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Towards 21
read in Macedonian


I’ve just returned home to Arizona from Macedonia where I had the high privilege and great honor of celebrating your 20th anniversary with you.   

The events celebrated in the late afternoon and evening on September 8 in Skopje were an incredible and amazing sight to see and attend.  Hundreds of thousands of Macedonians gathered along the streets in front of the parliament and in Macedonia Square to see the military parade, hear from elected leaders, watch as the Declaration of Independence from 1991 was delivered to the new museum on Macedonian statehood, and then watch the musical spectacular followed by the official opening of the fountain Warrior on a Horse all capped off by a fantastic fireworks show.  You know how to throw a party Macedonia! 

It was a great moment to be a Macedonian citizen as you celebrated.  And it was a great moment to be a friend of Macedonia, celebrating with you.  I was impressed by the pride, joy, pure fun and flag-waving out on the square and no-doubt throughout Macedonia.  It certainly helped that you beat Georgia earlier in the day in basketball. 

Upon reflection, two comments.  On the issue of flags: it was a thrill to see so many – in the hands of adults and children, covering buildings, hanging from cranes, even lighting up buildings.  Macedonia is on a flag-building run – putting tall proud Macedonian flags up around the country.  And this is a good thing. I’ve written about flags several times over the past ten years for Macedonian newspapers.  I dug out an old article I wrote in 2005.  Here’s part of what I wrote then: 

“Of course we (Americans) fly a lot of flags on July 4th.  We flew even more flags right after the September 11th terror attacks.  Samuel Huntington, writing in his new book ‘Who Are We?’ says that ‘Since the Civil War, Americans have been a flag-oriented people.  The Stars and Stripes has the status of a religious icon and is a more central symbol of national identity for Americans than their flags are for peoples of other nations.’” 

Macedonians, too, are becoming a flag-oriented people and the flag is becoming, more and more, a central symbol of national identity.  I know that the political opposition in Macedonia has a problem with this – why I don’t know, but perhaps it is because they never thought of it when they were in power – and that the Albanian minority also doesn’t particularly care for the flag.  And that’s too bad.  Maybe one day the opposition and the Albanian minority will embrace the Macedonian flag.  They should.  It’s theirs too and I want to see them embrace it, and say – proudly I might add – “I am a proud Macedonian citizen.” So my advice to you: put up more flags. 

Second comment.  I flew into the old airport but out of the new airport.  In many ways, that really captures so much of what happened last week.  You turned 20 years young with the old airport.  You are now going on 21 with a new airport. 

The Alexander the Great Airport is sleek, modern, comfortable, handsome in a way, and efficient.  It represents the next phase in your growth as a country and besides the obvious – it will help in attracting new airlines and visitors – it is a simple symbol of national pride.  Pride in your accomplishments, pride in the future of the country, pride in yourselves as Macedonians. 

To board my flight to Vienna and beyond, I headed up the escalator to the departures area where I would walk down – for the first time ever – a jet bridge to my departing flight. (Trust me – a jet bridge is a big deal in an airport as all frequent fliers know.  Croatia is a NATO member and soon-to-be EU country and Zagreb does not have jet bridges.  This troubles me). With a few tears in my eyes – sad to be leaving my friends so soon, happy to see Macedonia progressing so much – I walked down that jet bridge to my awaiting flight with a great deal of pride in you and your accomplishments.  And I walked into Macedonia’s future. 

During my few days in Macedonia, I told many of my friends from all walks of life and backgrounds – Macedonia has reached a critical mass.  Last week, proud citizens of Macedonia, the vital Macedonian diaspora and friends of Macedonia all came together to celebrate Macedonia’s 20 years of success and plan for the next phase of Macedonia’s life and development.  As Macedonia moves towards 21, the future of Macedonia looks bright.  Let’s all work together to ensure that when Macedonia celebrates her next birthday, we’ll have even more reason to celebrate.

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Jason Miko
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