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Macedonia at 20
read in Macedonian


It is September 8, 2011 and you turn 20 years young today Macedonia.  I’m proud of you.  You’ve come a long way from a constituent part of the former Yugoslavia to what you are today: a proud, independent, free, modern-day nation-state, a member of the family of nations and a part of Europe, whole, free and at peace.  Congratulations. 

It has been my privilege to make much of this journey with you.  I’m honored to say that I have been able to see you grow since you were five years young, when I first set foot on Macedonian soil in the summer of 1996.   I’m pleased to say that I was able to live in Macedonia for seven years after that, getting to know you, enjoying your beautiful land, delicious food and drink, and colorful and dynamic culture.  And I’m grateful to have spent the last eight years still visiting you and being involved with you, cementing friendships and relationships that are as close as family.  In 15 years of being a part of Macedonia, I hope I have helped to make some positive contributions to you.  I know that you have been an integral part of my life and have contributed greatly to me.  Although I am Hungarian by ethnicity and American by nationality, I feel Macedonian. 

Macedonia, you have survived – nay, succeeded – when many around you and others far away from you said you would not make it.  The doubters and nay-sayers all foretold a dark, gloomy and grim future for you.  They said you would implode, explode, fade away, and just simply cease to exist.  They believed you faced too many obstacles, that you didn’t have the strength or fortitude to craft a modern-day nation-state.  They whispered amongst themselves that there were too many external shocks facing you that would bring you down.  When Kosovo exploded and NATO rained death on Yugoslavia, you graciously accepted 360,000 cold, hungry, scared and frightened neighbors into your country and homes and gave them shelter.  The pundits and talking heads in foreign capitals stated – with an air of false authority – that you would be torn apart due to ethnic divides.  When this did not happen they then believed it would happen in the spring and summer of 2001 when “murderous thugs and terrorists” – in the words of then NATO Secretary George Robertson – attacked the democratically elected government and people of Macedonia.  And yet again, you stayed the course. 

From humble beginnings when you peacefully declared and received your independence, you have often struggled to gain the respect you deserve, the same respect all people deserve.  You have fought hard in the political arena and made logical and reasonable arguments there as well.  But at the same time, you have made passionate and heart-felt arguments for your right to call yourselves Macedonians, your country Macedonia, your language Macedonian and your church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Because of this, most sane people and governments call you what you call yourselves – Macedonians. And for this, we thank them, even while we continue to encourage those who do not, to do the right thing and call you by your name. 

From economically poor beginnings, you have struggled as well.  While the fruits of a capitalist system have been slow to come, they are coming.  The socialist system you gave up 20 years ago would not, could not and never can provide the blessings of capitalism.  But the capitalism you seek to enjoy must also be tempered with morality and compassion.  It is only in that manner that it can work at its optimum.  The often painful reforms you have undergone and are continuing to undergo are part and parcel of the conversion but they are and will continue to pay off if you follow them, keeping in mind that morality and compassion go hand-in-hand with it.  In this, too, you must continue to stay the course. 

These past 20 years have been foundational, in a way.  Creating a modern-day nation-state takes time, energy, hard work, patience, creativity, passion, humility, understanding, reason, strength, and a host of other qualities that you have and are exhibiting.  Building on that foundation takes time but the foundation you have built and the country you are building are a lasting testimony and inheritance for your children, their children and generations to come.  That is why you are engaged in this endeavor.  

There have been and will continue to be many ups and downs, opportunities and challenges, good times and bad times as you continue your journey, Macedonia.  But that is all part of growing up, isn’t it?  And remember this: you have many friends around the world who want to see you succeed, not just survive.


So stay the course, Macedonia.  Work hard, laugh when appropriate, enjoy your family and friends, share with your neighbors and those in need, support each other, pray daily, argue your points with reason and logic when you disagree with others, and remember the words of the Old Testament prophet Micah:  “He has He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

Do all this and you will be just fine, Macedonia.  And Happy Birthday!

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Jason Miko
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