Todays Date
June 27, 2022

Inbox7 among Macedonian workers in Italy: The first night in Italy I slept in the cemetery (Part Four)

“Life writes novels” – this Serbian proverb best describes the life and journey of our citizens on their way from Macedonia to Italy. Especially poignant are the stories of older migrant workers who arrived in Italy before 2006. Undoubtedly, for many of them coming to Italy has been the biggest challenge and the biggest danger they have faced in life.

Vanco Jovanov-Kvisko, prominent businessman from Kocani now living in Canelli, went to work abroad in 1994.

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Vanco Jovanov-Kvisko

“I worked in the agricultural industrial plant “Kocani Field”. I was a waiter in the restaurants of the hotel “Tourist” and the motel “Brana gradce”. In 1994 the company started working badly. I was not paid for several months. I left Macedonia with 100 denars in my pocket. I arrived to Slovenia. Once I passed the border illegally on my own, but I got caught by Italians. The second time I found one fellow countryman, who then transported people through the Slovenian – Italian border illegally. I promised 1,300 marks to help me”, says Jovanov – Kvisko.

For one week, as he says, he had been struggling to pass the border between Slovenia and Italy through the woods, hungry, exhausted and in great uncertainty.

“Later when I earned money in Canelli I paid the fellow countryman who helped me here” recalls Jovanov.

Now Jovanov is a successful entrepreneur in Canelli and one of the 17 Macedonian owners of worker cooperatives. Before he opened the cooperative for 15 years he had been working in Italian vineyards.

 

Nova Gorica – a new life story for many Macedonians

 

The railway station in Nova Gorica, Slovenia hides many life secrets and stories of our migrant workers in Italy. Gorica is an Italian city which after World War II was divided into two parts. About 40 percent of the city went to former Yugoslavia, Slovenia, while the other half of the city is on the Italian territory.

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Gorica

In this town Macedonian people face all the irony. They want to put an end to the old life in Macedonia and start a new one in the promised Italy. But to get there they need to go through the Slovenian Nova Gorica and enter the Italian Stara Gorica.

The mission of our migrant workers in the nineties was to arrive in Slovenia as it was easier to obtain Slovenian visa. And from Ljubljana to go to Nova Gorica where at the railway station they would go to the Italian territory and by train directly inside the country where there are less police controls.

Zoran from Kocani, who in 1996 went to Italy, suffered a similar fate.

“I obtained a proper visa to Slovenia. We were together with my godfather. We arrived in Ljubljana and from there took a bus to Nova Gorica. When we arrived in Nova Gorica it took us three hours to find the railway station. We did not speak Italian, and the station was filled with police. Border police, local police, carabinieri. We did not get on the first train, because we did not know where it was going. We feared not to be returned to Slovenia. We did not know who to ask. All day we were on our feet, so we sat on a bench to rest. After a while, the officers began to ask people for their documents. We immediately went to buy newspapers from the newsstand and pretend to read so that officers would not identify us. As if we had been Italians. But a policeman came came and in poor Serbian asked why we had bought an Italian newspaper when we could not read Italian, he took us to the police station and returned us to Slovenia”, says Zoran.

He adds that in the following 20 days they twice tried to cross the border in Nova Gorica and succeeded even for the third time. Now he is working in a factory in the town of Alba.

 

The railway station in Nova Gorica is deeply embedded in the memories of Stojan Arsov from Vinica

 

“I worked in Slovenia with a working visa and all the legal documents. We were lied by a person from Kocani that in the vineyards in Italy there was more money so we decided to go. The first time in Nova Gorica, just as we stepped on the Italian territory, we were arrested. We were deported in Slovenia and they put a black stamp in our passports. Then the problems started. Slovenians did not extend our work permit”, says Arsov.

He adds that he had to leave Slovenia. He found himself at a crossroads – to return to Macedonia or to go to the much-vaunted vineyards in Italy.

“For the second time I went to the railway station in Nova Gorica, I waited for three hours and did not enter the station. When I heard the first train entering the station I quickly got on it. I had been on the train for half an hour, when the conductor came and asked for a ticket. I did not have a ticket, I gave him money and told him I was going to Milan. He looked at me, told me something, I did not understand him. He gave me the money and left. The train was going to Rome. A minute later carabinieri came, got me off at the first stop, by a van took me to the airport in Rome and sent me to Belgrade by plane”, says Arsov.

His story does not end here:

“I decided to go back to Macedonia. I caught a bus from Belgrade to Skopje. On the parking lot of the motel Predejane the bus stopped for a break and in the same parking lot I saw my cousin with his truck. He said he would drive to France. I had been thinking for 10 minutes and decided to go again. I had a visa for Slovenia. Again I entered there legally and a Bosnian man led me through the forest on the Italian border for 1,000 German marks. That is how I came to Italy”, says Arsov who is now a truck driver in the town of Asti.

 

In Kalafov’s barber shop

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Vlatko Kalafov

This barbershop is an older form of information agency for local and international news, jokingly said our only hairdresser in Canelli and one of two Macedonian barbers in Piedmont, Vlatko Kalafov.

“I came to Canelli in September 2003 to pick grapes. I have an aunt in Slovenia, I obtained Slovenian visa and got there legally, but I passed the Slovenian-Italian border illegally in Nova Gorica. One Bosnian helped me cross the border, from the other side they were waiting for me with the car and so I came to Piedmont. Here in Italy I entered without a visa and for three and a half years I lived and worked in Canelli illegally. My first job, like everyone else from Macedonia, was in the vineyard. I picked grapes. When there was no work in agriculture I worked as a construction worker actually I worked everything I found. I opened the barbershop in 2009. I have been working as a barber here for five years. I am the only Macedonian barber in Canelli, and there are a total of 14 barbers. Most of my clients are Macedonians, but there are also Italians, Romanians, less Albanians, Bulgarians. All the news about Macedonians arrives in my barber shop first. My barbershop is as an information service for the Macedonians, here they found information about work, transport to Macedonia, if someone needs to leave something for short. This barber shop is a not place where one can have a haircut only”, Kalafov added jokingly.

 

 

 

One night at a cemetery in Santo Stefano

Life also brought Tode Veselinov from Makedonska Kamenica to Italy, and he is among the first Macedonians in this part of Italy, in the early nineties of the last century.

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Tode Veselinov

“I worked in a restaurant in Makedonska Kamenica and there people applied for work in Italy. There was a man from Stip who took them by van. I had money, like most people in Kamenica then, let’s say I was not without any money. One night owners of the restaurant made me angry and I went with the taxi driver. I arrived in Italy. The first night with three other people from Macedonia we arrived in Santo Stefano. We neither knew anyone, nor the language. It was summer, we did not know where to sleep. We found an open facility, went in, and as we were tired we fell asleep immediately. There were stands and benches. We thought it was the local pitch in Santo Stefano. When we woke up in the morning we saw that we had slept in the cemetery. We immediately got up and got out of there. Then for 11 days we slept in the train station that was under construction until we found a job and an apartment”, said Veselinov.

Now Veselinov has its own business in agriculture and he is a member of the church board of St. Archangel Michael in Neive.

These are some of the experiences of Macedonian workers we met in Canelli, and here we end the Inbox 7 reportage of the Italian town of vineyard.

(The End)