There is a city in northwest North Macedonia called Tetovo, where 52,000 inhabitants reside. Many of them belong to the two largest communities, Macedonian and Albanian, that are quite divided along social, political, and religious lines. These people fought against each other in 2001 during the short-lived armed conflict.
There are areas and activities that rise above these problems where inter-ethnic unity is strong, and people cooperate with each other. Albanian Driton Dikena is a 44-year old lawyer who is Muslim and enjoys smoking cigarettes and drinking espresso when attending meetings in coffee shops. Macedonian Vladimir Petrovski is a 43-year old police inspector who is Orthodox. He doesn’t smoke but loves hunting and macchiato.
These men share a common passion for bees and honey. They both run local beekeeping associations and actually met at a beekeeping event. For two years straight they have co-organized the only Macedonian-based international competition for quality honey, the ‘Tetovo Honey Awards,’ and events called ‘Sweet Days of Tetovo’ and ‘The Park for Bees.’
Driton has been a beekeeper for 7 years and Vladimir for 9 years. Their love of bees and honey has helped them overcome their differences both in the ethnic and religious sense. What the bees represent to these men is community and togetherness. They believe to truly be at one with beekeeping one needs to love and care for bees more than for the profit they can bring. They see bees as highly evolved creatures with a perfect nature that want peace and order.
This 1:44-minute video with English subtitles by CDI Macedonia features Vladimir Petrovski:
Vladimir fell in love with bees when he started studying how they exist and function. No matter how challenging it is, bees must be kept alive and healthy as part of our family. For Driton, his initial adventure into beekeeping was like a return to childhood, because his neighbors kept bees when he was a boy growing up.
When asked if their community of beekeepers influences Macedonian society in general, where there are many individual and collective challenges, they said bees have no faith or nation, they unite. The two of them set an example by coming together in cooperation to achieve higher goals. As it turns out, beekeeping is uniting other beekeeping members as well, of different ages, religions, and ethnicities.
Vladimir believes they are making a positive impact. People see the people at the meetings speaking both languages without any obstacles, working from a place of common development. While politics divide, bees and honey unite.
Women are rarely involved in beekeeping, and Vladimir and Driton hope to encourage more women to get involved. They are promoting natural cosmetics from honey as a new venture and believe this may generate more interest in beekeeping for women. By working with their wives, they have noted that women can be more skilled in some specialized activities like queen bee transplants, which is precision oriented and delicate work.
Air pollution is a big challenge in North Macedonia, so Driton and Vladimir are glad that their work is an important contribution to the community. Every beekeeper who came to Tetovo for the Bee Park event planted a bee-friendly tree by the river, meaning such trees as acacia, chestnut, and linden, as these help in the honey-making process. This signaled their commitment to cleaner air.
If you would like to read the beautifully written article that inspired this blog post, you can find it here.