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Reporter behind enemy lines

24 June 2013 / 20:06:32  GRReporter
6838 reads

Victoria Mindova

In recent years, Greece has attracted the attention of international media from around the world. Journalists from all over the world gather at the scene during strikes, protests and critical meetings of political leaders to cover the decisions related to the future not only of the country but also of the region.

Sanja Ristovska, a reporter for the Macedonian Channel 5, is always present at such events along with GRReporter.

Greece's veto on the issue of the official name of the country remains number one among the foreign-policy interests of the former Yugoslav republic. In 2009, Sanja was sent to Athens as a correspondent with the task of following the issue of Macedonia's name. The financial crisis has played a decisive role in the foreign policy of Greece and the issue of Macedonia's name has dropped out of the list of problems that Greece is to immediately resolve.

Always smiling, with a microphone in hand and a camera on her shoulders, Sanja has been closely following the political and economic developments in Greece. Whether it is a briefing at the Foreign Ministry or a protest with Molotov cocktails against the government policies, Sanja is always on the scene with the sole purpose of objectively reflecting Greek reality.

"I believe that we, journalists, are obliged to present the events in an objective manner and to support the integration between people from different countries," says the Macedonian reporter in the preliminary conversation.

The vocation

Sanja started her career as a journalist as a teenager, in a show for adolescents. She is a passionate football fan and along with her father, she has been at the stadium since childhood. She graduated in Italian Philology and was a teacher in Italian for a short while. She speaks four foreign languages, but has a particular affinity for Greek. Her love for journalism and sports has driven her to seek professional fulfilment in the media.

Her first goal was to become a sports journalist. The hot issue between the two neighbouring countries and her knowledge of the Greek language have determined her fate and she has become a political correspondent in Athens. "If someone had told me five or six years ago that I would have lived in Athens, I would not have believed it," she is laughing.

The Mediterranean wind

Sanja’s first acquaintance with Greece was during the summer holidays with her parents as a child. "When I grew up, I came on holiday here with two of my friends. Then I felt for the first time how interesting the Greek language is. I started taking private lessons in Skopje which gave me the basis. In 2007-2008, I won a state scholarship to study Greek language at the University of Ioannina. It was a great experience."

She explains that she has been offered the position of correspondent in Athens because she speaks the language. Initially, she was sent for six months but her position has become permanent in the wake of the economic crisis.

"I assumed the position of reporter in Athens in the autumn of 2009. I had the opportunity to live the last easier months of the life in Greece before the country signed the first Memorandum of financial assistance and the economic crisis deepened."

Her expectations were different at first. "I noticed that in the beginning, when I came, the people were not very interested in the issue of Macedonia’s name. I did not face bigotry although I had expected it. The position of the Greeks has been a bit sharper after the deepening of the crisis and the rise in popularity of Golden Dawn but that is normal."

The voices of extremes

"The official political line of Macedonia does not contain claims to parts of Greece or other countries. However, there are people who believe that after 100 years of the Treaty of Bucharest, which are to be celebrated now in 2013, Macedonia should unite. These are extreme voices. I am saying again that this is not the official policy."

"My personal opinion is that we have suffered enough in the Balkans - wars, conflicts and other disputes. Even in our recent history. Now it is time to calm down and see how we can live in harmony. We need to focus on solving all open issues between the Balkan countries in order for the region to stabilize and for us to move forward."

The journalist states that very often, publicity is being given to negative news due to which the people form a wrong view of the neighbouring country.

"Indeed, there are cases that show intolerance. One example is the case of tourists on whose car strangers had written obscenities about Macedonia or the case of a member of Golden Dawn, who had stopped a truck to remove a sticker containing the inscription MK. This is not indicative of the general sentiment in the country, these are isolated incidents. The people in Greece are generally tolerant and polite. If they were not I probably would not have been able to withstand four years here."

"In Macedonia, there is a tendency to believe that Greece is an enemy. On the other hand, over 20,000 Macedonians have spent their holidays in Greece, indicating that these sentiments are not so extreme for all." She does not deny that Greece is the country that has blocked Macedonia's membership in the European Union and NATO but believes that this problem must be solved by politicians rather than by ordinary people.

Greece in five words

Tags: NewsMacedoniaGreeceSanja RistovskaCrisisMacedonian issue
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