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Vita Blazhe Koja: Keeping Macedonian folklore alive in Cyrillic and Albanian scripts

University professor and folklorist Vita Blazhe Koja was recently awarded the Golden Stalk of Wheat for Macedonian Rapture, a prize celebrating people who promote Macedonian language and culture abroad.

Bitola, 19 November 2019 (MIA) – University professor and folklorist Vita Blazhe Koja was recently awarded the Golden Stalk of Wheat for Macedonian Rapture, a prize celebrating people who promote Macedonian language and culture abroad.

Koja was born in the Albanian village of Gjineec, Golo Brdo. She now lives in Tirana and teaches at the Economics Faculty there. 

We interviewed her during the Pelagonija Cultural-Scholarly Meetings held in Novaci, where she received the award and said she never misses an opportunity to research and write about Macedonian traditions.

“All our books are written and published in Macedonian, in Cyrillic and Latin script,” Koja explains.

“I say all ‘our’ books because I collected and wrote this material alongside Mitre Stojan Shutku and Cvetan Zafir Mazniku, who sadly passed away some years ago. All the books are in Macedonian, either in Cyrillics or in Albanian script. We translated the proverbs in Cyrillics into Albanian, too, so that any reader can understand,” she continues.

“This makes the books accessible to Macedonians who live in Golo Brdo, and not only them because many who live in Albania never learned Cyrillic, but they still speak Macedonian. 

“We believe publishing books in both languages will help strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.”

Cvetan Mazniku, Mitre Shutku, and Vita Koja have published eight volumes dedicated to the folklore of Golo Brdo.

Together more than 1,500 pages long, the books include “Macedonian-Albanian Proverbial Parallels,” “Folk Songs,” “Proverbs, Sayings, Proverbial and Idiomatic Phrases” etc.

“We wrote these books the way bees go about their business, going from flower to flower.

“So we went from person to person, house to house, village to village, collecting folk songs, proverbs, tales, and stories.

“The Macedonian folklore is abundant, and everyone should be familiar with it. Young people shouldn’t forget the Golo Brdo folklore. Most of what we’ve collected comes from our birthplace.

“We’ve collected more than 3,500 proverbs, and we’re aware there are more. The material is in alphabetical order,” Koja says.

“We interviewed a lot of people. For example, for the ‘Gollobordski Follkllor’ book, we had input from Sava Mitre Cfarku, Isail Mazniku, Bozhana Zabitku, Tase Nikola, Slavka Budini, Cveta Filjoki, Avdula Seferi, Branko Popa, as well as many others mentioned in the preface.”

For Koja, the Golden Stalk of Wheat for Macedonian Rapture award represents an acknowledgment of her efforts, an homage to the work of the late Cvetan Mazniku, and a pledge to continue, with Mitre Shutku, to collect and preserve Macedonian folklore in Golo Brdo, Albania.

Literary critic Fidan Marku writes in their seventh volume that the authors are dedicated, persistent, and respectful towards the native Macedonian dialect spoken in Golo Brdo and Drimkol.

“We hold invaluable folklore in our hands. The proverbs generalize material and spiritual life, draw conclusions and thoughts on various aspects, questions, and issues people have been facing in their work and everyday life for centuries,” Marku points out.

“Staying in Novaci and being awarded the Golden Stalk of Wheat for Macedonian Rapture made me ecstatic. In my friends’ eyes, I saw joy, happiness, and delight, which we all felt together,” Koja said.

“We pour our hearts into our work, and I will always remember what my grandma Milanica once said: “I ain’t scared of death, I’m scared for the songs. Who’s gon’ sing ’em?” so we keep on working, collecting, and publishing the lyrics. We won’t stop.

“For centuries, our people have kept these lyrics in their hearts, passing them down to the next generations,” Koja says, adding that when immigration is so prevalent, everyone should at least have books to read, so they never forget their homeland.

Professor Vita Blazhe Koja is also an activist with the MIR Society of the Golo Brdo Macedonians and contributes greatly to various cultural events aimed at keeping the Macedonian culture and traditions alive.

Marjan Tanushevski

Translated by Dragana Knežević

Edited by Magdalena Reed

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