AN OPEN AND FRIENDLY PEOPLE
Published in the Unification News in June 1991
In 1991 Macedonia was an independent nation in all but name. They
turned out to be the only ones to break away from communist Yugoslavia without bloodshed.
I have taken the liberty of correcting some 'technical' errors.
I arrived in Skopje towards the end of wintertime. The landscape was cold and muddy,
but I was able to witness the flowering of spring. Very few Americans have heard
of the Yugoslavian city of Skopje, even though it has 600,000 people and is the capital
of Macedonia. Its history goes back to Roman times, and even before, to Alexander
and the ancient kings.
I was able to stay with our members there, one couple with their two boys, and a
single brother from Switzerland. I worked there in Skopje, and also with our two
brothers in Pristina, in Kosovo province. We also traveled to several other towns
throughout Macedonia. There were two other Americans there with me, Milon Townsend
from New York, and Kevin Convery of Tennessee.
I was immediately involved in several activities I had not expected at all, babysitting
and fundraising. Our sister there has kept up a full schedule, despite her very lively
boys. Hence I could help her lecture, and run a busy center and household, by keeping
an eye on those boys! I fundraised almost every day, both to help with their difficult
finances, and as a way to meet the local people. I had worked in all-Hispanic areas,
so, fundraising in my spotty Macedonian was not an entirely unfamiliar experience.
I've attended many sales meetings, and Catholic festivals. I've spent several years
as a UC fundraiser, myself, and I thought I'd seen every known type of fundraising.
In Skopje, the stores are filled with goods, but 'specialty' items are hard to find.
Such as, apparently, bathroom scales. So, one sees men in the busiest bazaars, sitting
on a little stool, with a tattered-looking scale. They accept small coins and simply
give people their correct weight.
Macedonia elected a democratic government a couple of years ago, but the old communists
have managed to hold on to a lot of power. Luckily, they have never been very strict.
One policeman answered his door, checked my passport, and then donated 50 dinars!
All my worries about secret police, etc., melted away. In fact, after fundraising
in the U.S. for many years, the people over there have spoiled me completely. I was
usually invited into homes, for coffee and conversation, at least twice every day.
Through this I met one young man named Philip, who later came to the center for lectures,
as well as several other friends.
At the American library I met an older man named Rade. He is politically active,
and very concerned about the future of his people. Even though he barely knows the
Bible, he began to study the Principle. Kevin and I hiked with him to the summit
of the Vodno, the nearby mountain. He pointed out to us that the people there tend
to think of Democracy as a "magic cure," that is, one vote and all will
be well. Yet he is among the ten percent of adults who do NOT smoke, and he nearly
lost his job by requesting a smoke-free work room! And this is during the typically
socialist four-hours-work, two-hours-siesta workday. He could see that the people
must become more responsable, and more religious, through the Principle, in order
to build a really new and better society.
One day, while walking and asking questions, I met my new spiritual son, Robert.
He is 19 years old, and a first-year college student. He told me right away that
he doesn't want to be an "aimless youth," like most of his classmates.
He was really looking for answers, and he could grasp the basics of Principle very
When I left, he was hoping to attend a 21-day workshop on Poland. He, like many others,
learned English from school, and from the many subtitled American shows on their
local TV. He plans to translate Principle into Macedonian, in order to advance our
True Parents' foundation there.
I also travelled north, to Pristina, in the troubled Kosovo region of Serbia. There,
the ten percent Serbian population dominates the ninety percent ethnic Albanian population.
As most Americans would, I naturally tended to "side with the underdog."
But with time and discussion, I found that the real situation has (at least!) two
sides, rooted in many centuries of conflict, with mistakes by all parties.
We drove past heavily-armed police patrols, to arrive to find our Pristina center
filled with local students, playing beautiful Albanian instruments and singing. For
many of them, it was the first time in their lives they spent time with Americans,
Macedonians, and others, in such a friendly atmosphere. Only our True Parents could
accomplish this, even despite the often violent ethnic rivalry occuring there.
Our PWPA organization is also getting their leaders and intellectuals to sit down
and talk, literally for the first time in years. The local media has covered these
conferences quite favorably.
We also visited the increadibly beautiful Lake Ohrid. It reminded me of Lake Tahoe
in my native California. Here was located the famous University of Saints Cyril and
Methodius, inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet and translators of the Slavic Bible.
Their 3,000 students converted the Russians, and much of the East, to Christianity.
With such beauty and spirit, I believe that anyone would love to visit and witness
But on a sober note, one can see Albania on the far shore. Their Stalinist border
guards would actually shoot at any boater foolish enough to approach. I could sense
the Fall of Man so clearly, to hear of such hatred imposed upon such beauty.
This is really the time for us Americans to reach out to the Balkan and East European
peoples. They are seeking real answers for themselves and their society. They are
still open and friendly, in contrast to many jaded and cynical westerners. Many Protestant
churches, and such groups as the Hare Krishnas, are making great efforts to witness
to the people there. The True Parents are offering what they need, and the people
have only to hear their precious mesage!
I thank Rev. Moon for initiating this project, my pastor Rev. Stephens for coordinating
it, my employer Mr. Tsuboi for giving me the time to go; and of course, my loving,
patient, and capable wife, Fujiko.
© 1991 by Paul Carlson
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