President Stevo Pendarovski, on the occasion of the Day of Independence of the Republic of North Macedonia, September 8, at a solemn ceremony, awarded today the Macedonian athletes Olivera Nakovska – Bikova, Branimir Jovanovski, Shaban Trstena and Dejan Georgievski with the high state recognition “September 8” Order.
Below is the integral address of President Pendarovski.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On September 8, 1991, using the sovereign right of self-determination, we declared an independent state and joined the cultural competition between nations. The end of the Cold War marked the beginning of that great competition in which many countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe worked hard to build stable and functional democratic institutions and integrate into the world.
But even though we started from the same starting position and played according to the rules, at certain times, as a country, we faced double standards and biased judges that did not always allow us to evaluate the achievements justly.
On this difficult road, we achieved successes, but we also caused disappointments for the Macedonian citizens. We often spent our energy in mutual accusations and obstructions, and, internally, the biggest challenge we face even today is the deep divisions in Macedonian society, in our team. Unity is the key prerequisite for success, and, in order to be more successful in the competition between nations, we must restore unity and restore awareness, not of self-interest, but of the common good.
No matter how important driver of social processes self-interest, by itself, it, it is not sufficient to build a society with a developed sense of national interest, for the common good. Hence, we should look for the real drivers of community among those who are not motivated by narrow interests, but by higher goals.
Among the rare heroes of Macedonian independence are the athletes who connect us with their successes even when we are deeply divided. I will start with the man who in 1992 brought us the first medal in independence – our Paralympic champion Branimir Jovanovski. Apart from the gold from Barcelona, Branimir won over 50 medals from world and European championships and cups and is a multiple Macedonian state champion in air pistol shooting. As a coach, he selflessly shares his experiences with others. As a civil activist, through “Mobility Macedonia”, Branimir has been fighting for years for a solidary society with equal opportunities for all, in which people with disabilities will be able to live their life as equals.
Branimir managed to inspire many of our fellow citizens to overcome obstacles. Among them is our Paralympic archery record holder Olivera Nakovska-Bikova. We all remember her for the gold medal she won at the London 2012 Summer Paralympics. With over 20 medals at European and other international championships and cups, she became European champion for the second time this year. Thanks to her steady hand and focus on the target, she holds the Paralympic world record in air pistol shooting. Olivera showed us that not only physical integrity is important for a person’s integrity, but no less important is the integrity of the character.
The Paralympic Games are unfairly overshadowed by the Olympic Games. The life stories of our Paralympians testify that the secret of their success is that they have a higher goal in front of them, because they are not only fighting for victory on the field, but also for victory over social prejudices and systemic failures.
Therefore, apart from Macedonian identity, we must also talk about the character of the Macedonian society. We are born with identity, but we develop character. And the true character of a society can be seen from the attitude towards its most vulnerable members.
Dear fellow citizens,
Our Olympic veteran Shaban Trstena is with us today. Back in 1984 in Los Angeles, at the age of 19 he became the youngest wrestler to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Four years later, in Seoul, he won silver medal, and in his career he was a two-time European champion and a four-time European runner-up. Coming from a humble and poor family, his success is a result of immense sacrifice.
Trstena is also known for his mentoring care for younger generations of athletes. Even today, he uses his experience and name as a Macedonian athlete of the 20th century to promote young sports talents and help them reach the Olympic peak.
Finally, among us is our youngest Olympian, Dejan Georgievski, who won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year, after previously defeating the world champion in Taekwondo. This greatest Olympic success in independent Macedonia raised the nation’s morale in a time of great trials.
Although in the meantime he became the European champion, you cannot help but notice his modesty. He talks the least about himself and his achievements, and mostly about the people around him, about his coach, about his team and family, about his fellow citizens. Asked how he copes with the popularity after the success in Tokyo, Dejan said that he finds it strange that people thank him, when he should be grateful to them for the support that motivates him to train more. This kind of orientation, not towards oneself, but towards others, is an example of true patriotism.
Respected fellow citizens,
These athletes come from a country, small in territory, limited in resources and, unfortunately, modest investments in sports. But that did not deter them from working sacrificially for the sports glory of our common homeland. Therefore, on the Day of Independence, we thank our heroes with the “September 8” Order because they affirm the Macedonian state through their top sporting successes.
Their sports and human values - solidarity, integrity, sacrifice and modesty are a prerequisite for building a humane society of just people. Our heroes are also wonderful examples for the young generations, because they motivate them not only to be great athletes, but also good people, an example for the environments in which they live.
Dear fellow citizens,
Properly understood and practiced, sport defends identity, builds character and transforms society in a positive way.
The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron de Coubertin, believed in the power of sport to reconcile people and nations by allowing them to focus on what unites them, rather than what divides them. That is why the central ideal of Olympism is – peace.
Dr. Ludwig Gutmann founded the Paralympic Games because, unlike his contemporaries who saw people with physical disabilities as crippled patients on their deathbeds, he saw people with enormous potential and courage. His ideal was the recognition of the dignity of those who are different from us.
These two top Olympic and Paralympic ideals contain what we need most today: a willingness to recognize the best in others, different from us. So, united, enriched with all our talents and differences, as one Macedonian team, let us continue to build our common home.
Happy Independence Day!
Long live the Republic of North Macedonia!