- Friday, February 16, 2018 5:36 PM
Delchevo, 16 February 2018 (MIA) – “Even if I owned all of Istanbul, my heart would be here in Madzir maalo, in my Delchevo,” says 75-year-old Fikrija Bora, a Delchevo-born Turk who now lives in Istanbul.
“My earliest memories of that time, no matter how poor we were, warm my heart wherever I am,” Bora says with a sense of nostalgia.
The Turk, who is well-known in Delchevo, is back in town for the winter holidays. He regularly visits his birthplace to see his friends and the maalo—i.e., neighborhood—where he spent his childhood and youth.
“I was born in this house,” Bora says in a clear Delchevo accent. “My mother passed away when I was six months old, and I was adopted by the people in the neighboring house in 1943. After living here for 17 years, I left for Turkey in 1960. Then I moved to Germany, where I lived for 35 years. But my heart is still here in Madzir maalo. Health permitting, I will return here for good,” Bora says.
Few old Turkish houses remain in Bora’s neighborhood. Some have been demolished; some have been replaced by new ones. But Bora is not the only one treasuring the memories of a time gone by. His Delchevo friends do so, too – along with their offspring who share their parents’ respect towards Bora. When he comes to Delchevo, he visits his old friends or, if they have passed away, their children, who welcome him warmly.
“I carry memories of my friends Zaforovi, Stojan Komitata, Trajche Donev, Dogazanski. Those were my neighbors and brothers. There was no better brotherhood and unity. We had great times. We respected each other. I used to go to Stojan Komitata all the time. His wife Lozena welcomed me as if I were her own child, and she never treated me any differently than her children. She told me stories about my mother, whom I had never met. I was curious to learn as much as I could about her, about the kind of person she was. I am still heartbroken about my mother, even though I’m old,” Bora says.
Ten thousand euro for a photograph
Bora’s mother’s name was Hava and came from the Aimitchushovi family. She died of typhus in 1943. His two brothers and two sisters, who also fell ill, managed to survive, but his mother died at 36, orphaning him at 6 months of age.
“I was told that when the illness came into the house, police were guarding it, allowing nobody to go in or out,” Bora says. “Then a neighbor adopted me.”
Years passed by, and life took Bora from Delchevo to Turkey, and then to Germany, but his love for his mother whom he had never known was a constant on his mind, prompting him to try and find at least a photo of her. At one point, he was offering 10,000 euro for a single photo.
“I wanted to see a photo of her face so much. With the help of a friend from Delchevo, Trajcho, who works in the military, I began my search. We first asked all the neighbors and relatives, but nobody had a photo of her. Then we went to state institutions. We combed through all the documents in the Delchevo City Hall. Her first and last names were listed, but there was no photo to be found. Then we went to the archives in Shtip and in Skopje, to no avail. Not many people were taking photos then. Maybe my father was jealous and didn’t allow her to have her photo taken. I don’t know. I just know my search was futile,” Bora says bitterly.
Bora also tried to buy the house he was born in, but he was late – the house had already been demolished by its new owners.
From Turkey to Germany and back to Delchevo
Years of hardship were ahead of Fikrija Bora and his family when they first came to Istanbul. His journey to Turkey was marred by his adoptive father’s death. He died on the train somewhere on the border between Greece and Turkey.
“I was 17 when we sold our property in Delchevo and left for Turkey,” Bora says. “That was in 1960. After the tragedy of my father's death, it was very hard. For ten years I made my living from the trade I had learned in Delchevo from master Kole. In 1964, I bought a property of 300 square meters in Istanbul. I lived there until 1970 when I moved to Germany. I worked as a welder, staying there for 35 years.
“Because I was poor, I couldn’t go to school apart from the first four grades. I had kept cattle in Delchevo instead. But I worked hard, I learned different trades, I was persistent, and God rewarded me. I made money. Still, my heart remained here in Madzir maalo.”
Bora was married to his first wife, who was originally from Dorfulija, for 55 years. Their three grown children—two daughters and a son—live in Istanbul with their families. He sorely regrets the fact his children do not speak Macedonian.
His second wife is from Pehcevo, which has given him the impetus to buy an apartment in Delchevo.
“I intend to buy an apartment here,” Bora says, “to spend part of the year with my old friends in Delchevo. I love this town and I wish everyone well. They are celebrating the Christian holidays at the moment and I wish them all health and happiness.
“But I feel sad when I see that Delchevo is not being developed at all. I would like to see it thrive. Even so, I will follow my heart and I will come back.”
Thousands of Turkish people left Delchevo after WWII
More than 5,000 Turks left Delchevo, whose population used to be 70 percent Turkish, during the 1950s and the 1960s. Like Bora’s, many of their families now live in Istanbul or in the Bornova district of İzmir. Now the old town of Delchevo is mostly abandoned, along with the surrounding villages that used to be predominantly Turkish, such as Gabrovo, Grad, Virche, Trabotivishte, and Dzvegor. Only old mosque minarets remain as a relic of a time gone by.
But Bora is not the only one who regularly comes back. Many other Turks have kept in touch with the Macedonians who bought their properties and the people they grew up with, nurturing deep and lasting friendships.
Around 250,000 Macedonian Turks moved out of Macedonia
Researching historical details about the emigration of the Turks from Macedonia, we came across the number of 250,000 Macedonian Turks who left the country during the 1950s and the 1960s. The emigration of the Muslim population was arranged by the authorities at the time, and certain historians have described this as an example of dishonest and utterly inhumane politics with disastrous consequences not only for Turks and other Muslims but also for the country as a whole, from a demographic, economic, educational, social and, above all, ethical point of view.
Salim Kjerimi, a historian and retired diplomat, wrote that “for the first time in Macedonia’s history, the people leading the country stirred hundreds of thousands of loyal compatriots to leave their homes behind, contrary to the centuries-old tradition of fostering peaceful coexistence in these parts of the world.”
tr. by Magdalena Reed
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