Barbi Marković, Serbian writer who lives in Vienna. 
Skopje Impressions

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“Did you cry when Tito died?”: A somewhat satirical look at Macedonia then — and North Macedonia now.

When we started school in Belgrade in 1987, one of the most popular jokes was to ask: “Did you cry when Tito died?” Everyone had seen the footage on TV: When Tito died, millions of people felt real grief or felt at least infected by some human emotion. But seven years had passed since then. Yugoslavia was just about to disintegrate, so this question had political significance for the adults. But for us, schoolchildren who were born in the year of Tito’s death, the very same question meant simply whether we were born before or after the date of his death — as babies, we would have totally cried.

„Skopje is not a film. . . . It is a conversation of the human struggle for freedom.“

Jean-Paul Satre

I am sitting in a taxi in Skopje. On the flight I was listening to Macedonian songs, trying to memorise the lyrics of “Nazad, nazad, Kalino mome”, “Back, back, Kalina girl.” This song is creepy and could be turned straight into a movie. In it, a man sings: “Back, back, Kalina girl, don’t you come for me. There are high mountains near us, you can’t get over them.” She sings: “I will turn into a hawk and fly over the mountain, come to you and be yours forever.” He replies: “Don’t come and get me, there is a deep river near us, you won’t get across it.” She says: “I will turn into a barbel and swim to the other bank, come to you, and be yours forever.” Yet, he responds with “Back, back, Kalina girl, don’t come for me, there is a beautiful woman and two little children here.” To which she replies: “I will turn into the black plague and come anyway, I will kill your wife and look after your children, forever I will be yours.”

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