Not long ago, I was still in Skopje. Now I’m in New York City, staying with my sister for a while.
“It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.”
That’s what our country director said to us from the very beginning. I knew them that it would be hard to say goodbye, but I didn’t expect goodbye to come in the form it did. On Saturday, March 14th, Peace Corps Volunteers in N. Macedonia were notified we would be evacuating. This was only a few days ahead of the announcement that Peace Corps volunteers worldwide have been/are in the process of being evacuated back to the U.S. This meant some quick action, turnaround and goodbyes for myself and all of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers; I’m only just barely beginning to process the many emotions still swirling around.
The last year and a half have been absolutely amazing: meeting so many other awesome volunteers, spending an amazing 3 months in the small community of Rosoman, and a year-plus in Shutka, a place that holds an incredibly special place in my heart. As my friend’s mom tearfully told me, “you always have a home here.”
I know it’s not really goodbye – I’ll be back in one way or another. But it really hurts. The goodbyes I had to send via text, the few I managed to say in person, all the things I’d hoped to do before I left. I definitely hope to return soon and with Peace Corps, but it’s a hope that’s tempered with a fair amount of realism. So much is uncertain right now; none of us knows what comes next.
But what is completely certain is how much I loved the last year and a half of my life, my experiences in the Balkans, and absolutely, 100% – the incredible, amazing people I met. I will carry you in my heart always, until we meet again.
Thank you all so much for welcoming me and making me a part of your communities. Ви благодарам на сите, oven saste sarinenge.
I’ve included some relevant links below. The first set has to do with Peace Corps and the evacuation, for those interested. I chose not to include the opinion piece you may have seen from the Washington Post because I do not agree with its opinions and I feel that it neglects to include some very important, nuanced information. If you’ve read it and wish to know my thoughts, I’d be happy to share – just reach out.
The second set of links concerns anti-gypsyism (anti-Roma discrimination) unfolding now during this pandemic.
Peace Corps/evacuation related
- Peace Corps faces new challenge with Coronavirus | Atlantic Council
- “for the first time, all Peace Corps volunteers are called back home: ‘it feels like a bad heartbreak’ | Chicago Tribune
- “You can always go home again” (A previous Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Macedonia reflects)
- ‘None of us saw it ending this way’: Peace Corps Volunteers Evacuate Abruptly | NY Times
- The unfinished business of Peace Corps volunteers evacuated from around the world | Peace Corps Connects
Anti-Gypsyism in practice during the pandemic
- Bulgaria’s Roma say some Coronavirus measures are discriminatory | NY Times
- Inequality, Anti-Roma Racism, and the Coronavirus | EU Observer
- Roma quarantined at the border to N. Macedonia | European Roma Rights Centre
- France: Four Romani community members die of COVID-19, others are in critical condition | Romea.cz