What was happening to Zivko Chingo behind the “glory” of one of the leading authors in Macedonian literature?

“Unsuitable” to be a professor at the pedagogical academy?!

According to Stojan Andov’s testimony, writer Zivko Chingo often talked about the mysterious power of Slavko Janevski which could destroy the career of every writer, while Prof. Dr. Violeta Achkovska claims that Chingo couldn’t be a professor at the Higher school of pedagogy because he was “unsuitable”. Was Chingo having problems because of his fierce literature which criticized communism? How was he pressured and by whom? Why was he publicly criticized by the Communist Party Central Committee, and how did Stojan Andov, director at the Center for Ideological-Political Education and Atudies at the time, still manage to employ him without the party’s permission?

Be careful what you write!

In her research about the repressions and repressed people in Macedonia, Prof. Dr. Violeta Achkovska, speaking about the work method in the system controlled by Lazar Kolishevski, publishes an exclusive witnessing of how the system was working regarding Zivko Chingo, who had already published the stories from his novel “Paskvelija”, which his comrades from “the top” didn’t like. Namely, on one occasion the author of “The Great Water” was surprised by one act by Kolishevski, who approached him and gave him a “friendly” advice: “I don’t know why this Slavko Janevski is so on the offensive towards you! You can write freely, let him be!”

“That it wasn’t a friendly advice, but a warning to be taken seriously, could be seen by the concrete results of the powerful man, which were the complete opposite of his alleged benevolence,” she says. For example, Chingo couldn’t be a professor at the Higher school of pedagogy because he was unsuitable, and he was also exposed to the most meaningless attacks and constant pursuit. It became clear that the authorities didn’t like “The Great Water” at all, while “A Tomb for the Soul” was kept unpublished for years. There was a period when he was not allowed to own a passport as a warning about what he was writing.

That is why his drama “The Maccabeus holidays” disappeared from the repertoire of the Macedonian National Theatre after only two performances. Zivko Chingo was under constant pressure, even wiretapped and exposed to a psychological torture because of his work, which branded and made fun of the rigid communist regime in a subtle way. The well elaborate system of pressure and repression worked perfectly even after his death. In its August 1987 edition, the “Culture Life” magazine published interviews with some Yugoslav communist people and numerous articles with little significance to the Macedonian culture, but failed to publish a single word that on 11th August in Ohrid died Zivko Chingo” – says Dr. Achkovska.

Disappointed, worried and nervous

Stojan Andov, who was a director of the Center for ideological-political education and studies during the 1970s, gives us some interesting testimonies regarding the political treatment of writer Zivko Chingo, more than twenty years after the writer’s death. According to him, he took Chingo to work at the Center immediately after being appointed: “I knew Zivko since we were students when we had really interesting youthful experiences. Quickly after coming to Skopje, he started writing for “Young fighter” magazine, along with several of his peers, who later became distinguished poets and writers.

When I met him in spring 1970, he was disappointed, worried and nervous. He said that he had a fierce argument with Slavko Janevski, a later he was fired which prevented him from supporting his family. He was telling me about some mysterious power of Slavko Janevski, which could destroy the career of every writer.

Zivko was working with me at the Center for about a year and a half and after I left he stayed on for few more years. During my tenure at the Center he wrote two of his books: “New Paskvelia” and “The Great Water”. I have to say that I got reprimanded immediately after employing him. Momchilo Mitrov, a colleague from the Executive Committee, who was responsible for organizational and personnel matters, approached me after one meeting and told me in a harsh manner: “Why have you chosen Chingo to be with you?!” I didn’t answer. I thought that if the objection was only his, than we could keep it quiet, but if it was someone else behind it, than this would happen again and then I will see how to handle this”.

Chingo and the attack on the revolution

“It did happen again, in a special way” – says Andov. “Chingo and I agreed to make proposal of debates for some new topics from national culture at the Center. We organized a small group of historians, secured their wages and sent them to the political groups in the municipalities to teach about the history of labor movement to the Party, but also to teach about the national history, the history of the Macedonian people’s struggle for national and social liberation. There was a great response for the counseling that we organized on the subject of “The Macedonian language and its position in society”.

After a while, Chingo suggested that we organize a broad debate about our literature, its development and its present and future directions. I accepted his idea and asked him to prepare theses, or an introductory speech so that we can determine the debate date later. But, he immediately told me that it will not go well. Namely, because of some of his thesis expressed at a meeting organized by the Ideological Commission within the Party’s CC, he had fierce clashes with distinguished cultural people and he could cause a resistance by simply showing up as an introductory speaker. He said that he would speak to some people he appreciated about that. Few days later, he told me that he spoke to Dimitar Solev and Slobodan Mickovik, but both said they were busy, so Dimitar Dimitrov, a Marxism teacher and a secretary for ideological matters at the City Committee of the Skopje Communist Union, took the job.

In his text, in his words, Dimitrov tried to evaluate the conditions in our literature and its relation to the revolution. He fiercely condemned and disqualified some stances and events, as well as the role of some people. When Chingo and I read the text, we had some serious objections, but since the author was signed, we decided to send the text to the invitees, expecting them to support or reject those stances at the debate. Soon afterwards, I sent Dimitrov’s text along with the invitation to the participants of the debate.”

What kind of affair did they try to plant to Chingo?

According to Andov’s published memoirs, there were around 120 people from the culture, ideology and politics invited at the debate. However, three days after the sending of the invitations, they started receiving nervous and angry phone calls from people requesting for the debate to be canceled immediately. Those people were politicians and established people from the culture and cultural institutions.

“I was called to the Party’s CC requesting that I inform everybody invited that the debate was cancelled and inform them that the Center declined the text by Dimitrov. Some were interested in Chingo’s role in that affair, as they liked to say. I told them that Chingo knew about the text and he organized the writing of it, which was his job at the Center, but that neither he, nor anyone else, held responsibility about the scheduling of the counseling, because I called it. That was the end of the discussion at the CC regarding that issue. I returned to the Center and immediately sent letters to everybody invited at the debate, telling them that it was postponed. All of this happened in April 1971. 

That same year, Chingo’s cult book “The Great Water” was published and it fiercely opposed the revolution that ate its children. That just completed his image with those that were following and wiretapping him as he obviously had something against the revolution, and tried in every possible way to degrade the acts and merits of the communist leaders, established communist authors and famous cultural activists.

“In late December 1972 there was an expanded meeting of the Presidency and the Executive Committee of the Communist Party CC. In order to prepare myself for that January meeting of the CC, where I was invited even though I wasn’t a member of it, I was told that I should read the transcript from the aforementioned joint session of the Presidency of the Party’s CC and the EC. I read that transcript at the CC’s premises and I was appalled. After attacking many people claiming that they abandoned the line of the Communist Union while being protected by Krste Crvenkovski, Lazar Kolishevski turned his attention towards Dimitar Dimitrov and his text from April 1971 for the debate at the Center for ideological-political education where I was director at the time. After attacking Dimitrov of “civil disobedience” and “attack on the revolution”, he still had some kind of justification for him because he was just a professor and didn’t hold much responsibility.

Then, he pointed his whole attack towards me. Lazar said that the director of the Center holds the greatest responsibility because he allowed for those kinds of attacks against the revolution to be prepared in the institution he was in charge of. That is why director Stojan Andov should take all the consequences. There was also a strange detail in the transcript. Namely, at the peak of the attack towards me, Lazar Kolishevski was interrupted by Krste Crvenkovski, who said: “Very well, but it was the director that prevented for that counseling to be held”. Lazar murmured something, but the intensity of his attack already dropped.

“It will go dark in here!”

Even though he was no longer a director, but Dimitar Gerasimovski – Dido, former president of the youth in Macedonia, Andov went to the Center and found Zivko Chingo there.

“He immediately told me that a meeting of the Party’s Skopje City Committee was held a week before. He heard Slavko Janevski’s speech on the radio. Janevski was a member of that committee. Zivko was very nervous, but very worried, too: “Brother, we’re doomed! You, me, the Center. The whole country is listening. There will be a big purge. It will go dark in here!” Chingo had heart problems. Few months before he started working in the Center he had a serious heart attack. I was worried that his health might deteriorate because he was excited and red in the face. I told him that it wasn’t just Slavko Janevski talking about that, but others, too. I told him what I had read in the transcript about what Kolishevski said and it was much more important than what Janevski said. So I told him that Kolishevski hadn’t mentioned him, so he wasn’t in an immediate danger. While Zivko and I were talking, the director’s secretary came in the office and said that the CC called to tell me that I should immediately go to the comrade Chemerski”.

Only Chingo knew what happened next. He died from a heart attack 25 years ago, on 11th August 1987 in Ohrid. What Stojan Andov feared after all the pressures on Chingo in 1971 and 1972 was delayed by 15 years.

Why aren’t there any new collected works by Zivko Chingo?

The author of “Paskvelia” is one of the most remarkable Macedonian writers who left a big mark in the Macedonian literature. He was born on 13th August 1935 in the village of Velgoshti, near Ohrid, and he died 52 years later and two days earlier, on 11th August 1987 in Ohrid. He graduated at the Faculty of Philosophy. After that he worked as a professor at the Ohrid gymnasium for a while before moving to Skopje where he first worked in the “Student word” and later “Young fighter” magazines, and then The Skopje Television, the Center for political research, the Republic culture committee and at last, as a counselor in the Ministry of Culture.

He was also a director of the Macedonian National Theatre in a time when the new building at the left coast of Vardar was opened. He published his first book of stories, the anthological “Paskvelia” at the age of 26. By the time he died he published ten more books of stories, novels and dramas, one of which is the brilliant novel “The Great Water”, as well as the excellent drama text “Kangaroo leap”.

  After his death, his book of stories “A tomb for the soul” was published, a book which, according to Dr. Violeta Achkovska, was kept in the drawer for years, as well as the novel “Babadjan”. As far as we know, unlike some other authors who published their collected works for several times, there is no set of all the stories, novels and dramas by Zivko Chingo published after his death, and now some of them cannot be found in bookstores even though there is a great interest in the work of this author.

The Paskvelia notes about “the big life”

Many Macedonian writers, critics and theoreticians wrote about the unusual language and storytelling of Chingo, mostly focusing on his style which separated him from other authors. Vlada Uroshevich wrote that, while reading Chingo’s stories “we often have a feeling that it is an oral storytelling. The intonation of the sentence, the course of the fable echo with the acoustics of a spoken word and enchants us with its verbal syntax”.

For Georgi Stardelov “the first impression one gets with Chingo’s prose is an imagination of our modern storyteller through the character of our wise and ingenious folk storyteller”. For Dimitar Mitrev “Chingo’s storytelling talent is summoned to our literary history through a strong wave of our centuries-old storytelling force, so that is why while reading Chingo we feel that he is one of the many former folk storytellers”.

In an interview by Petar T. Boshkovski from January 1970 for the “Sightseeing” magazine, Chingo himself said that he had an opportunity to listen to his father, who was regarded in his locality as one of the best singers and storytellers about everything in life. He also said that “the stories about life were particularly strong, told in an understandable, close language so that you could feel the pain of those the story was about.”

All of that, and much more, can be found in Chingo’s works, which were a thorn in the eye for years to the authorities, which had their own definition for a good literature, and the one by Zivko Chingo, who wrote about the red Ogulinov family or the communist torture with a “noble appearance” from “The Great Water”, certainly didn’t fall in that category.