An interview with Dr. Christos D. Katsetos* regarding Vlach Hellenism, broadcasted at “The Voice of Greece” on ERA5, on the 14th of May in 2005.
We are republishing an excerpt as a very small token of our appreciation and gratitude to this brilliant Medical Doctor, Academic Teacher and Intellectual, who left this world yesterday, breaking our hearts.
His deep love towards Hellenism and us in particular, the Vlachs, a love that imbues all his writings on modern Greek identity will always be a shining example for all of us to follow.
Farewell dear Professor.
....Since Monastir, Krushevo and other towns and villages were one time flourishing centers of Vlach Hellenism of Pelagonia, the part of Macedonia that fell to Serbian occupation and is now part of FYROM, what became of the Vlach descendants today?
As mentioned earlier, the Vlachs are autochthonous inhabitants of Macedonia (including the Pelagonia region) who fought for the preservation of Greek culture and education during the long Ottoman years and the Balkan wars. Despite having been subjected to unrelenting Roumanian propaganda since the last quarter of the 19th century, and also despite having suffered unprecedented slaying and ruin in the hands of Bulgarian 'komitadjis', in the early part of the 20th century, the Vlachs stood steadfastly on the Greek side. The Vlachs financed schools, churches, and infirmaries and kept the Greek spirit alive in Macedonia.
At this juncture, I should like to underscore the long tradition of Vlach merchants in the building of schools and churches in Macedonian market towns and the Diaspora. Quoting from the book of Kriste Pitoski "The churches and schools of the town of Monastir in the mid- 19th century were in Greek hands". According to the memorandum submitted to the Rumanian government in 1901 by Lecanda Lazarescu, head of propaganda: "In villages where the population consists entirely of Vlachs, the Greek schools are packed with pupils while the Romanian schools stand empty. The Vlachs contribute to the running of the Greek schools and, when they die, leave their fortunes to the cause of disseminating Greek education". This is how the multilingual Greeks-Romioi of Monastir (Bitola) defined themselves in the dawn of the 20th century: ''Λαλουμεν ελληνιστί, βουλγαριστί, βλαχιστί, αλβανιστί, ομως απαντες ειμαστε Ελληνες και δεν επιτρεπουμε σε κανεναν να μας αμφισβητει τουτο'' ("We speak Greek, Slavonic, Vlach, Albanian but we are all Hellenes and we do not allow anyone to dispute this fact").
It is noteworthy that today, FYROM does not recognize the existence of a Greek minority in the region of Pelagonia, claiming only the existence of a vestigial Vlach-speaking minority. The Greek State has closed the chapter of Pelagonia since the signing of the Bucharest Treaty in 1913 by Eleftherios Venizelos. In the face of Greek indifference AND inertia, Skopje has played an old (19th century) card of political manipulation, exploiting historical communal divisions between the pro-Roumanian and pro-Greek Vlachs.
The interest on the part of FYROM nationalists to assimilate the Vlachs is twofold: firstly, to extinguish any claims for a Greek minority in FYROM, and secondly, to ensure that the 'Macedonian Slavs' constitute a majority in that country.
Yet, for some of us the fate of the progeny of Vlachs with Greek consciousness in FYROM remains an open chapter in the book of Modern Greek history. Has the Greek Vlach community totally disappeared through emigration to Greece and abroad or simply has been fully assimilated into the 'ethnic Makedonski' core as a result of generations-old neglect by the metropolis? Whatever the case may be, Greece has a moral obligation to support and embrace the Vlachs of FYROM, especially those who openly profess a Greek identity and strive without any resources for Greek education and culture.
If Skopje has a claim to a Slav Macedonian (Slavjano-Makedonski) minority in Greece's northwestern prefectures, I see no moral justification for Athens to show an oblivious stance with respect to the historically (pro-) Greek Vlach community in Bitola [Monastir] or Krushevo in FYROM. Let this be a small, well overdue tribute to the neglected and marginalized Vlach Hellenism of Pelagonia. I believe that this is the right and honorable think to do even 93 years too late! As a first step, I would like to propose the establishment of a Scholarship Fund to support Vlachophone youngsters from Albania and FYROM who wish to pursue their education in Greece or in exchange programs in Greek schools in the US. I trust that the Greek Omogeneia will rise to the occasion in supporting this noble and long overdue cause. Let us use the precedent of the Greek benefactor from the Holy Trinity Church in Vienna who had stipulated in his will -sometime in the 1790s- a generous allotment in support of the establishment of a Greek School in Brasov, Transylvania, as an inspiration for the future of Hellenism.
* Katsetos, Christos D., M.D., Ph.D., FRCPath, Professor of Pathology, Drexel University College of Medicine and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.