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"Vlachs should ask for their right to speak their language"

by Bogdan Banu

In the fall of 2001, the newly elected mayor of Kruševo, Mr. Vancu Naumoski came to the United States at the invitation of the US Department of State. Kruševo, a city of some 12,000 people, located in southeastern part of Macedonia, is the largest municipality where Aromanians account for a significant percent of the population. Mr. Naumoski was taking part, together with five other mayors, in a three-week long project designed to enhance public administration in multi-ethnic communities.

The decentralization process now under way in Macedonia, is placing greater burden on the local governments. This process is further complicated by the political situation in Macedonia and by the new provisions adopted in the recently revised constitution. The local administration should now be able to respond to the citizen’s every day needs and demands, provide better public service, generate and manage local resources, lobby the central government for legislation stimulating local economic development and be accountable for their decisions and actions. At the same time they should do all this in a multi-lingual environment.

Mr. Naumoski spent a few days in Washington, DC where he had the chance to meet with representatives from the Department of State, National League of Cities, Search for Common Ground, US Agency for International Development and the US Institute for Peace, to mention just a few. He later visited Little Rock, Arkansas; Tempe, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; Iowa City, Iowa; and concluded his visit in New York City.

I had the chance to meet Mr. Naumoski when he came for the opening of his program to Meridian International Center, a Washington-based organization dedicated to promoting international understanding through the exchange of people, ideas and the arts. Later we had the chance to spend some time and to discus the situation in Macedonia, that of the Aromanian community and the impact of the Albanian military uprising on this community. The interview was conducted during one of these discussions in English and Macedonian. The translation was provided by a US Department of State Interpreter. We also had the chance to exchange a few words in Aromanian.

To begin with, I will ask you to tell us a few words about yourself and about your career as a public servant.

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Vancu Naumoski and I am the mayor of Kruševo. I was elected to this position almost a year ago. By training I am a veterinarian.

I am Macedonian but from my mothers side I am also Aromanian. This is a situation quite common in my city where about 20% of the population is Aromanian. The Vlachs have settled in this area in two separate waves. The first settlers came in 1780 and the second in 1802. The first group was composed mostly of farmers while the second brought mainly merchants and traders.

The family on my mothers side is of a merchant background.

What was your mothers family name?

Costu. I should also add that although Im only half Vlach, I speak the language very well. As much as possible and as permitted by my position, I am also lending my support to the newly established Vlach party that came into existence in March of 2001.

Would you care to comment on the new constitutional provisions and on their impact on the Aromanian community of your city. I am referring more specifically to the provision that calls for bilingual administration in the cities where at least 20% of the population belongs to a national minority.

As you very well know, the minority issue is a very actual and burning issue in Macedonia. This is especially true with regards to the Albanian population which is now asking for many rights that they previously had and could have enhanced through peaceful negotiations. They choose instead the military option. Consequently and in accordance with the peace agreement signed in Ohrid, it has been agreed that in the communities where minorities amount to over 20% of the population, the public administration should be bilingual. This would mean that alongside Macedonian, the minority language would also become official.

Keeping in mind that 20% of the population in Kruševo is Vlach and that there are also many mixed marriages, such as mine for example, I think that Vlachs should ask for their right to speak their language in this municipality. In this respect, they should follow the example of other minorities in the country.

I can also say that Vlachs enjoy the same rights, as does the Macedonian majority, and that there is no difference whatsoever, whether someone is Vlach of Macedonian. Vlachs are involved in public life at all levels, and especially in Kruševo, nobody has been discriminated based on his ethnic origin. What matters most is professionalism. In this respect there are never any problems.

I will also like you to comment on some of the problems facing the Aromanian community in Macedonia. They dont affect specifically the community in Kruševo, but I would like, never the less, to hear your opinion. I am referring more specifically to a report issued by the Helsinki Committee which mentions the problems faced by Vlachs when seeking to revert to their traditional names. The other issue is that of religious services in the minority language. As of now, the Macedonian constitution provides for the existence of only one Orthodox Church in the country.

I can only speak about my community where theres never been such a problem. Whether someone is called Costu or Costovski is not an issue. It is allowed and in fact many Vlachs are now using their original names.

With regards to the church services, both the Macedonians and the Vlachs are Orthodox. So in regard to the church services we have yet to reach an agreement as to the use of Vlach for church services. I dont think that obtaining this should be a problem, as long as the Vlach community will be able to secure priests and clergy who would be able to give the services in the Vlach. As a minority they should lobby for this, and ultimately, they should get it. And they can get it.

I also think that the newly created Vlach Party will be able to help with this. They can influence the higher institutions of the national church and help make this process institutionalized and protected.

You mentioned the newly created Vlach party. Do you believe this to be a positive development in the life of the Aromanian community in Macedonia? And if so, what is your involvement with this party?

As is the case with every political party, the Vlach Party should take into consideration the general good of the Vlach community, and not only, and should stay free of egotistical politics, which pertain to individual ambitions. In such instance the Vlach party could be a unifying force for all Vlachs in Macedonia.

In my capacity as a mayor of Kruševo and also as a half Vlach, if I may say so, I intend to do whatever I can and is in my authority to help. I am available when needed and I am helping. Providing premises for the new party, security, funds to cover some of their immediate needs, and lobbying to support them when dealing with higher institutions are some of the areas that I have been involved with.

However, I cannot be a member of this party. I belong to a different political party and I have a different political authority and also different political convictions. Moreover, I am the mayor for all the citizens of the city, no matter what party they belong to.

In conclusion, I would like to thank those people that support the cause of the Vlachs and I am wishing you much success in promoting the rights of the Vlachs in America. Through me, I am sending everybody the best wishes from the Vlachs of Kruševo.


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