At one point during our trip, my husband asked me: so who are your relatives and who are your friends. To someone who didn't know the relationships, it would be hard to distinguish, because both my relatives and my friends in Macedonia I have known all of my life.
Even an unimportant trip to the grocery store will make you run into a relative or friend. And when we visited people's homes who invited us, if one was to judge by their hospitality, it would be hard to distinguish whether they are a relative or a friend. Our culture is very hospitable. People open their homes and feed you all the time.
So I want to say that the whole country is my family, because if they are not by blood, then certainly they will be somehow related by marriage. It's a small country, you know!!
So lets start with my grandpa.
I walked to his small apartment the very first day I arrived. I guess I couldn't wait. I am his first grandchild, he is my last surviving grandparent. I wanted to see him and I wanted him to see my kids.
He spends the summer days at our house just outside of the city. There is a small vineyard there, and other fruit trees and vegetables. It is there that he makes home made wine and rakija. In the photo above, he is holding a photograph of him and my grandma, my dad and my uncle dating back in the mid 1950's.
Above: My grandpa, my uncle and aunt, me and my kids.
Above: my uncle Krste and aunt Nada
Uncle Krste and aunt Nade, are not exactly my aunt and uncle, they are my dad's. My uncle Krste is the youngest brother of my grandma (my dad's mom). Growing up I spent a lot of time with my uncle Krste and aunt Nada. I am also told that whenever I'd ask my parents to buy something for me, and they would tell me they didn't have money I'd answer back to them: let's go to uncle Krste, he's got money.
An unfortunate event happened during my last week in Skopje. Their tiny condo caught on fire. They share a common wall with their neighbor who is mentally ill. He's tried to burn his condo many times. This time, he burned down his condo, and having a common wall with my uncle, their home suffered a lot of damage.
Above: my uncle Gjorgji and aunt Duska
They live next to my uncle Krste. They too are my dad's uncle and aunt. Uncle Gjorgji was a journalist for the local newspaper. And he was my saviour when I had to write essays for school assignment. He was the person I went to for help. Many thanks.
Above: my uncle Lazo who lives in Ohrid.
Above: uncle Lazo and aunt Betti.
Many years ago I spent a week with them in the summer. They didn't have kids back then, and now their son is about to graduate from college.
Above: my grandpa's brother with my son.
Dedo Stavre (granpa Stavre) is my grandpa's brother. He is uncle Lazo's father. They live in Ohrid.
Above: my unlce Janko in Gostivar. He is my mom's first cousin. His brother, uncle Pavel is the one that lives in Palm Springs, CA. Uncle Janko took us to Vrutok, the spring of the river Vardar, that crosses through Macedonia and ends in Greece at the Aegean Sea.
Above: Maja, my cousin's wife. This was the first time I met her. I could not make it to their wedding a few years ago. Maja is an artist, a sculptor. She has a studio in the old part of town (Stara Carsija) which I enjoyed very much. We spent a day with Maja, museum hopping through old town.
Above: Renata, one of my cousins. She is actually my second cousin. He parents bought the apartment where I grew up. So I was fortunate to visit and show my kids the home where I lived when I was their age.
As I am going through my photos, I am realizing that I never took pictures of some of my relatives. Wrapped up in our pleasant conversations after decades of not seeing each other, and enjoying the good food, the opportunity to capture the moment with a camera didn't even occur to me. So the last photo is a courtesy of my cousin's cell phone. See...sitting at a table eating food. All the time, at every house.
Above from left: myself, my mom's brother, my cousin and his wife, my aunt.