70 Years in Exile: Macedonian Child Refugees of the Greak Civil War

On Saturday November 9th, 2019, the Canadian Macedonian Historical Society honoured the plight of the Macedonian Refugee Children of the Greek Civil War at the City of Toronto Archives. We memorialized this unjust plight with a gallery display of photographs, a short film and information donated by the Association of the Refugee Children from Aegean Macedonia.

Over 100 people visited the City of Toronto Archives on Remembrance weekend honouring a group of Canadians that still wait for their story to be heard. Thousands of Canadian citizens of Macedonian descent were child refugees of the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949. These children were taken from their homes and sent to Eastern block communist countries behind the “Iron Curtain” by the Greek Communists (Democratic Army of Greece – DAG).

The Greek Civil War occurred in the aftermath of WWII between royal government forces supported by Great Britain and the USA and the Communist forces supported by Yugoslavia and the USSR. During the Second World War, the royalists fled Greece and set up a government in exile in Egypt, while the communist movements played an important role in fighting German and Italian occupying troops.

At the end of WWII, the royalist came back to Greece expecting to lead the country, but the communists felt that since they stayed behind to defend the country, they should have a say at setting up the new government. The conflict soon erupted into a bloody civil war that lasted from 1946 to 1949.

Many Macedonians joined the Democratic Army of Greece (DAG) not because they were communists, but, because DAG promised to recognize the Macedonians as a distinct group of people with their own language and culture. If Macedonian’s joined DAG, they were also promised their own language schools up to Grade six and the use of the Macedonian language in their churches.

According to the Red Cross, 28,000 Macedonian children from the ages of 2 – 12 years old were moved on mass to Eastern bloc communist countries and the Royalists to southern Greece or safe zones away from the fighting. The children that were moved by the Royalist remained in Greece and were able to be reunited with their parents/relatives after the war. Most of these children were ethnically Greek, but most of the children moved by the Communists were ethnically Macedonian and they were not allowed to return to their homeland and be reunited with their parents/relatives.

This was a policy of ETHNIC CLEANSING. After the war, former ethnic Greek leaders and fighters and their children, were allowed to return to Greece, but, ethnic Macedonian fighters, their children and parentless Macedonian children, were not allowed to return to Greece. Even in the communist countries after the war, the Greek communists with the help of Stalin, moved the Macedonian fighters away from their children to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, only to be reunited a decade later after the death of Stalin. Add this to the assimilation policies of the Greek government since 1913 (second Balkan War – when Greece occupied Aegean Macedonia) the policy was so productive, that even today they deny any existence to a Macedonian minority in Greece. The completion of their “Cultural Genocide” program.

It is these children who today are in their 70’s and 80’s that continue to fight for their right to return to their homeland after 70 years (1949-2019). Canada is home to thousands of these Macedonian Child Refugees of the Greek Civil War, who as Canadian citizens are even refused entry into Greece today. We live in a world where the weak, disadvantaged, marginalized and those with alternative lifestyles are being recognized for their uniqueness. As well, in Canada today we see the federal government finally acknowledging the effect of the devastating assimilation policies of the past towards our First Nations People. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Interim Report) and They Came for the Children (Historical Document) both outline the forced assimilation of native children into the Canadian mainstream.

We would hope that the government of Greece could follow the lead of Canada in not only recognizing their discriminatory assimilation policies not only those Macedonians living in Greece, but also, finally allowing Macedonian (Canadian Citizens) child refugees of the Greek Civil War to claim their rightful place as Greek citizens of Macedonian descent.

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