CHRISTO N. NIZAMOFF
Published and manufactured in the United States of America
by HOOSIER PRESS, Indianapolis
Cover design by Louis Popcheff
Typesetting by Indy East
Printing by Pratt Printing Co., Inc.
This book is dedicated with deep love and gratitude to my wife, Slavka Alice, and to our children, my daughter, Virginia, and my son, Nicholas. Their love and devotion has been a great inspiration to me.
We have two wonderful children: daughter Virginia, a graduate of the School of Journalism at Butler University, and son Nicholas, a graduate of Wabash College and of the School of Law at Indiana University. They have blessed us with fiYe grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
I began writing the story of my life as a gift to my children and their descendants. It was only after I had written most of it that I realized it could illustrate for American readers, who have no personal experience of oppression, the blessings of freedom and liberty.
I feel deeply indebted to my old friends, Dr. Ivan Sipkov, of Washington, D.C., and Dr. Christo Ognjanoff, of Salzburg, Austria, for their encouragement to go on and complete this book, which in part is a tribute to the opportunity we have enjoyed in the United States, our adopted country.
I am also indebted to my friend, Carl Henn Jr., an experienced journalist, who volunteered to read and edit the manuscript. His advice has been invaluable. And special thanks go to Ms. Anna Heyob, whose nimble fingers typed and retyped my copy.
The road from Macedonia to the cotton mills of New England, the Press Bureau in New York City, the Macedonian Tribune in Indianapolis' and the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame took me a lifetime to negotiate. It was at times a tedious journey, often discouraging and full of pitfalls, calling for years of diligent work and complete devotion to a cause. But, curved or straight, it was the road I wanted to travel from the time, at age 16, that my first article was published in a daily newspaper in Sofia, Bulgaria.
March 29, 1985
Patriarch of the Family
My First Lesson in Conspiracy
The Devotion of Our People For Their Church
When the Men Went Away
The Pain of Leaving Home
Chapter VII, Part 1
In Sofia at Last
Chapter VII, Part 2
Sofia A City in Turmoil
The Trek Back
Chapter IX, Part 1
Home Again But For How Long?
Chapter IX, Part 2
On the Way to the New World
Life ant Work in New York City .
Origin of the Macedonian Tribune
Chapter XIII, Part l
A Temporary Transfer Lasting 50 Years
Chapter XIII, Part 2
Awards, Hall of Fame, and Provocative EditoriaL
Turmoil in the USAóStudent Demonstrations
Contacts With Local Newspapermen and Other Clubs
Glorification of Freedom
In those early childhood days, I could not suspect that the time would come when I myself would be one of those Americans of many nationalities.
Crossing the Atlantic, except for the intermittent storms, was uneventful. The excitement, the exaltation and jubilation came when we approached New York Harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty. Beautiful and imposing, the great lady who welcomes newcomers to the New World with upthrust arm and lighted torch stood there before us and we felt as if hypnotized.
In the background we could see the massive Woolworth Building, at that time the tallest structure in New York. Except for its height and the American ingenuity of its construction, however, it had no meaning for us. The Statue of Liberty, on the other hand, was symbolic of America. It stood for what America offered then, and offers todayófreedom, opportunity to better one's life, and equality before the court of law.
These concepts were still new and revolutionary for the part of the world we hat left behind. In our part of the globe, liberty and equality in the court of law were only words in the dictionary.
I had my first taste of American freedom on the first evening in the new land on April 22, 1922. The processing at Ellis Island took more time than was expected and we missed connection with the trains that were to carry us away from New York. A kindly man from the Travelers Aid Society took us to a dingy hotel at 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue.
Before I signed in I handed the clerk my passport. The man behind the desk took a quick look at it, smiled, and handed it back to me, saying something in English. When he realized that I did not understand him, he asked me if I spoke German, a language I knew well at the time. l still remember, word for word, what he told me then.
"Young man, you are in the United States and you need no passport, no identity card. You are free to go anywhere you please in the country."
This was new to me, new to all of us. In our part of the Old World, we could not leave the house without an ID card.
As I go back in my mind to that first evening, I believe that, subconsciously at least, it was the moment when I fully realized that America would truly become my home and I would become part of that great American people so well described in my fifth-grade geography textbook.
Many years later, when given an opportunity to write an article on freedom and opportunity for The Indianapolis News, I took for my text what America had meant for the people who came here from my small area of Europe.
During the 150 years following 1820, when immigration records began to be kept, some 45 million immigrants reached the shores of the United States. Ninety-five percent of the Europeans coming to America before 1883 were from Great Britain, France, Germany, and other Western and Scandinavian countries. After 1900, 81 percent of the immigrants were from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Rumania and other Southeastern Europe countries.
The Macedono-Bulgarians, to which group I belong, were late arrivals in America. It was not until after the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and World War I (1914-1918) that many Bulgarian immigrants came from Macedonia. The total numberwas not more than 70,000.
They came from rural areas in the old country, looking for abetter life in the New World. Former plowmen, shepherds, small farmers, few of them had more than a fourth-grade education and none of them knew a word of the English language. They were strangers in a strange, but free, land.
Those who came to Indiana settled mostly in the industrial centers such as Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Gary. Their first paychecks were also their first contact with the American system of free enterprise. The checks came from steel mills, railroads, and mining companies, whose names they could not pronounce, but they knew the essential thing: the checks were not issued by the government.
After my countrymen acquired some knowledge of the English language and became acclimated to the ways of their new country, the nature of their occupations began to change. The factory, railroad, and coal mine workers now aspired to be self-employed. They opened restaurantS, groceries, shoe repair and dry cleaning shops, dye houses and laundries. Later they branched rapidly, and with pronounced success. into wholesale distribution of groceries and meats and bakery products; into hotels and motels, automobile dealerships, life insurance and real estate agencies, farms, banks, and savings and loan associations.
By 1950 the number of various business enterprises owned by this small ethnic group from Macedonia exceeded 12,000, with an estimated capital investment of more than $250 million.
None of this would have happened in their area of Europe. The opportunities there for enrichment were limited, even for those who had the necessary preparation for business and finance. Life was rigidly controlled by the central government. Free trade, as we know it here, barely existed. Controls were everywhere. People almost needed a permit to breathe. There was little room for personal initiative and development of private enterprisie. The American system gave them a chance to better their lives.
The contrast with the life I had left behind was made abundantly evident to me when, after my retirement in 1971, my wife and I took a prolonged trip to Europe. We visited Bulgaria, behind the Iron Curtain, to see relatives, old friends, the home I lived in and the schools I attended.
The visit was pleasant, but the parting with a close childhood friend was heart-breaking. He embraced me and both of us stood in silence for a few brief moments. Tears were flowing from our eyes. Then he spoke:
"Christo, you are the luckiest of our group of six. You lived and grew old in a free country. I am happy for you. Prize your freedom, never abuse it. Listen to me. I do not envy you any material wealth you may have; I do not envy you your home, your car, or the modern appliances. But I envy you, I really do envy you, your freedom. I would be content to live in a broken-down shack, to subsist on bread and water alone, if I could onlylive free offear, saywhat Ithink, write what I like, go where I please. Go. Go with God and remember us."
There is a tendency in this country to take for granted the freedom and the blessings we have, to believe that we are entitled to it, that the country owes it to us. This attitude is wrong and it is dangerous. It leads to complacency. And complacency is the twin sister of failureó and decline.
I remember how well it was said by the great 17th-century German philosopher, Johannes Fichte: "Freedom is precious, the most precious thing in the world. But freedom is like our healthówe appreciate it most after we have lost it. "
We still have our blessings and our freedom. Let us do everything, everything
we can to guard our freedom, protect it, and presene it for ourselves,
for our children, and for posterity.