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VLACH Journal 2002

June 23rd, 2003 · No Comments · Diary, PEOPLE

VLACH Journal (2002)
By Carlos Zurutuza, BA, MA
Donostia – San Sebastian
Basque Country, Spain

EDITOR’S NOTE: These are a series of impressions during an ethnographic survey of the Romanian-speaking peoples South of the Danube, in the Balkan peninsula, (Northern Greece, Macedonia and Albania), during the summer of 2002. Because of their spontaneity and “on the hoof” remarks they were kept as they were, with a minimum of editing, in order to preserve their freshness/authenticity.
Carlos Zurutuza is a young linguist from San-Sebastian (see biographical note at the end of the Journal).
ADDENDUM (2009):

Read more about Vlach Women (Bellu, Caragiani, Meitani and more) in:

Blouse Roumaine – The Unsung Voices of Romanian Women

(Centre for Romanian Studies, London, 2009)

(1,100 pages, 160 Biographies, 600 quotations)



Donastia San Sebastian, 11 June 2002

Draga frate,

I will travel to “Aromania” on 4 July flying from Bilbo -Zurich-Thessaloniki,
arriving at Thessaloniki airport at 1am. I am very excited about this trip and especially meeting my Balkan “cousins”.
In the meantime Practising my travel pidgin with you.

Carol “cel Vlachsque”

June 12, 2002

Thanks again for all your tips frate. I really wonder if my sketchy Romanian will be enough for an Aromanian, as both languages seem to be non intelligible to each other (In any case I’m taking my sleeping bag with me, as the weather will be fine to sleep in the open air (specially in the Pindus mountains). I’ve read wonderful stories about lonely and bored Vlach shepherds in the Pindus who share their cheese with you for a bit of “conversation”. Ohrid and Bitola look great too, and if the situation in northern Albania is safe enough I might do a Blitzbesuche to Kotor in Montenegro. Anyway I’d better focus on Vlachland to be able to write something titled “Between Vlachs” or so (I’m serious ;O)

Un abrazo


Donostia, June 14

Draga frate,

A blitz mail to tell you about a very interesting thing I read yesterday.
Old Romanian used to use the infinitive( like Latin or Spanish) instead of
the subjunctive for constructions like “vreau sa dorm”. In Spanish it still
works this way, as you have “yo quiero dormir, tu quieres dormir, el quiere
dormir…etc”. This guy I´ve told you about some other time, Marius Sala,
says that this construction is still maintained in Maramures and Crisana. I´d like to know how it works in Vlach.

Pe curind


Donostia, Jun 18, 2002

Draga frate,

I’m most busy planning my trip, specially with trying to contact the
Aromanian associations, which don’t seem to like my gentle E-mails (no answers at all). I’ll keep on trying, and in the meanwhile you can check these two sites I sure you’ll like:


Cu bine


Subject: information on Aromanians

Dear Karol,
I have been to those places you mention in your letter. I wouldn´t call
the Istroroumanians Aromanians! Forheron, there is probably no sense to go to Notia because there are Pontic Greek from Asia Minor living there
today. Do you want me to send you some data on Aromanians by post? My personal adresses and other data concerning my work on Aromanians you can find at the end of the mail.
Thede Kahl


Donostia, 17 June 2002
Circular letter posted on the Internet:
Subject: A Basque

Dear friends,
I’m a Basque philologist VERY interested in your people, so interested that I’m travelling around Macedonia, Albania and Greece during this summer in order to do some field research and get enough material to publish it in the shape of ethnography articles for a Basque minorities issues publisher, and a book too. I visited the Aromanian communities in Istria last summer and I had no problem to meet them as they are very located communities, close to each other and therefore much easier to find than the ones I´m visiting this summer. I would feel very grateful If you could tell me which are the main places to visit for my purpose, in order not to lose anything that should be vital for my purposes. I’ve checked the wide range of Aromanian web sites in the net and I think I got some clues about the main places which should be the following: around Nanta in Northern Greece, Bitola, Ohrid in Macedonia, Korca, Berat, Shipsca, Valona and Moscopole in Albania and Veria, Metzovo, Avdela and Veroia along the Pindus.Are they the right places?Any strong recomendations? Any suggestions? I hope you can help me with my requests Thanks a lot in advance to all of you
Karol Zurutuza

PS: Vorbesc chiar un putin de Romaneste dar nu am gausit nimic despre limba armaneasca.

Filikotata / Ancljiniciunj / Salutari / Sardechni pozdravi / Meilleures
salutations / Prisrcen pozdrav / Muchos saludos / Best regards /
Selâmlar / Herzliche Grüße / S privetom / Sok szíves üdvözlettel /

Donostia, June 19, 2002

Draga frate,

I feel very grateful for your collaboration. You are the kind of person who
doesn’t need to be asked for help, you just do it yourself.
Back to the Aromanian collaborators, do they speak Vlach to each other or is it just my imagination?
I think that all these preparatives are taking too much time and
concentration for me so I think I«m gonna talk about something else (it’s not only Vlachs in this world ;o).

I’m finishing at work next week and this is a big thing, not only because of this Vlach project, but also for taking a rest from the demanding student vampires that have sucked all my blood.

Cu bine



Muenster, Germany, June 20, 2002

From: “THODI = Dr. Thede Kahl”

Subject: Re: information on Aromanians

Buna dzua again,
I think the best places to come in touch with Aro(u)manian is around
Metsovo (Aminciu). There is the most beautiful mountain landscape and a good situation of Vlach language. See the Eastern Zagori-Villages or Smixi, Distrato, Samarina (hard to go) or, easy to go, the Olymp-Aromanians in Livadi Ellasonos (1 our from Katerini). But more active Aromanians you will find around Bitola and around Stip in Republic of Macedonia, there is stronger Vlach identity. In Romania the best villages are around Constanta and Tulcea, best language and culture situation is at Stejaru/Eski Baba (Tulcea) and Mihai Kogalniceanu (Constanta).
I differentiate between the terms Vlach and Aromanian. Of course,
Aromanians, Istroroumanians and Meglenites are Vlachs, as also the old name for (Daco-)Romanians have been Vlach too. But use “Aromanian” also for the group who calls themselves “armânj”.
Do you need any addresses?
Thede Kahl

Muenster, Germany, 19 June, 2002

From: “THODI = Dr. Thede Kahl”
Subject: information on Aromanians

Dear Karol,

I have been to those places you mention in your letter. I wouldn´t call
the Istro-roumanians Aromanians! Forheron, there is probably no sense to
go to Notia because there are Pontic Greek from Asia Minor living there
today. Do you want me to send you some data on Aromanians by post? My personal addresses and other data concerning my work on Aromanians you can find at the end of the mail.


Thanks a lot for your help, frate.

About the Istrorumanians I’ve heard that they could be related to the Moti people in Romania. Another possible link would be the Dalmatian theory that links them with the people in Ragusa and Veglia, therefore you are right when you say that they shouldn«t be considered as Vlachs. I met them in Zejane, where they told me that they felt strongly linked to Romania, a sort of nostalgic feeling, but in Susnievica they considered themselves as Vlachs. I«ve also checked this last fact in the big amount of web sites about them, and they are considered to be Vlachs(only Susnievicans).
I would really appreciate any suggestion about places that you could
strongly recommend me to visit or any sort of information that were useful for me. I’m also most interested in these Meglenites, and also the Yoruk people in the north of Thessaloniki. I hope that I«m not too demanding as I don«t want you to waste (all) your time, only a bit of it ;0)

Muenster, Germany, June 24, 2002
From: “THODI = Dr. Thede Kahl”
Re: information on Aromanians

Carole, egun on!
your Bask-lesson is very welcome. In Livadhia are Vlachs, no Meglenites. In Polikastro tzhere are a lot, but there are difficult to find because P. is a city. Better go to the villages Lungunci=Langadhia, Luminitsa=Skra, Oshiani=Archangelos, Koupa, Tsrnareka=Karpi; Uma is in FYROM!!


Zurich, July 4, 2002

Sunt insa la Zurich.. delays and delays


OHRID, 8 July 2002

Buna dzua,

I’m in the wonderful village of Ohrid in Macedonia. I spent the last days in
Skro(Meglen Vlachs from Northern Greece) just to check quite a lot
of(sad)things. I met the president of the Vlach community who told me that they had quite a lot of problems. At the begining I thought that he was obviously talking about the Greek government, but devil happened to be the EU, who wanted consider them a minority and therefore make an effort to protect their language and their culture. “WE ARE NOT MINORITY, NOT DIFFERENT. WE ARE GREEK” It’s not only that they don’t care about Vlach language disappearing, they even want to accelerate the process and the youngest speakers (around 40) speak Greek to each other full time. The president’s wife told me that the situation will be better when their language has disappeared, ‘cos nobody will doubt about their “Hellenicity”.
They where suspicious about me, being a Basque interested in the Vlachs WHY? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE? WHO IS PAYING FOR THAT, ETA?WE ARE GREEK, WE ARE GREEK, WE ARE GREEK, GREEK, GREEK…..(sorry)

Buna vedere


BITOLA July 9th 2002

Bitola, Macedonia, the same Vlach (Meglen-vlach) but pro ETA, pro Romania, send their young to Romania for higher education, Romanian flags in their local office….. will they manage to maintain their Vlach tongue or will the following generations transform it into Romanian? I don’t know if I should be less scared about the language than in Greece, but I guess that that’s how it works in the Balkans.

Trebuie sa te las

Buna vedere frate


Moloviste, July 15, 2002

Draga frate,

I’m writing to you a couple of things just to tell you that I feel ABSOLUTELY OVEWHELMED by the people here> I’ve never met such friendly people, and the fact that apart from them being such lovely people they are also Vlachs who open their house to you (Moloviste), octogenarians who speak sephardic I can perfectly understand, Macedonian Turkish, Roma who speak Roma language(not like in Spain) or Geghs (northern Albanian people in Macedonia) etc keeps me in a state of “ethno-priapism” I can hardly stand (more or less like prince Mony ;o). I’m having too much input and I’m getting the feeling that I’m not writing everything down. I’ve taken more than a hundred photos, 90% per cent of them from the most varied people I’m meeting in tiny vlach villages, trains, street kiosks or soviet style cities such as Skopje. I will send them to you. If you add to this that I still have two more weeks and that I have not been to Albania yet I get to the conclusion that there won’t be enough plate stickers to cover my knapsack by the end of this trip.

Take care in London frate;0)


PS: I will be in Albania tomorrow and I don’t know if I’ll have many chances
to check my e mail there.

Tirana, July 18, 2002

Buna frate,

Been “Vlaching” around Voskopje (not much to say about it, octogenarian Vlachs-no future) and I’m on my way north to the wild mountains. Might change my plans and go to Belgrade through Montenegro. I feel a bit depressed about the GREEK Vlachs and I don’t feel like hearing them crying they are Greeks. Plan B should be Belgrade via Podgorica, Skopje and Salonika. I’ll tell you more another day.

Ulcinj, Montenegro, July 22, 2002

Got to Montenegro to a tiny Venetian village called Ulcinj with some
intentions of crossing Serbia or Kosovo and head southwards to Thessaloniki, but despite Montenegro and Serbia being both Yugoslavia you don’t need a visa for Montenegro but you DO NEED ONE FOR SERBIA. The idea of getting arrested by the gentle Serbian militia wasn’t attractive at all, so now I’m back in Tirana.
Te las frate


Thessaloniki 27 July 2002

Draga frate,

I’m back in this completely uninspiring town of Thessalonikki after a
couple of days in Aminciu (Metsovo for the Greeks (including the Vlachs))where I was lucky enough to see a Vlach wedding. It was absolutely amazing, with all the people wearing their Vlach regalia, dancing a koro, playing the clarinet and the violins and singing in Vlach. Everybody speaks the language there, even the young people, but it’s not written at all. I took quite a lot of pictures and I will send them to you as soon as possible.
This trip was a very good idea from the very beginning, I’ve met quite a lot of interesting (minority and non minority)people and also experienced the weird experience of travelling in Albania, where the shock of chaos was mitigated by the hospitality of its wonderful people.
I need to take a rest now and spend some days to assimilate all that I’ve
seen during these 25 days.

After the Balkan tour is going to beat my Nikkei down in the underground.

Te las frate


San Sebastian-Donostia Sat, 27 Jul 2002

Re: Almost finished

Back in San Sebastian, but my mind still absent (lost somewhere in Vallachia). It will take a while to settle down again after such trip (specially for my stomach, which still has nightmares about Albania. I have to send a lot of postcards and photos to a lot of wonderful people I met, and I«m starting to realise that this will take its time too. Anyway I«m thinking about starting with a brief article on the Vlachs for a Basque magazine which has published a lot about the “first line minorities” like Irish, Welsh or Bretagne. It can be useful as a warming before I start with more serious stuff.
Author’s profile:
Carlos Zurutuza is a linguist who, apart from his native Basque language, also speaks fluent Spanish, English, and “tries” his best in Dutch, French and, of course, Romanian. Zurutuza’s interest in foreign languages is not just skin-deep by using a language just as a vehicle of communication, which makes him a compelling if stimulating conversationalist, but he is deeply immersed in the semiotics, the culture and the traditions of those people whose language he speaks, as can be proved in his Travel Journal in the Balkans. He visited the mountain villages of Greece, Albania, Macedonia in search of the Vlachs, in the summer of 2002 and this is a preview of some of his unedited notes from his Journal. Zurutuza has a degree in English Philology from the University of the Basque Country (EHU), he teaches English Language and History in a Basque-speaking College or “Ikastola” near Donostia.
He travels extensively to far-flung countries to study the languages of
isolated tribes, often being accompanied by his girlfriend Irma, who is also a linguist and a Basque teacher.

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