Welcome to Zhelevo.com! Here you'll read about Zhelevo's proud history, learn about the present-day village, see pictures from the past and present, and read about the struggles that Zhelevtsi had to endure through Ottoman times and under Greek rule since 1913.
After Greece annexed Aegean Macedonia in 1913, a terrorist campaign was waged against the indigenous Macedonian population. The Greek government tried to eradicate the very existence of Macedonia by killing ethnic Macedonians, through population exchanges, and forced assimilation. All Macedonian names of people, villages, and landmarks were changed from Macedonian to Greek. (Zhelevo was renamed "Antartikon" in 1926). Churches had their Macedonian inscriptions erased and replaced with Greek writing. Many were even burnt down and new Greek churches were built in their place. People were forbidden to speak Macedonian and if they were caught, they would be tortured, beaten or imprisoned. My father tells me about the kindergarten in Zhelevo where the children had to listen to propaganda that the Greek state was "ethnically pure" and that "other" languages were inferior. Dances were held in the village centre but Macedonian music or lyrics were forbidden. Because of Greece's relentless attempts at cultural genocide, a climate of fear developed among the Macedonian population.
Because of this, Macedonians emigrated in large numbers mainly to Canada, Australia, and the United States. The majority of Zhelevtsi moved to the Toronto area. They were instrumental in the establishment of Macedonian Orthodox Churches in Canada and several Macedonian organizations, including the Zhelevo Brotherhood and the building of Zhelevo Hall.
Over the past decade or so, a lot of changes have been occurring in Aegean Macedonia. The Macedonians have been demanding their human rights and refuse to be intimidated anymore. Human rights activists have been fined and imprisoned for publicly declaring their Macedonian identity. The international community has been putting pressure on Greece to finally recognize its ethnic minorities and grant them their human rights. Progress is being made, in spite of the Greek government's continued efforts to suppress this minority. An indication of these changes is my grandfather's Macedonian language tombstone in Zhelevo's cemetary, something that would have been unheard of even five years ago. For the latest human rights news in all regions of Macedonia, please visit the website of the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada.
Please stay tuned for more information about Zhelevo and its people, both in Aegean Macedonia and abroad. If you would like to contribute your stories and/or photographs, please contact me at email@example.com