Meckin kamen (Bear’s Stone) Monument, Krusevo, Macedonia (source: Travel My Globe)

“….and obtain freedom.”

Those three words — “….and obtain freedom” — are the last three words of the first paragraph of the Krushevo Manifesto. That’s what the Ilinden Uprising was about — to obtain freedom. Freedom was briefly lived during those ten days — and then brutally crushed. But the flame of freedom, that burning desire for freedom continued to live on in the hearts, minds, and souls of Macedonian men and women long after until it was finally, actually, and in reality achieved on September 8, 1991 — a free, independent, and sovereign Republic of Macedonia — a free state full of free men and women, built over centuries by men and women who had sacrificed their lives, their honor, and their fortunes to achieve that moment.

Krste Misirkov wrote, in “On Macedonian Matters,” that “Complete political freedom is worthless if a man does not come to realize that his human debt, his debt towards his country and his people, is work, work and more work.” Future American president Ronald Reagan said something similar in 1960 stating “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” The net result of both men’s statement is that freedom is fragile and we must constantly work to preserve it and pass it on to our children, and generations yet unborn. The question for this current generation of Macedonians is, therefore, are you up to the task of defending and preserving freedom? Or would it be “better” to trade it in for something else? I’ll never forget the words of an Estonian friend of mine in 2004, a government official no less, when his country joined the EU. “Well,” he said drily. “We traded one master for another.”

While the referendum of September 8, 1991 is the Republic of Macedonia’s modern birth certificate, the events of 1903 and 1944 is what led to that birth. That birth certificate holds the seeds of the desire for freedom sown in those previous years and now you are being asked to give all of that away, because the Prespa Agreement (or Zaev Capitulation) is emphatically not about a name change — it is about much more than this. It is about identity, dignity, the question of who will rule you — a foreign power, by proxy, perhaps — and it is about the freedom to make your own choices and decisions. And to be responsible for those choices and decisions.

While the leaders of the EU and NATO will tell you that you must join both organizations to preserve your freedom, the truth is that, in the case of the EU, at least, “ever closer union” for the EU also means handing over at first a little, and then more and more of your sovereignty. And that’s not freedom.

What too many in the EU, US, NATO and Macedonia are doing right now — and doing it intentionally — is attempting to further divide Macedonians. They tell you that there is only “one way” to enter the promised lands of the EU and NATO and that you MUST make the constitutional changes called for so that the next steps can proceed, NOW. There is not a shred of understanding for the position of Macedonians who boycotted the referendum or a “we want you, Macedonia, to do what you think is right,” or “you should work it out between yourselves.” There is only one way, their way, and it is quickly becoming an absolute demand, and a very authoritarian one at that. But then that is the direction of the West as a whole, sadly.

If you keep your Constitution intact and refuse Zaev’s call for capitulation, here are five truths:

1. You will retain that which generations of Macedonians fought for: an independent and sovereign Republic of Macedonia, recognized by over 137 countries as such.

2. The Macedonian identity and Macedonian language will still be acknowledged and respected for the very simple reason that they already are acknowledged and respected and are not under threat; you will also keep your history, culture, heritage and much more, intact (or at least as long as you nurture it).

3. Macedonia will retain its Western orientation because, since independence, both its people and its leaders have been Western-oriented.

4. Macedonia will continue to cooperate with both the EU and NATO in ways too many to count; the EU will still be Macedonia’s largest market, and Macedonia will continue to be the closest possible partner to NATO.

5. There will open up new possibilities for new talks with Greece, if you desire them, because there are always alternatives.

There are other truths, of course, but these are essential even though too many in the EU, US, NATO, and in the Macedonian government and elite circles will never admit to them.

I close with Krste Misirkov again, writing in “On Macedonian Matters,” when he expressed the hope of all Macedonians who love Macedonia and want to see it succeed, not to the detriment of others, but for the good and for the freedom of Macedonia and the Macedonians. He wrote, “I hope it will not be held against me that I, as a Macedonian, place the interests of my country before all…I am a Macedonian, I have a Macedonian’s consciousness, and so I have my own Macedonian view of the past, present, and future of my country.”

It is my hope and prayer that it will not be held against well over a million Macedonians who place the interests of Macedonia above all others, who love and value freedom and who want to protect that which was been earned, sometimes at a high cost, even the cost of life.