June 21, 2013

Easter action in Old Serbia

Members of Serbs for Serbs charity organization from Belgrade, Kumanovo and Skoplje, came together at the end of May, to launch our Easter action (PHOTO GALLERY) in support of Serbian families in Old Serbia-Macedonia. A land where Serbs were once the majority, and the Serbian Orthodox Church was the mother church, has drastically changed. Serbs are now a minority, and cut off from any support from Serbia. Serbs for Serbs, over the last several years, has given ongoing support to some of the remaining Serbian families in Macedonia. This time we visited three Serbian families: the Perovic, Guskin and Bravo

Serbian church "Vaznesenje" under control of Macedonian church

The first two families we visited live in the predominantly Serbian village, Kuceviste, near Skoplje. The first family, the Perovics, has four children:  Anastasija (7), Svetlana (3), Petar (6) and Kristijan (9 months). The parents are Srecko and Ljiljana Perovic. Srecko used to work in a local factory and was able to support his family. 

Serbs for Serbs spending some time with Perovic family in their home

He began construction of his home, bought a tractor and provided the basic necessities of life for his children. But once the factory closed, and he was left unemployed, the family fell on hard times. Further construction of the home stopped. They were forced to sell their cow, but this was not enough to provide for daily expenses.

Part of the home of Perovic family still to be build

The needs of this family are great: construction material to complete construction of their home, school supplies, clothing and footwear, cattle, pigs and goats. They also have to repay a loan of 5,000 EUR taken out to purchase the tractor. Although Serbs for Serbs cannot meet all their needs, we promised to provide them some financial assistance.

Family Guskin and Serbs for Serbs in front of their home in Kuceviste

The second family we visited in Kuceviste, was the family of Zlatko and Lenka Guskin. They have three children, Nikola (15), Aleksandar (13) and Ivan (9). The family lives with Zlatko’s brother. Zlatko is a railroad conductor, and his salary is sufficient to meet the basic needs of his family.  Even though the Guskin brothers live together, there is no bathroom, refrigerator or freezer in the home. But the biggest challenge for Zlatko’s family is getting medical help for Lenka, who has been battling a tumour for the past several years. The doctors in Skoplje do not have the means or the desire to help her, and have told her to seek help in Belgrade. 

The cost of travel, examination, treatment and surgery are more than the family can afford. Serbs for Serbs will try to provide medical assistance for Lenka with help from friends of our organization. As well, we will try to once again, through the organization “Nasa Srbija”, invite the children to Serbian summer camps, where they can interact with their Serbian peers.

Bravo family and Serbs for Serbs in Skoplje

Our final visit was to the family of Father Simeon and his wife Angelina Bravo. Together they have five children: Jovan (19), Marija (16), Ana (14), Grigorije (12) and Teofanija (10). Father Simeon is a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church – Archdiocese of Ohrid – which basically functions in Macedonia today as it once did in the first centuries of Christianity. That is, instead of worshipping in catacombs of yesteryear, Serbs are now using apartments as churches, and homes as monasteries. As minority Serbian Orthodox Christians, the family experiences daily discrimination. In school, the children are harassed by both their teachers and fellow students. An additional struggle for this family is finding enough money to pay their monthly rent and utility bills. Serbs for Serbs helped the Bravo family pay their utility bills so that water and electrical service will not be suspended.

Before we headed back to our homes, we visited the monument in Zebrnjak, near Kumanovo, dedicated to the liberation of Old Serbia from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. The remains of Serbian soldiers who died in battle are kept in the complex around the monument. This monument, which was attacked in 1941 and was further neglected over the years, was only restored during the 100th anniversary of the battle that ended Ottoman rule, that is, November 2012.

Serbians in Macedonia are under attack, as is our Serbian Orthodox Church. It is our hope that as we draw attention to this situation, individuals and charitable organizations will step forward to offer assistance. This report covers just the first part of our Easter action as more work is to be done in the following months. Thanks to the members of the Kumanovo and Skoplje branches of Serbs for Serbs for their help and hospitality.

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