At the beginning of the 20th century, the Balkan Peninsula in South-Eastern Europe was ruled for almost 500 years by the Ottoman Empire. In those days … honestly it wasn’t the best place on earth to be, unless it was your home and you had nowhere else to go. Due to the difficult life in poverty and captivity, many people left their homes, trying to find a better existence for themselves and their families somewhere else. Among those who stayed despite the miserable conditions, many have joined the numerous rebel groups and paramilitary units that fought for various causes.
One of those groups was the so called “Boatmen of Thessaloniki” (also known as the “Assassins of Salonica”, or among the local population as the “Gemedjii”). This anarchist movement was active in the years between 1900 – 1903, particularly in support of the other revolutionary organizations that fought for the liberation of Macedonia and Thrace. More than anything else, they are “famous” for launching the “Thessaloniki bombings of 1903”.
Most of their members were young graduates, who decided to dedicate their lives, fighting and dying for the autonomy of their homeland. One of the most prominent “players in the team” was Yordan “Orce” Popyordanov. Although at first you might think that he was nothing more than an cold blooded outlaw, he is also known for writing one of the most romantic letters in the history of Europe. Orce, as he was called by his friends, died heroically on 30th of April, 1903 at age of 21. But before throwing the last bombs on the enemy soldiers who kept his house under siege, he decided one last time to express his feelings to the beloved Kate.
Below, you can read the translated version in English, of the letter which Orce wrote to the woman he truly loved, before he left this world:
“My only one and beloved and Kate
When you will be reading this letter, I will no longer be here … most probably my corpse will be thrown in an abyss, like a bitten dog. But in this situation, when I have only an hour or two to live before my certain death, I want you to know that I am thinking of you and with this letter I want to show you, how much I love you.
I have fallen in love with you, since the very first moment I saw you. You were my only happiness, but I felt that I have no write to attach. It was because I didn’t belong to myself, but to cause which has been the only goal and purpose in my entire life. To live and day for the freedom of my people and my beloved homeland.
I loved you with all the pores of my body. I felt the need to admire your beauty and listen to your divine voice. Yet I have been avoiding you, because I feared that our frequent meetings will weaken my determination, because you were the only thing that was keeping me alive.
And there wasn’t supposed to be such a thing. Sometimes I was even rude and cruel to you. And I beg you to forgive me for that. Because behind the insolence, I was hiding my endless love, while my heart was bleeding. I know that you will forgive me, you are always kind and that I why I truly regret I wasn’t a better more cautious and gentle person towards you.
You will certainly ask: do I really have to die?
For me there is no way out. I have always standing on my positions in front of my compatriots, that the one, who doesn’t spare the lives of the others, has no right to spare his own life as well.
I knew that our revolutionary actions will cause death of many innocent people and will bring a lot of tears and suffering. So, after all that we have done, do I really have the right to live? I think that that would be rude and rude and profane.
To die, it is the supreme commitment of my conscience. “Deeds instead of words” has always been my guiding motto and it is the “final touch that makes the masterpiece complete”.
Also I don’t want to give the pleasure and satisfaction to my enemies, to do whatever they want to me. Because my life is already deprived of any freedom and condemned to smolder in a dark prison cell or melt under the boiling heat of the Sahara desert.
I’d rather not and personally, I prefer to die!
With my final act I will throw at the enemies – the oppressors of my homeland, my boundless contempt. I want to die, the same way I lived – humbly and honorably. Loyal to myself till the very end, I just wanted to preserve my personal integrity as a real man.
I suppose that I should end this letter here. The time is a luxury I do not have and yet there so many things flooding my soul at this moment. But my heart has spoken, what I would truly love tell you in this final hour of my existence.
The time will pass and your wound will heal, because the life is stronger than anything.
I wish you … no … I actually beg you to find another man who will be worthy of you love, so you can give your heart to him. Give him all of the joy that you wanted to share with me.
I want you to be happy.
Do not be afraid to occasionally think of me in the late at night, when the memories led by evening shadows will overwhelm your soul. For that I will be eternally grateful to you.
Hugs and kisses from the last one of the “Boatmen”.
This letter written in 1903, undoubtedly imposes a few questions. Is it worth to sacrifice your life and leave the person you truly love, in order to die for the liberation and freedom of your people. Will anyone ever thank you for that? Is there love without freedom? We are looking forward to read your comments and hear your opinion.