years! ·
Our 1998 honoree, Bill Vasilescu, with his wife Olympia