In the end, the Slav Macedonians found themselves divided between those three new states. In Greece, some were expelled; those who remained were pushed to assimilate. All villages and towns with non-Greek names were given new ones, chosen by a committee of scholars in the late 1920s, though almost a century later some “locals” still use the old ones.
In 1936, when Mr Fokas was nine years old, the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas (an admirer of Mussolini) banned the Macedonian language, and forced Macedonian-speakers to change their names to Greek ones.
Mr Fokas remembers policemen eavesdropping on mourners at funerals and listening at windows to catch anyone speaking or singing in the forbidden tongue. There were lawsuits, threats and beatings.
Women – who often spoke no Greek – would cover their mouths with their headscarves to muffle their speech, but Mr Fokas’s mother was arrested and fined 250 drachmas, a big sum back then.
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