MPO History - MPO Grows in Stature Under Pandil G. Shaneff
by Christo N. Nizamoff
Anastas Stephanoff and Vasil Eshcoff, the first two presidents of the Central Committee, held off the vicious attacks of various groups among our immigrants with a tenacity and devotion worthy of our gratitude. Deeply convinced of Macedonia's right to be a free and independent state, they did not budge during the storm of dissent created by anti-independence enemies or become discouraged by the prevailing apathy immediately after the end of World War I.
By 1924, when the fog had dissipated and the legendary leader Todor Alexandroff and his armed troops had raised the banner "Freedom or Death" over every mountain peak and hill in oppressed Macedonia, there was a quick reawakening among all concerned about the unsolved Macedonian Question which for years had kept the Balkans in a state of perpetual turmoil.
Alexandroff's activities were not ignored by the press in Europe and the United States. News of skirmishes between Alexandroff's troops and the armed forces of the oppressors was reported weekly. Railroad bridges and ammunition depots were blown up. Renegades were punished. The efforts of the Belgrade and Athens governments to minimize the effect of these almost daily revolutionary activities had lost their credibility. Prominent western European journalists sought and received interviews with Todor Alexandroff.
All this had great effect among the patriotic Macedono-Bulgarians scattered all over the world and in the United States.
These were the prevailing conditions when the third MPO Convention was held in Ft. Wayne, Ind., in 1924. The convention unanimously elected a new Central Committee with Pandil Shaneff of Indianapolis as President and the newly arrived young and capable patriot Jordan Tchkatroff as National Secretary. Members of the Central Committee were Gel Sarbinoff, vice-president; Tashe Popcheff, treasurer, both of Indianapolis; and Lambo Kisselincheff of New York as counselor.
It was a wise choice. Since the president and the national secretary are always expected to bear the burden of any newly organized group, Pandil Shaneff and Jordan Tchkatroff complimented each other in many ways.
Mr. Shaneff, born in Ekshi-Su, the district of Lerin, was a highly respected man in the Indianapolis community. He was also a very energetic and pragmatic man, capable of appraising complex issues. Jordan Tchkatroff, on the other hand, was an extremely intelligent young person, well acquainted with every facet of the Macedonian Question. Recognized as a fiery orator, he was capable of convincing the most hardened skeptic of the legitimacy of the Macedonian demand for freedom and independence. At the same time he was able to devastate an opponent with irrefutable arguments. At a 1925 public meeting in Detroit, the secretary of the so-called Bulgarian Communist group had a taste of Tchkatroff's lashing and for a long time did not dare show his face in the coffee houses on Russell Street because he could not stand the ridicule.
The newly-elected Central Committee moved its headquarters to Indianapolis. It can truthfully be said that in 1924 the MPO put its feet on solid ground and moved forward with a speed which exceeded all of our expectations. During Mr. Shaneff's presidency from 1924 to 1939, the MACEDONIAN TRIBUNE was founded, new MPO chapters formed throughout the Midwest, the state of New York, and the province of Ontario.
The MPO survived some difficult internal disputes during that period especially at the stormy 1930, five-day convention in Youngstown, Ohio. It survived and saved the TRIBUNE during the terrible depression years when banks and factories were closed with few funds available for the newspaper.
During this financial crisis Mr. Shaneff was at his best. He knew who of his boyhood friends in Indianapolis could help with a loan, and he asked for help. No one refused him. Some bills and half of the salaries were met. The staff was dispatched to chapters to ask for help. No one refused. Special Delivery letters were sent to well-to-do patriots in other parts of the country. The TRIBUNE was saved.
At the stormy convention in Youngstown, Ohio, Boris Zografoff, the first editor of the MACEDONIAN TRIBUNE and a man of strong principles, resigned. Mr. Shaneff was a close friend of Zografoff, and he too considered stepping aside. Taking into consideration the prevailing atmosphere and the uncompromising attitude of some of the delegates, Mr. Shaneff's pending resignation would have created a divisive split in the organization. Some of the most influential and concerned delegates then gathered together and contacted Mr. Shaneff. They presented their case to him. He listened patiently and politely and finally said: "My friends, I do not want to see a split in the MPO any more than you do. We are going to accept. "His acceptance was followed by shaking of hands and brotherly embraces.
During Mr. Shaneff's presidency there was some turnover in the Central Committee. Jordan Tchkatroff left the United States toward the end of 1927. His post was taken by Assen Avramoff who arrived here in December of 1929, and after three years of valuable service returned to Sofia. In the meantime Luben Dimitroff arrived in June of 1931 to take the post vacated by the resignation of Boris Zografoff as editor of the Tribune. A year later in December of 1932 Peter Atzeff, also from Sofia, replaced Avramoff as national secretary. Both newly arrived activists were outstanding patriots and well-qualified for the positions which they occupied. One could say that the faces in the Central Committee changed, but the example set by Mr. Tchkatroff was followed with dedication and the work proceeded with the same fast tempo.
During Mr. Shaneff's presidency the MPO grew in size and in prestige. After the Zvenarski regime in Bulgaria, when the activities of the Macedonian brotherhoods were suppressed and most of the leaders arrested and persecuted in order to please the Belgrade chauvinists, the MPO was the only organization still defending the cause for Macedonian independence. In view of the memorandums, the letters and the appeals directed to the League of Nations, governments and international institutions, the MPO promoted its cause effectively even though finances and personnel were limited. Mr. Shaneff's most outstanding personal contributions were his untiring efforts to save the MACEDONIAN TRIBUNE during the closing of the banks and his decisions at the Youngstown convention to remain as president, thus saving the organization from fragmentation.
His tragic death in January of 1939 was a severe blow not only to his family but also to the patriotic family of the MPO, and its devoted membership who loved and respected him. At the funeral procession one could see the hurt and sorrow in the eyes of admirers who had come from far and near to pay their last respects. Every MPO branch took part with their banners at half staff. The tearful mourners were crushed as they buried the man who for 15 years had successfully held the reins of the MPO during difficult times.