Visit To Skopje, Macedonia

This is my second visit to Skopje, as I was here in September 2012, about 1 and 1/2 years ago, which I blogged about here. I am here this week for a basketball tourney so haven’t had much time to see the city.

We did a walking tour of downtown last night, and you can see above the Palace of Justice behind one of the many statues along the Vardar River. That is one thing I will miss about living in Europe is being able to see so many different countries in such a short time. The drive from Belgrade to Skopje is about 5 hours. Skopje was once part of Yugoslavia and one can still see the distinctive Socialist architecture here and there. The Macedonians are trying to re-do the city in their own image with many new buildings. There is also a Turkish/Albanian influence, as the country is about 25% ethnic Albanian. Our host Aleksandar said that the fortress is closed to the public due to a dispute between the muslim community and the Macedonian Orthodox community. City officials were to build or open an Orthodox Church there and the Albanian community opposed it.

Macedonia was a smaller part of the ex-Yugoslavia, with only about 2 million inhabitants. Beside Tito’s Partisans wanting the area, the Macedonians have also been sought after by the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Ottomans, etc. I am happy they have their independence, but feel if they wanted a larger country, they would best fit with the Bulgarians.

Boris Trajkovski Sports Center – Skopje, Macedonia

I am here for a basketball tournament with our High School Boys’ team. We are playing games at the Boris Trajkovski Sports Center, which is named after the former President of Macedonia. He died in an airplane crash while visiting Bosnia 10 years ago. He was a Methodist Minister and was known as a moderate who promoted inclusion of all ethnic groups in Macedonia. This is a quality still much needed today in the Balkans. He is regarded as a hero by the Macedonians and the government has built a beautiful center with a hockey rink, pool, arena, gymnasium, etc.

A Tomb for Boris Davidović by Danilo Kiš

These are a collection of short stories set in the first half of this century. The settings include the Spanish Civil War and the Russian revolution. 

One thought provoking idea is how history has been changed by people that have died that we don’t know anything about. Danilo follows these people and tells their story. I don’t want to ruin the book, but in all the stories, the main characters mostly end up dying. Methods of death are as follows:

  • Died of vitamin deficiency in Soviet Work Camp in 1941
  • Murdered during escape attempt from Russian prison after being captured in Spanish Civil War. 
  • Survived 10 years of prison camp; no unnatural death
  • Murdered with crowbar by fellow prisoner after both got out of prison camp
  • Dived into foundary fire rather than go back to prison camp

Initially I thought about how large the prison system role played in the Soviet Union. But in thinking it over, I would guess that today in the USA, the prison system plays a larger role in our society with our stupid ‘war on drugs.’ We probably have more people behind bars percentage-wise than the old Gulag system did. 

Danilo Kiš

 There are also a few great lines – he is a fantastic writer, even in translation.

Ireland “…for so long marked the boundary of the known world to navigators.” 

…”the temporary suffering of existence is worth more than the final void of nothingness.”

“Nature gave her everything: intelligence, talent, and beauty.”

…”man is only a speck of dust in the ocean of timelessness…”

Kis has many references to events and people that I didn’t know about. He also uses uncommon vocabulary. Below are words I learned:

pellagra  – A vitamin deficiency disease caused by eating corn-based diet without proteins. It was common in the US south in the 1920’s and 30’s as well as Soviet prison camps. 

Ploesti – oil fields in Romania, US bombed them in WWII after Romania joined Germany 

Cochin Hen – breed of chicken from China, large bird

Talmud – rabbinic discussions of Jewish law, ethics, etc. 

Bukovina – region split between Ukraine and Romania

ad acta – A Latin phrase meaning on the archives (filed away as is an unsolved murder)

farrow –  a litter of domestic pigs

brio – the quality of being active, spirited, alive, or vigorous – Kralovec children have lots of this!

Brest-Litvosk Peace Treaty – Signed in Belarus, marks Russia’s exit of WWI

Bolshevik – means “majority” in Russian, eventually became the communist party that founded the Soviet Union

Serbian President Boris Tadic

Boris Tadic, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

“Serbia is in urgent need of a government that will, in the next four years, lead it to the EU, and which will continue the battle for territorial integrity, but also a government that will tackle corruption, crime and conduct a socially responsible policy,” the DS leader explained.”

The current Serbian President, Boris Tadic is quoted above in yesterday’s B92. He is commenting on the delays in forming a government after the May 11 parliamentary elections. No single party or coalition has a majority so the Socialist Party is having talks with the Radical and Pro-European blocs. No agreement has been reached yet after almost a month.

I did a bit of research on Mr. Tadic and I am quite impressed with his background. He is in his second term as President. He was first elected in 2004 and then again for a five-year term in this past February. He is long time politician having served as the Minister of Telecommunication and Defense before becoming President. He is the leader of the Pro-European Democratic Party (DS).

Both of his parents were university professors. He was born in Sarajevo and grew up moving between Paris and Belgrade in his early childhood. He has a degree in psychology from Belgrade University and has worked as a high school teacher, university professor, and clinical psychologist. He is fluent in English and French. It is very nice to see a strong intellectual and cosmopolitan background in a president.

Tadic has always been an independent thinker and idealist. He was fired and arrested from his professorship after giving anti-communist lectures. His grandparents were killed by the Croatian, Nazi-backed Ustase so he must have very strong feelings against oppression of dissent.

He took the following oath during his inauguration ceremony:

I swear that I will invest all my efforts in the preservation of sovereignty and integrity of the territory of the Republic of Serbia, including Kosovo and Metohija as its integral part, as well as the realization of human and minority rights and freedoms, observation and defense of the Constitution and laws, preservation of peace and welfare of all Serbian citizens and that I will fulfill all my duties conscientiously and responsibly.

From what I have learned so far, he seems like a smart, hard-working, and decent fellow. As almost everyone does, he has his own web site although it is only in Serbian cyrillic.