MPO History - Anastas Stephanoff Elected as First MPO President
by Christo N. Nizamoff
In accepting the presidential post neither Mr. Stephanoff nor his colleagues on the Central Committee cherished the illusion that much could be accomplished the first year. They knew the situation and the mood of the immigrants at that time, but they felt obliged to serve because of their total dedication.
As far as is known, Anastas Stephanoff was born in the county of Kaylari, presently under Greek rule. For a short period of time he was a teacher in one of the surrounding villages. But, like most of our teachers at the time when Macedonia was under Ottoman rule, he was also an active member of the powerful Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and as such had many other duties to perform. Denounced as an active member of the organization, he was pursued by Turkish authorities.
He left his teaching post and arrived in the United States around 1910 or 1911, settled in Ft. Wayne, and worked for a while in one of the local factories. Then, following the example of our very enterprising countrymen in that city, he too went into business for himself. A well-read and intelligent man, Stephanoff lived and worked in Ft. Wayne, but never forgot that his own country was under a foreign yoke and took part in every action that would further the cause of Macedonia.
I met Mr. Stephanoff several times and found him to be a well-informed and deeply devoted man, and the honor given him as the first President of the MPO was well-deserved.
What were his accomplishments as President? Before answering that question we must remember that at that time the MPO was newly organized and had no funds or office. The man and his colleagues chosen to lead the organization were caretakers. It was their duty to keep in touch with the groups and keep them intact, preparing the ground work for the next convention which was to be held in Indianapolis. Stephanoff and his colleagues did precisely that. They kept the groups together during a period when stiff opposition from all sides tried desperately to destroy the MPO. For such difficult times, this effort alone was an accomplishment.
The last time I saw Mr. Stephanoff was in September of 1937, during the 16th annual convention in Indianapolis. In those days the opening of the convention was preceded by a huge parade with music and floats comprised of women and girls dressed in their picturesque Macedonian national costumes, accompanied by men and women marching and carrying signs demanding freedom for Macedonia.
It was during that time that Stephanoff came close to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said: "Christo, I feel proud and happy. My heart is bursting with joy. Look how we have come up. We started with 20. Look at this group now. They are more than 2000."
A hardly visible smile covered his swarthy countenance as he beamed with joy. His eyes sparkled and I am sure I saw a tear trickle down his face, the unquestionable sign of an inner satisfaction that the seeds planted some 16 years before had yielded such a great harvest.
Anastas Stephanoff departed from us many years ago. To him, to his colleagues, and to many, many of his generation, we owe a great deal of respect and gratitude. They, the founders of the MPO and the MACEDONIAN TRIBUNE, would rest in peace knowing that the rest of us, young and old, will continue to pursue the cause they bequeathed to us until we achieve the goal set by them at that first meeting in Ft. Wayne in October 1922.
May they rest in peace, and may we be worthy of their efforts and sacrifice.
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 from the June 21, 1984, MACEDONIAN TRIBUNE