Todays Date
December 6, 2022

Economic emigration has emptied Мacedonia

Each week 1,000 residents from the Bregalnica region go to Piemonte in Northern Italy to earn a living. The settlements in the east are halved, only senior citizens have stayed

Wednesday morning. The bus station in Vinica is like a beehive. Every day two double-decker buses are filled with workers and begin a long journey of 2,000 km to earn a living.

Dejan Trajanov from Vinica, twice a year passes the “road of grapes”, as locals call it joking.

“Now begins the seasonal work in vineyards in Piemonte near Milan in Italy. I have a sister there and I will go to her”, says Trajanov.


After two months of seasonal work in vineyards, he will return to his native Vinica. In September he will go again to pick grapes.

Every year in early May, from 3,000-5,000 seasonal workers from Kocani, Vinica, Makedonska Kamenica and Delcevo go to Italy.

36-year Riste Zashov from Kocani is preparing to leave under the Alps, but unlike Dejan, he will go 400 km north of Piemonte, at the Italian-Swiss border near the city of Bolzano.

“I have been going to Bolzano for 10 years in a row. Each season I work for the same boss, there we are a Macedonian team of workers and we do the harvest of apples and other things around”, says Zashov.

He adds that 9 Macedonians work in his group, all from Kocani and Vinica, and that all have Bulgarian passports.

At the bus station, Riste, despite his closest, is also seen off by his 57-year-old colleague Trajco Nikolov from Kocani. He will join him for 3-4 days, but will go for Italy with his “Bulgarian” Mercedes.

Avtobus iseluvanja istocna makedonija (1)

Workers are ready to depart for Italy

“I worked for the factory “Treska Boris Kidric” from Kocani for 27 years. The plant is now closed and I go to my children who live in Italy to earn some money to have food throughout the year”, says Nikolov. He adds that for 3-4 months working in Italy he will earn about 2,000 Euros.

With this math every year in May several thousand seasonal workers leave the Bregalnica region, but some of them have already remained to live there.

Eastern Macedonia has emptied

We continue the report about Eastern Macedonia in Vinica village Blatec, symbol of emigration in the last 20 years. On our way we come across the priest Orce Peshov. He welcomed us friendly at the local church in Blatec, although he was in a hurry. The same day he was to perform the least popular ceremony in Christianity, that is, to bury an elderly resident of the village Blatec.

“Since the beginning of the year in the villages Blatec, Lipec and Peklani I have buried 17 people, and baptized only 3 children” says grandfather Orcewith a sad voice.

His disappointment for Blatec emigration is also shared by Stivi Nikolov, resident of Blatec.

Crkva vo s. Blatec

Church at village of Blatec

“Out of 600 houses as there are in the village, only 10-20 houses do not have an expatriate or someone who goes and works as a seasonal worker in Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland and Germany”, says Nikolov.

Grandfather Orce says that for big Christian holidays, when water is sanctified, of 600 houses in the village, he enters only 200 to 300, the rest are closed. In those houses where water is sanctified, the majority of the population is elderly, he says.

And in elementary school “Koco Racin” from Blatec students are counted on the fingers. Director Vanco Mihajlov next year hardly expects some 15 students in first grade.

“Currently at the school there are about 100 children. When I came as a teacher in 1980, there were over 400 children”, says Mihajlov.

ou koco racin selo blatec (1)

Every year less and less pupils

He says that from Blatec more students attend Italian schools than native Blatec.

The closure of factories has closed many homes in Blatec

The center of the village is deserted. No dynamics. We meet a reseller of agricultural products, who transports 2-3 older people from Kocani by van, some children and vegetables. One of the passengers is Vinko Milenov, one of the last millers in Macedonia. He worked in Kocani “Ruen”, former giant manufacturing car parts, which had its own plant in Blatec.


“Ruen closed and I stayed home. I had no job and had to go to work in a company in Vinica. My wife works in a private company, too. We get by somehow”, tells us Milenov sadly. He says hopelessness and closure of firms in Blatec has forced his sons to go to Skopje and Germany as engineers.

Just like Vinko’s sons, young Miki who has just finished high school looks for a way out abroad. He says he will take out a Bulgarian passport and go abroad because here he has nothing to work.

ou koco racin selo blatec (2)

The director of the elementary school in Blatec, Mihajlov says that life in this place used to be very good. There used to be an agricultural cooperative, a forest economy, a sawmill, “Ruen” plant and several small capacities that employed male labor force. He estimates that if now more jobs were open, some young people would return from abroad.

We are leaving Blatec with hope that this desire of the director Mihajlov may one day become reality. But while rivers of workers go to Italy, day by day hopes remain smaller that we can expect brighter days for the Macedonian east.