Dimitar Mircev, in memoriam

Posted on agosto 13, 2016 
Filed under Publicado en Dnevnik (Macedonia)

Mircev

One of the many regrettable consequences that the inexorable passage of time and the slow transition from youth to maturity brings along is the progressive loss of friends, which by a simple law of life specially preys on those who precede us in age. The sense of loss, loneliness, and even helplessness, is even greater when the one who passes away turns out to be an old friend, one of those who were accompanying us in the long and winding road life for a significant stretch of it.

In the case of Dimitar Mircev (1942-2016), my sense of loss is further multiplied by two additional factors. One is that, though in recent days I have tried to force my already battered memory, I have been unable to remember when, thanks to whom, and under what circumstances we met for the first time. I am assured that it happened more than twenty years was ago, since I can vividly remember a visit with him to the battlefields of World War I in the Kobarid area, back in the summer of 1996, in the days when he served as Macedonian ambassador to Slovenia; and I also count on the material testimony of his valuable work on the then nascent political regime of Macedonia, which appeared in my first edited book on “The new political institutions in Eastern Europe”, back in 1997. But the lack of a date and place in which to set our first meeting generates the feeling that Dimitar had been there forever, and thus multiplies the feeling of loneliness for his unfortunate loss.

The other factor has to do with the fact that, besides being a good friend, Prof. Mircev was also a master in whose essays I learned many of the things I now know about Macedonia, and whose advice allowed me to approach in a much more efficient manner to its fascinating reality and its complex problems. What is truly extraordinary. In the academic world, still so traditional and hierarchical, the condition of friend and master very seldom appear together. Being a master implies a difference of age normally unbridgeable, plus a hierarchy in the academic position which is normally difficult to reconcile with friendship. Never was that the case between Dimitar Mircev and me: despite the 23 years that separated us –half a lifetime!–, and although in his company my attitude was always that of listening before speaking, and learning more than debating, in Dimitar Mircev I always found the affable, respectful, courteous treatment that one gives to whom he considers his equal, and which I started to enjoy even when I was just a young researcher eager to learn, and he was a veteran professor with a long history of recognitions. A deal on equal terms which had only one single exception, already in the very last years of his life, and certainly in a direction that I could never have imagined: when he put his considerable academic authority to work in order to obtain for me the status of Professor Honoris Causa by the University of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. The fact that a professor of his academic stature thought of me for such a remarkable distinction, became a distinction in itself, that I cherish as much as the award itself, and that I never thank him enough.

Academics always say, in circumstances like these, that those who have passed away have still left us the best of their talent: the legacy of their work, which now has to be read and disseminated. But though I share this idea, I still think that what Dimitar Mircev left us to learn from is much more important than what he left reflected in his books and papers:  it is how you can become a master, while still being a friend.

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