Forgotten exiles start to return

Ten native Greek Civil War exiles resident in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have entered Greece since a ban on their return was temporarily lifted on Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. «They were mostly elderly people who traveled alone,» Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos said. The exiles, members of northern Greece’s Slavic language-speaking minority who fought on the communist side in the 1946-49 war, sought refuge in Yugoslavia after the victory of nationalist forces. They were excluded from a 1982 law allowing the return of all Civil War refugees from abroad, as many had taken up arms in the hope of carving out an autonomous state within the Greek province of Macedonia – an aspiration encouraged by communist officials. Loverdos confirmed that a bus carrying 35 exiles had been refused entry at the border, as passengers lacked visas. Greece also refuses entry to exiles whose FYROM passports carry the Slavic names for the exiles’ Greek birthplaces. Exiles will be able to return for 20-day visits, until the end of October.