Alex Gigeroff: One Oro!

A Celebration of Life

Zaedno Alex …One More Time!

People started trickling in on a Sunday in September, stopping in the front lobby of the George Ignatieff Theatre, University of Toronto. There was a selection of paintings by Alex Gigeroff, which were part of a Canadian Macedonian Place collection of Macedonian artists. And an opportunity to purchase a copy of Alex’s book Baba’s Macedonian Socks, browse through the free gift cards that Alex had designed and meet old friends not seen for many years. The death of Alex Kire Gigeroff had brought them together… one more time.

John Evans, the MC for the Celebration, which was organized by the Canadian Macedonian Historical Society with the support of the Canadian Macedonian Place, had assembled an array of old photographs of Alex’s childhood, as a young man, high school at Western Tech, and proud graduate of University of Toronto.

John talked about their conversation regarding Alex’s rendition of our 2000 year history presented at Oro Makedonsko, and how overwhelming Alex thought it was. “Our history has so much suffering, so much tragedy; I’m finding it hard to express the story. Do you know what happened after Ilinden? The carnage, the burning… How much sorrow and suffering the Macedonian people have endured over the years, 500 years under the Ottomans, and having the geography which was always designated Macedonia being divided like a pie”. After some thought, Alex knew what he had to say, and he wrote his piece. We saw it again.

Chris Stoyanovich donned Alex’s Red Hat, as he spoke about Alex his uncle. Vera and her brother Alex were not just siblings, but lifelong best friends. Chris spoke about his family photos, and how Alex affected him, not only as an example by his accomplishments but also his involvement with the family.

Alex went from school President of Western Tech High School to University of Toronto and specializing in criminal psychology, on to a Masters and then, with his growing family moving to London, England and finishing his PhD at the London School of Economics. But Chris never saw him as deskbound, nor limited in any way. Alex was philosopher, historian, and criminal lawyer with a bundle of energy. He wanted to open our eyes to all of life’s possibilities. Chris said that talking to Alex was like an Olympic event – intellectually. It was the high jump. He also felt that Alex had probably convinced God by now that it was the Macedonians that were the chosen people.

Alex persuaded Ginny Evans to join the Historical Society. And then challenged her to consider going to university. Which she did, and found she was not only capable, but she loved it. He was a great influence in her life by encouraging her, as she would tell him about the great subjects she was taking. She was a single mom of a couple of teenagers, with a part time job, so by taking one or two courses a year, year after year, she finally graduated in 2001. He celebrated her graduation by coming to the party, decorating all the tables with Zdravets, and leading the oro.

Dr. Chris Stefanovich became a close friend. Chris was one of the initiators of the Macedonian Canadian Health Professionals Association (MCHPA) and a board member of CMP. The Health Professionals even made Alex an honourary member of the Association and gave a lecture about Baba Was a Doctor for the health professionals and the historical society. Some of the members of the Association rallied together to pay for re-printing the book, Baba’s Macedonian Socks, so that we have plenty of copies for a generation or two.

The CMP were thrilled with Alex’s portrayal of food (as it is a very important aspect of our culture). His paintings graced the walls of the Macedonian nursing floor in a nursing home until recently. Alex’s view of painting was that “life is colour and is the music of painting, and so I wish painting to play on the grand piano. This is what I feel that life is all about.”

Andre Haines, an accomplished artist and Alex’s son took the stage, as only a son of Alex can. He sang, and as he painted, was accompanied by Cheski Neceski on his accordion. Andre drew a face with a hand holding a Zdravets, and Alex’s signature bird, taught to Alex by his father. Andre spoke about his relationship with his dad, how he was encouraged to strike out into the world by attending the American Musical Academy in New York. He has become a well known artist in the Eastern provinces, as well as a performer, writer and playwright. He was thrilled with the reception he received from the many Macedonian friends Alex had in Toronto.

Tony Markovski, speaking in Macedonian, talked about Alex’s ability to spread Macedonianism wherever he happened to be. Tony felt that Alex and his activism about being a Macedonian mirrored the goals and aspirations of the Historical Society.

Georgi Danevski, an artist who has painted the murals and icons in several Macedonian churches, spoke about Alex as one professional artist to another. He had a great deal of respect and appreciation for Alex’s altruism and heartfelt love of Macedonia.

Shawn Saulniere, a very old and faithful friend of 40 years, arrived at this Celebration from Yarmouth not only with his family which included his four adult children, but also his mother and father. They were devoted to Alex. Shawn was keen to learn, and Alex was hungry to teach, and teach he did with the following “rules”.

1. Be humble and understated.

2. Be a voice for those who have no voice.

3. Eat, drink, love, dance play (never trust anyone who doesn’t like food)

4. Learn how to listen how to keep people’s attention

5. Do not be paralyzed by perfection.

6. Dig your well before you are thirsty

7. Make a great day

8. Don’t take care – live dangerously

9. How you say “hello” and “goodbye” are life’s most important things.

10. Don’t lose hope in justice.

Alex taught Shawn that we all matter in everything we do. Reverberations bounce ahead, and are magnified and multiplied.

Judge Barry Stuart (Ret.) felt it important that he attend Alex’s Celebration of Life by travelling from Paradise Valley, B.C. He met Alex in 1967, in 2nd year law. Queen’s Law school was a sedate school, which probably had never met anyone like bushy-browed Alex. He taught Barry something very important… how to cry! This became even more important, once Stuart became a judge in later life.

Olga Sandolowich recalled when Alex was on the youth committee of St. Cyril’s Macedono-Bulgarian Church in 1957 when she first met him. She had applied to teach folk dancing at the church. She learned from Alex that the Church considered her “unacceptable” because of her peace activism. In the end, she was able to teach at St. Cyril’s, but was not about to give up trying to save the world! The combination of Alex and his friend Jim Vasoff along with Len Doncheff were a powerful triumvirate at the time in the Youth group.

The afternoon ended with Olga leading a number of the audience in an oro into the area where there were some refreshments.

Alex had the ability to cut through cultural boundaries, intellectual disciplines, and the social caste system. When it gets down to it, all we leave are memories, good ones or bad ones. Alex cut a swath wherever he was because he actually did “make a great day!” He was also passionate about Zaedno oro. Not separate. Others have separated us. Let us not do it to ourselves.

A philosophy to remember Alex by.

Virginia Andreoff Evans