STOP H.R. 741 which misrepresents Macedono-Bulgarian Americans
STOP H.R. 741 which misrepresents Macedono-Bulgarian Americans
Why this petition matters
Rep. Brendan F. Boyle
1133 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-6111
Fax: (202) 226-0611
CC: Reps Dingell, McClain, and Tenney
Dear US House of Representatives Speaker,
Dear Representatives Boyle, Dingell, McClain, and Tenney,
As constituents from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan and other Midwest states, we encourage you in the undersigned petition you to vote AGAINST the proposed House Resolution 741, which urges the US House to support the designation of the month of September 2022 as “Macedonian American Heritage Month” and to celebrate "the Macedonian language, history, and culture of Macedonian Americans and their incredible contributions to the United States "(hereafter referred to as HR 741).
We strongly object to HR 741 because it intentionally and deliberately misrepresents the heritage, language, culture and identity of an important group of US citizens of Macedonian heritage, namely the Macedono-Bulgarian Americans. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Macedono-Bulgarians constituted a vast majority of the Slavic-speaking population in a territory that included modern day Republic of North Macedonia, Northwestern Greece, and Southwestern Bulgaria. They identified their ethnic and national origin as Bulgarians residing in the geographic region of Macedonia. Ethnic Bulgarians living in Macedonia or Macedono-Bulgarians are well-documented in academic publications, U.S. media, and population censuses in the United States. For additional details see Exhibit 1 in the Appendix.
When immigrating to the United States, many of these individuals identified themselves as ethnic Bulgarians from the geographic region of Macedonia or Macedono-Bulgarians. Therefore, Macedono-Bulgarian identity is distinct from the Macedonian identity of many of the immigrants originating from the territory of the former People’s Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Macedonia (now North Macedonia) who settled in the United States after the 1950s and 1960s. Instances of notable Macedono-Bulgarian American immigrants include Tom and John Kiradjieffs of Cincinnati, Ohio, the American author of Macedono-Bulgarian descent Stoyan Christowe of Dover, Vermont, and the American Olympic and World champion and surgeon of Macedono-Bulgarian descent Peter T. George of Akron, Ohio whose origin, identity and culture have been misrepresented in the proposed resolution.
Let's consider, for example, Tom Kiradjieff who created Cincinnati chili, a beloved American dish named in 2013 by the Smithsonian as one of the “20 Most Iconic Foods in America”. His son Joe Assen Kiradjieff clearly stated in the Veterans History Project, run by the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library, that his parents’ ethnicity is Bulgarian rather than Macedonian and that his parents are from Bulgaria, probably from Macedonia (see the video, 46:30 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnJO_6YL7Xw&t=2714s This is a clear indication of Macedono-Bulgarian identity in their family memory. Additionally, U.S. immigration records show that his mother Sika Kiradjieff was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and identified herself as Bulgarian. For additional details see Exhibit 2 in the Appendix.
Another notable example is Stoyan Christowe, an author of an autobiographical book This is My Country, which was one of the five books found on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s bedside table when he passed away. In it, Chistowe describes the life in his native village of Konomladi/ Makrochori in Macedonia where young men “had dreams of becoming famous komitadjis like Deltcheff and Boris Sarafoff and driving the Turks away” from their native land (Christowe, p. 15). He further notes that, upon arriving in the United States, his and his compatriots’ “native speech was Bulgarian” (p. 39) and that they identified themselves as “Bolgari, Bolgari” (i.e., Bulgarians, Bulgarians) when meeting Greeks on Market Street in St. Louis, Missouri (p. 50).
In his autobiographic work, Chistowe reaffirms once again his Bulgarian identity when visiting Bulgaria’s capital later on in his life noting that “though born a Bulgarian, I had never before been in Bulgaria proper, having come directly to America from Macedonia” (p. 262). While in Sofia, Christowe met with the Bulgarian political and literary elite which included King Boris III, as well as authors like Balabanoff and Elin Pelin whose works he had translated into English. Elin Pelin welcomed him with the words “there is a Bulgarian for you. Came all the way from America to see free Bulgaria. Once a Bulgarian, always a Bulgarian. American, American but blood is thicker than water” (p. 268). In his book, Christowe comments directly about his Bulgarian language by saying, "my speech crude and rusty when I arrived in Bulgaria, began to flow from my mouth with marvelous facility. Thoughts and ideas formed themselves in my mind in Bulgarian. I even began to dream in Bulgarian. Constantly in the mind of artists, people from the theater, statesmen, molders and masters of the native speech, I soon became better able to express myself in Bulgarian than in English” (p. 294-5). For additional details see Exhibit 3 in the Appendix.
Another Macedono-Bulgarian, Dr. Peter George, in an article from 01/09/2014 in Macedonian Tribune, the newspaper of the Macedono-Bulgarian Americans, writes that “in 1944, to dissuade the people in the territory of Macedonia from thinking of themselves as Bulgarians who want to be reunited with their mother country, President Tito officially incorporated the geographic area into Yugoslavia as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia. To encourage a distinct Macedonian identity, he ordered linguistic scholars to change the structure of the alphabet of the language used by these people to just enough to differentiate it from Bulgarian.” In the same article, Dr. George goes on to discuss his and his parents’ identity noting “my parents however, were Bulgarians born in Macedonia. I, therefore, must say that my nationality is Bulgarian.” For additional details see Exhibit 4 in the Appendix.
The development of Macedonian identity as distinct and separate from that of the Bulgarians occurred in the 20th century well after these notable Americans or their parents had already immigrated to the United States. Therefore, they like many of the earlier immigrants and their descendants cherished and preserved their Macedono-Bulgarian identity. If Congress were to adopt HR 741, this act would basically amount to denying those immigrants their “inalienable right to self-identification.”
We, the descendants of Bulgarians and Macedono-Bulgarians, firmly believe that Resolution 741 is divisive and discriminatory with regard to the Macedono-Bulgarian identity of many of our ancestors as it denies their and our right of self-identification based on ethnic or national origin. It constitutes a misrepresentation of who our ancestors were and a mischaracterization of who we are as their descendants. Therefore, Resolution 741 robs people who have passed away and their living descendants of the basic human right of ethnic and national identification.
In addition, by intentionally excluding the Macedono-Bulgarian Americans from the text of the Resolution and by misrepresenting their origin and legacy, we believe that Resolution 741 violates the key principles on which American democracy is built, namely the principles of inclusivity, equity, and nondiscrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin.
To that end, we beseech you to Vote AGAINST HR 741 because its current language by deliberately omitting to mention the Macedono-Bulgarian origin of many Macedonian Americans and their contributions shows disrespect and disregard for the very values it purports to support. The ratification of such a divisive text will only serve to further exacerbate the tensions and disagreements between modern-day Macedonians and Macedono-Bulgarians both in the United States and abroad.
Here is a a link to the petition with the appended exhibits: