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Boris Trajkovski
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A little over eight years ago, President Boris Trajkovski left us for a better place.  Just a few days ago, we paused to remember that fateful day on Thursday, February 26, 2004, when Trajkovski and eight other Macedonians – all public servants – tragically lost their lives in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  For me, that day is as fresh in my mind as today is.  The events that followed leading up to his funeral are also close to my mind. 

Boris was a close friend of mine.  I do not remember the first time I met him though I believe it was sometime in 1997; I do remember the last time.  I met him when he was the international secretary for his party, VMRO-DPMNE.  I had arrived in Macedonia the year before to work for Mercy Corps, a humanitarian organization based in Portland, Oregon.  While my job concentrated on the region – including Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo – I was based (happily so) in Macedonia.   

Prior to coming to Macedonia, I had been politically active both in the United States and internationally.  One group I was involved with was the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU), the youth arm of the International Democrat Union, a union of center-right political parties founded by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  To make a long story shorter, I had been tasked by my colleagues in the IYDU with finding their counterpart in Macedonia.  This led me to the party of VMRO-DPMNE and in turn, to Boris. 

We all know the events of the region as 1997 morphed into 1998 and 1999 – NATO’s war on Yugoslavia came, the refugees came to Macedonia, and Boris was thrust into the limelight.  I don’t remember the exact day, but before the world press, as international leaders were complaining and telling Macedonia it must take on more Kosovo refugees, Boris told a Swedish journalist (and I paraphrase): “You bring your planes here to take refugees to your country and we’ll do our part.” Boris stood up to the internationals and told them, in essence, his first priority was Macedonia.   

After that event, people began to take notice of Boris.  As it was presidential election year, people began talking about Boris running for president.  By the end of 1999, Boris Trajkovski was elected second president of a democratic and free Republic of Macedonia. 

I was privileged to get to know Boris and we became close friends.  I was often able to be there for him, either giving him advice about many different subjects when he asked or just listening.  You would be amazed at how much it helps someone who must make tough decisions how helpful it can be just to be a good listener.  Boris was there for me too.  After the tragic events of September 11, his was one of the first phone calls I received, offering his condolences.   

Boris was a good man.  He was not a politician.  I know all of the hateful and hurtful things said about him – by many people – and I know that a certain segment of the Macedonian political elite refused to call him “president.”  Shame on them.  It hurt him to be called ugly names.  Name-calling hurts anyone.  But Boris didn’t complain. 

Boris was a tireless campaigner for Macedonia.  He fostered good relationships with leaders in power around the world and he never gave up arguing for Macedonia to be accepted by its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, for the name and identity to be recognized and for the dignity of all Macedonians to be respected.   

In a speech he gave in 2001 he addressed the international community forcefully stating “…We demand the international community to recognize us by our name – the Republic of Macedonia – and not by a fictional derivative. It is high time that the world recognizes us by what we call ourselves – just like any other country and its citizens. Otherwise, how do you expect us to believe in your values, principals and intentions, if you deny our basic right, the right to identity?” 

At the same time, Boris did what he believed best, domestically, for the Macedonian people.  While he was limited, constitutionally, on his duties as president, he never stopped spending time with Macedonia’s people throughout the entire territory of Macedonia.  While his job as president demanded that he work with other international leaders – presidents, prime ministers, parliamentarians, and princes – he was most comfortable – and he enjoyed himself the most – when he was with his native Macedonians, learning about their hopes, dreams, fears and concerns.  He was a good listener. 

The day before he died, Wednesday, February 25, I was with Boris.  I was at his presidential home with another Macedonian friend and we were discussing his reelection campaign.  Boris would have run again – and he would have won.  But that was not to be.  Now, I understand the case surrounding his death may be reopened and I, for one, do not believe it was an accident.  But time will tell if we ever know the truth. 

I do know this, however.  Boris loved God and his son, Jesus Christ.  As a Believer, Boris had a faith in things yet to come and in the resurrection of the dead.  As a fellow Believer, I too, believe this and look forward to seeing my friend Boris once again.

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Jason Miko
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