MPO History - Popoff Leads MPO During Greek Civil War
by Christo N. Nizamoff
Kosta Popoff, the Vice-President who succeeded Pandil Shaneff, was an ardent patriot and a widely respected man. Born in the beautiful village of Vladovo, almost a suburb of Voden, he had completed the three years teacher's course in the Bulgarian Pedagogical Institute in Skopie and served as a teacher for several years.
But in 1913, when the Greeks occupied that part of Macedonia and forcibly closed all Bulgarian schools and churches, young Kosta, as many others of his generations, did not want to succumb to the oppressive regime of the unwanted invaders. He found his way to the United States. Relatives of his had settled in the area of Pittsburgh, Pa., and had gone into bakery business. Young Kosta joined them and in time started his own bakery and moved to McKeesport, Pa. From the very beginning he became involved in the Macedono-Bulgarian Brotherhoods. And in 1922 when the call was sent from Fort Wayne for the first MPO Convention on October 2, he was one of the two representatives from the Duquense, Pa., group, and became one of the founding fathers of the MPO.
The minutes of that first gathering stated that he was a very active participant in discussing the foundation upon which the future of the MPO was going to be built. He accepted the fact that it would be mutually advantageous to be in close contact with the Macedonian Brotherhoods in Bulgaria, but at the same time to be a completely independent entity pursuing the same goal - a free and independent Macedonia.
At the first Convention considerable attention was given to find an appropriate name for the newly formed organization. The name "brotherhoods" was rejected because it coincided with the names of the organized groups in Bulgaria. Then came the proposal for Macedonian Patriotic Organizations. But after the debacle of the Macedono-Bulgarian Union and the defeat of the Central Powers in the First World War, the word "patriot" had assumed an ugly meaning. The convention settled for the name of Macedonian Political Organizations, which, happily, in 1956 was changed to the original proposal: Macedonian Patriotic Organizations.
Kosta Popoff's elevation to the presidency necessitated a radical change in the work pattern of the Central Office. For 15 years the President, the Secretary and most of the Central Committees members lived in Indianapolis and were available for consultation at any moment. In fact Shaneff's place of business was a short distance from the Central Office. Kosta Popoff, however, was from McKeesport. That put an added burden on Peter Atzeff, the National Secretary. Both men had mutual respect for each other and the distance did not create any major problem. The President was duly informed about all important issues. And since there was no interference from any outside parties, the operation was smooth and the relations between the Central Committee members excellent.
The growth and influence of the MPO which began during Shaneff's term of office continued. The membership had increased and so did the finances. Even during the war, when most of our young men were in the armed forces of the United States or Canada, the meetings and all other functions of the local organizations were well-attended and successful. Our national Conventions were crowded and the annual banquet contribution increased. There were, as there always will be, some minor disagreements among some local groups, but they were always smoothed out by a visit of the Secretary.
After the war and the artificial creation of the so-called "Macedonian Republic" by Tito's Communists, agents of the "Republic" made a few unsuccessful attempts to disrupt MPO unity, but their attempts were smashed before they started. The 1946 civil war in Greece, which raged mostly in the Macedonian part, forced thousands of our people to seek shelter across the border into Serbo-Yugoslav occupied Macedonia. Many of them were parents, brothers or sisters of our members in the United States and Canada. There was hardly a day when our central office did not receive an appeal for help. The Central Committee under the direction of Kosta Popoff could not ignore these appeals. Many boxes of clothes were sent to Bitola, where most of these unfortunate compatriots had settled. The appeal of the Central Committee for money also was successful. In Indianapolis alone, close to $3,000 was raised.
When Kosta died in Detroit on September 26, 1950, Macedonia lost one of her devoted sons, and the MPO lost an effective leader who served for over 10 years. Every MPO branch sent delegations to attend his funeral. Another devoted son of suffering Macedonia was buried with the pledge of the membership to continue the struggle for freedom.
The writer had worked for the MPO for more than 40 years. After retirement he continued to write articles for this newspaper until his death in 1989.
Reprinted form the Nov. 8, 1984 Macedonian Tribune.