Journey Through Time


Translated by Vesna Stevkovska

The “St. Naum Ohridski” church is the second Macedonian church in Canada and represents a significant spiritual and cultural centre for the Macedonians in Hamilton.

          The city of Hamilton, where the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) “St. Naum Ohridski” is located, is situated on the southwestern side of Lake Ontario. Administratively it belongs to the municipality of Hamilton, Wentworth and is one of the busy harbours on the western side of Lake Ontario, which with its size resembles a sea more than a lake. The harbour is part of the Hamilton bay and is the place where a certain number of Macedonians established a living. Hamilton is an important commercial and industrial centre in whose surroundings numerous kinds of fruit and vegetables grow. It is among the leading centres of the iron and steel industry and also has well developed electronic, food, chemical and other industries.

          French explorers first arrived on today’s location of Hamilton as early as 1600. However, it has existed as a settlement since 1778 with the arrival of the United Royal loyalists from the USA. It was named after George Hamilton, the man who established the first community in this area in 1813. Later the town began spreading towards the Burlington canal and towards the harbour. This significant industrial, trading, and administrative centre on South Ontario today has approximately 330,000 residents amongst which about 1,000 who came from all parts of Macedonia. Hamilton is well known for its financial, insurance, and educational institutions including McMaster University, which was established in 1887 and even today represents one of the most significant educational institutions in that area. The Art Gallery in Hamilton deserves special attention. Established in 1914 numerous artists from Canada and throughout the world have exhibited their works here. In addition to this, Duntdurn castle, built in 1830, and the Botanical gardens of 1941, are both an attraction for visitors to Hamilton.

           Macedonians began coming to this industrial centre, on the crossroads between Niagara and Toronto, as early as the 1920’s and more intensively after 1950. The first migrants from Macedonia came mostly from the areas surrounding Lerin, Bitola, Kostur, and Prespa. However, several hundred families from all parts of Macedonia now live in the surrounding area. These hardworking, honest and loyal citizens of Canada from Macedonian descent enjoy great authority and are a significant part of the social life of Hamilton and the province of Ontario.

           Here, on this tame Ontario land the MPC “St. Naum Ohridski” works successfully. The history of this national religious and spiritual centre of the Macedonians is quite noteworthy. Namely, there was a belief amongst Macedonians in Hamilton that the church that was built on the northern side of Lake Ontario, the “St. Kliment Ohridski” church in Toronto resembled the one built on the coast of Lake Ohrid and Ohrid itself. Since Hamilton is located on the opposite side of Lake Ontario, similar to Ohrid, it was decided that the new church in the city of steel, as Hamilton is often called, bear the name of Naum Ohridski, the other great educator, doctor, miracle worker and contemporary of his brother, Kliment.

           In Hamilton, as in Toronto, the establishment of a Macedonian church community and a national, spiritual and Macedonian life in general was initiated by the Macedonian organisation of “Obedineti Makedonci” (United Macedonians) of the Hamilton branch. This significant organisation of the Macedonians on the North American continent played an important role in the organisation of numerous cultural and educational manifestations, as well as the organisation of the Macedonians from a church and national aspect.

          Following the example of Toronto the Macedonians in Hamilton organised themselves from the very beginning of their arrival. Thus, before the establishment of the MPC “St. Naum Ohridski” in Hamilton there was a football team named “Obedineti Makedonci” which later changed its name to “Makedonia” and to “Ilinden” who competed and played an important role in the football of South Ontario for quite a long period of time.

           At the same time, in this colony Macedonians from the Aegean part of Macedonia were active in organising music and dance activities. Thus, they formed the “Macedonian National Orchestra,” which entertained the Macedonians at numerous shows and other kinds of manifestations. Nevertheless, one of the most important dates for this church community is by all means 21 September, 1969 when the Holy Archpriest Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church approved and blessed this initiative. With the formation of the Initiative Committee for organisation of the church district of Hamilton a larger group of Macedonians joined forces and opportunities to organise themselves into a significant Macedonian community. The Initiative Committee included a large number of Macedonians especially from the Aegean part of Macedonia. Spiro Karfil from the village of Rabi, Dolna Prespa was the first elected President . Other members of the Committee were: Sime Klashev, Petre Vasilev, Alek Janev, Kosta Romanovski, Trpe Sarievski, Mihailo Nikolovski, Blagoja Veljanov, and others. This group of Macedonians with the help of their Canadian friends and other distinguished members managed to register this spiritual and cultural centre with the Canadian authorities on 24 February, 1970. The Church Charter was signed and this church was officially recognised and approved by the Canadian authorities. This event was a happy moment for every Macedonian and a significant date for the history of the Macedonian emigrants in Hamilton and wider.

          Registration of the MPC “St. Naum Ohridski,” unique with this name in Canada, was of tremendous importance for the Macedonians from all parts of Macedonia  who live and work in Hamilton and its surroundings. With joined forces and a lot of sacrifice the Macedonians in Hamilton collected funds and in 1971 they bought the premises of an Anglican church. Later, this Christian church  was redecorated into an Orthodox church rearranging the altar and adding a large number of icons in the church interior.

          Church activities increased from day to day while the enthusiasm and love towards the Macedonian shrine grew in every Macedonian. As a result of this, it was decided that the church be canonized. Immediately after preparations were made the church was adapted for the performance of Macedonian Christian Orthodox needs. Hence, on 9 May, 1971 in the presence of a large number of Macedonian emigrants from Hamilton and the neighbouring cities of Toronto, Buffalo, Niagara, Rochester and other places, in a very formal manner the church which began bearing the name of “St. Naum Ohridski” was canonized. The canonization was conducted by the metropolitan of Debar and Kichevo, Metodi, together with the clergymen Nestor Popovski, Boris Popovski, Atanas Popovski, and Alexandar Candovski. It was a day of great joy and satisfaction for all who attended the canonization event. It was a day when many Macedonians took holy water home with them and a day when they felt the incense. The joy  continued during the lunch which the church management had organised for the guests from the Republic of Macedonia and other places throughout Canada and the USA, and also in their homes throughout Ontario.

           Numerous activities followed the canonization of this important Macedonian church. Every Sunday and on other holidays services, christenings, weddings and other church activities were held, which meant life for the Macedonians in Hamilton. Amongst other things, the Sunday school for Macedonian language began in February, 1973 where the younger and elder children and their fathers attended the Macedonian language course with the aim of being closer to their dear Macedonia. At the same time, from the very beginning the young ones established a folklore group named “Ilinden” and began learning Macedonian folk dances and songs. Later these dancers became a significant part of the whole folklore mosaic of the Macedonians in the North American Continent.

           Similarly, as part of the activities of this church district a Macedonian radio program was broadcast, where Macedonian dance music and song could be heard. Later, in 1978 for the first time, the Macedonian tongue was heard on the multicultural television program.

In addition to this, the orchestra named “Decata od Buf” (The Children of Buff) play an important cultural role performing at practically every party, wedding, banquet, and other kinds of manifestations.

          During this period of 30 years’ existence activities of the MPC “St. Naum Ohridski” increased from year to year. Hence, among other things, members of this church community entirely supported the manifestation on the occasion of 50 years of the exodus of the children refugees from Aegean Macedonia. Together with the members of “Obedineti Makedonci” they organised a dinner with the purpose of collecting funds which were donated for the meeting in Skopje in 1988.

           This success in the three decades of existence and activity of the MPC “St. Naum Ohridski” is owed to all of its members who unselfishly gave from their funds, time, and effort throughout the whole period. Nevertheless, most deserved for the progress of the church are its members, management, women’s organisations, priests, and members of the young generations who put together and supported every collective performance. MPC “St. Naum Ohridski” was host of the church gatherings in 1977, 1994, and this year. Members of the church district of “St. Naum Ohridski” also participate traditionally in all of the celebrations organised for the ethnic communities in Hamilton. For this reason very often it is said that like the “St. Naum Ohridski” church in Ohrid, the church in Hamilton also lights the way of the Macedonian towards a better spiritual, cultural, and national growth. At the same time, the church of “St. Naum Ohridski” in Hamilton is witness to the national and historical truth and origin of the Macedonians from every part of Macedonia who live in the new environments of democratic Canada.