Macedonia: “Why is it important? Explain it to me so I understand”

13876131_10153858850195829_2345337930634101312_nDuring the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, American TV station NBC referred to FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) as Macedonia while another TV station in Australia went even further by associating Greek history and Alexander the Great with FYROM. The name dispute of FYROM goes many years back and you can read more about it here, but we asked a real Macedonian to explain why this name matters so much. Here’s his response.

By Nykolah Chatzis*

“Why is it important, explain it to me so I understand?” This is one of the hardest questions I have had to answer. There isn’t a real way for anyone else to understand. And there are truly only a few people in this world who can relate. The conflict over the name Macedonia is more than what appears at its surface.

To most it appears as merely childish bickering, old men and politicians droning on about the days of yore. The fight of naming rights seems extraordinarily frivolous in this new age of a globalized world. In this new identity of citizen of the world we are beginning to understand the true meaning of human, rather than dividing ourselves into groups, sects, blocks, races and fighting endlessly.  I can tirelessly explain with facts and data, history books and scrolls how Hellenism, as we know it today, was only spread through Alexander the Great. I can suggest the degree to which Hellenism was influenced; given that Mount Olympus is within the boarders of the Ancient Kingdom of Macedon, and that the teachings of Aristotle, and the legacy of Socrates, flourished through Macedonia. And that Ancient Kingdom of Macedon only stretched a few miles out of what is Present day Greece. This could be that article, explaining with history, science, coins, artifacts, but it won’t. Not every piece explaining why this conflict is no frivolous matter, has to be scientific.

For myself and the men and women who come from Macedonia, as well as the rest of Greece, that name represents everything that was instilled in us from birth, and all the goals the rest of the world wishes to achieve in this New Age. That name Macedonia means everything. From that single name we have been given the strength to strive for new heights, learn all that we can, from our families, books, poetry, songs, our past, but especially from others around us. From a young age guided to think in new and innovative ways, and to leave no rock unturned. Ponder the greatest mysteries of the universe and to understand ourselves as much more than a species. To understand the concept of self and what lies within.

We were lectured as children, not in any kind of religious morals, but simply morals. Be a good person, not because your sins it might bring angels to tears, but it may bring one single person to tears and there is not justification for harming one another. We were taught to put family above all else, to place money last, and put good food and drink somewhere in between. Maybe some dancing as well. That name gives us the audacity to achieve the greatest of victories, whether it’s conquering the known world or feeding someone in need, who’s come from a long journey in search of a new place to call home. 

There is no hate where my ancestors come from, there is no prejudice. There is no greed and there is no disrespect to our earth. The food isn’t called organic, because there is no alternative. There is no homelessness, because we have each other. We may argue and critique one another, but that is our birthright as Greeks and there are usually no hard feelings between us. The name Macedonia embodies every single one of these values, and that is what I am fighting for. These values are not just for ethnicities sake, but for the sake of bettering humanity. That is the essence of being Macedonian, now and in the days of old, to improve on what it means to be human. Taking what we know and passing it on to others and in turn learning from them.

So, having to answer why it’s so important the preserve the name Macedonia is not so easy, because I took all of those values for granted. They were second nature to me and I never attributed it to where I come from, and where my heritage lies. To take that name away is to take away and belittle all we have achieved, thousands of years working to not only better ourselves, but to better our friends, our brothers and sisters that we share this planet with. Now I strive to preserve the name Macedonia not only for its antiquity, the rocks, statues and its coins, but for what it means to be Macedonian: for what it means to be Greek.

*Nykolah Chatzis, is a Greek American political science major at the University of Massachusetts in Boston who came up with the Pan Macedonian Association’s campaign slogan:‪#‎THATSNOTYOURNAME‬. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness and inform world citizens about the petition titled “The F.Y.R.O.M. is not Macedonia; U.S. restore the truth!”. The petition asks the Obama administration to REVERSE the Executive Order by the Bush Administration of 2004, recognizing the country of the “FYROM” as “Republic of Macedonia”. The link can be signed here.