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Sunday, March 02, 2014

THE BATTLE FOR POLITICAL & RELIGIOUS SOULS




During the 1970s a ferocious battle involving physical violence, intimidation and interference from the Communist Yugoslav intelligence service, UDBa, exploded for control of the Saint George (Sveti Gjorgji) Macedonian Orthodox Church in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy, Australia.


THE UDBa down under in Australia drama continues….
THE ALTIN-PISEVSKI PEACE TREATY 1995 - the battle for Macedonian church control, people's political souls and pockets !

by Sasha Uzunov

In Australia's Melbourne Macedonian Orthodox Church community, the coming together of two long time fierce political rivals: Risto Altin and George Pisevski in 1995 was the equivalent of the USSR's Mikhail Gorbachev and the neo-conservative duo of US's Ronald Reagan and Britain's Margaret Thatcher burying the hatchet and acting like lost brothers and sisters despite decades of the heated Cold War.

"BELGRADE WALL" - Altin's visit behind the Kebap/Chevapchichi Curtain (Iron Curtain) !

During the 1970s a ferocious battle involving physical violence, intimidation and interference from the Communist Yugoslav intelligence service, UDBa, exploded for control of the Saint George (Sveti Gjorgji) Macedonian Orthodox Church in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. Battle lines were drawn with Altin on one side and Pisevski on the other. Instead of the Berlin Wall it was the "Belgrade Wall."

Altin had travelled to then then Socialist Republic of Macedonia, within communist federal Yugoslavia, for an international Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC) conference, known as a Naroden-Crkoven Sobir (Public-Church gathering), in the ancient city of Ohrid. During Altin's stay he had come under pressure to bring his church under Communist Yugoslav control. Rumours abounded of Altin being threatened or bribed or blackmailed into cooperating by UDBa. Others critical of Altin have claimed he was exaggerating the danger. There would no doubt be records of Altin's 1974 visit kept in Macedonia's Interior Ministry, as the successor to Yugoslav intelligence.

"DETENTE: ALTIN GOES HIS WAY - BELGRADE GOES ITS WAY"

On Altin's return to Australia from the 1974 trip, those of his inner circle noticed a change in his behaviour. Some say he was visibly shaken up. What does not remain in doubt is Altin complained to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). In 1976, according to ASIO documents, the then Yugoslav Consul General Georgi Trajkovski began a fierce campaign to takeover the Saint George Church. The Communist authorities in Belgrade as well as those in the SR Macedonian capital of Skopje understood the power and wealth that churches generated amongst emigre Macedonians. In a heated meeting Altin and Trajkovski almost came to physical blows, with Altin running later to ASIO headquarters, then in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, to lodge a complaint.

ASIO was no stranger to Altin. The domestic spy service began monitoring Altin (legal name Christos Pandelis Altis or Chris Altis 1919-2008) in the late 1940s with ASIO informers accused him of being a communist with close links to Melbourne's Greek leftists. Altin, an ethnic Macedonian settled in Australia in the 1930s because of the earlier Greek takeover in 1913 of his homeland. Altin made a fortune in real estate and property development, buying up cheap houses, flats and shops in Melbourne's inner city suburbs. His opponents accused him of being a megalomanic and of using his position for financial gain. His supporters claimed he was a Macedonian patriot who worked hard and was successful in business. Altin had an excellent knowledge of the law gained from his years a Macedonian language interpreter in Victorian state courts. Later, one of his successful tactics to suppress dissent and bankrupt opponents was to sue them for defamation. 

Altin was very well connected with the Australian Labor Party's (ALP) outer northern suburban strongholds in Melbourne, namely Thomastown, Lalor, Epping. 

By 1958 Altin, Dane Trpkou, Stoyan Sarbinov and other leaders--because of a religious and spiritual need of the burgeoning Macedonian community--began fundraising to build a Macedonian Orthodox Church in Young Street, Fitzroy within the framework of the Macedonian Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria incorporated. Money raised at the time was 16,000 Australian pounds ($32,000) or in today's value $350,000 with another 16,000 pounds pledged ($350,000). By 1961 the Church was up and running, with the necessary "blessing" and approval of the spiritual authorities back in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, the newly emerging Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC). Later a split emerged within the Saint George leadership inner circle, leading dissident Stoyan Sarbinov, a highly respected Macedonian activist and newspaper editor, becoming disillusioned with Altin's reign. Sarbinov had his finger on the trigger on the community; in his leadership role within the Macedonian community he had crossed paths with a Victorian Police Special Branch Detective Geoff Gardiner. Gardiner's speciality was monitoring ethnic related violence and counter-terrorism. He knew the inside story, the various factions, the UDBa informers within the Australian-Macedonian community. As a young journalist starting out in the trade in 1989 I got a surprise phone call from Detective Gardiner and over the years he related to me the whole story. My subsequent searches for ASIO documents lodged with the National Archives of Australia have largely confirmed Gardiner's view. 

In 1964, Altin's political life took a heavy toll on himself and his family. His wife Sophia committed suicide after a battle with depression. She was the sister of Paul Deliannis, later to become the second highest ranking cop in the state of Victoria as Assistant Police Commissioner.

Altin's Saint George had purchased a large block of land outside Melbourne in bushland near Kinglake National Park and opened up as a picnic site. In 1973 Bishop Cyril (Vladikata Kiril) direct from SR Macedonia and with the approval of the Yugoslav Communist authorities had flown in to bless the foundation stone for a chapel or church within the picnic grounds. The building was misnamed as a monastery, for reasons unknown, as The Saint Clement of Ohrid monastery (Manastirot Sveti Klimenti Ohridski) even though no monks or nuns planned to live there.

Both Altin and the pro-Yugoslav faction had reached a deadlock, a stalemate. So a kind of unofficial detente existed between the two camps. Sometimes Altin would collaborate with this faction when it suited his political purposes by accepting priests from the city of Skopje who may have been intelligence operatives for UDBa; sometimes Altin resisted. 

THE COMMUNIST ATHEIST WHO BUILT AND LOST A CHURCH - PISEVSKI

At this juncture, Georgi Pisevski enters the the story. Pisevski had the uncanny knack of timing: of knowing when to make his move and/or get out of tricky situations or self-inflicted disaster. Georgi "George" Pisevski (1922-2012) was a Macedonian Partizan resistance fighter during World War II and a high ranking Yugoslav communist party member who after the war became a manager of a state owned company called ZIK Tetovo in the western Macedonian town of Tetovo, then under Yugoslav communist control. Pisevski served in the Macedonian Socialist Republican Parliament during the Yugoslav era.

With his survivor instincts finely tuned, he fled Yugoslavia in the mid 1960s and arrived in Melbourne, Australia, after allegedly embezzling funds from the state owned company. Pisevski, once again, seizing the opportunity for "rehabilitation", began working closely with Yugoslav diplomats in Melbourne. His moment came with the arrival of a thuggish Yugoslav diplomat, of Macedonian ethnicity, Georgi Trajkovski, who needed willing henchmen.

Pisevski was named in an ASIO file belonging to a group very close to Yugoslav Consul General Georgi Trajkovski (1975-79) who bragged about infiltrating and silencing anti-Yugoslav activities in Melbourne.

By the late 1970s many Macedonian migrants had settled in Melbourne's northern suburbs of Northcote, Preston, Reservoir, Thomastown, Lalor, Epping and Bundoora. People of genuine good will and of religious dedication wanted an Orthodox Church to worship in that was closer than inner city Fitzroy with its limited car parking. Pisevski had now found the political stage he needed and also the method to get into the good books of the Yugoslav government. Using his considerable skills of persuasion, Pisevski literally had "sweet-talked" these largely semi-literate Macedonians from a village or peasant background into being their leader. They were not aware of his murky past or hidden agenda. They were to later pay a heavy price in terms of cash and emotional heartache in naively following Pisevski.

By 1977-79 the Saint Nicholas (Sveti Nikola) Macedonian Orthodox Church got off the ground in Tyler Street, Preston. This would become Pisevski's powerbase and act as a counter to Altin's Saint George Church. In toeing the Yugoslav line the seeds of Pisevski's later loss of the church were sown. Ironically, he had embraced a 1974 Church constitution written by the authorities in Skopje placing the assets in their control and not in the local Australian-Macedonian parishioners, despite donating the money in the first place. 

Outside the church, Pisevski ran an import/export business bringing in everyday items and alcohol from SR Macedonia. Altin sarcastically dubbed him Georgi 'Rakijata" (Brandy George).

ENTER THE DRAGAN GASTEVSKI - Pisevski's enforcer !

It could easily be a plot for a Bruce Lee martial arts film or a Quentin Tarantino blockbuster but fact is stranger than fiction. Here in Australia during the early 1970s, clergy, petty thieves, ex-communicated communists, embezzlers, gamblers, bar room brawlers, and international con men were used by the Yugoslav communist secret police, the dreaded UDBa, to spy and intimidate dissident Croats and Macedonians.

According to a de-classified intelligence report compiled by Australia's domestic spies (ASIO), one method of "recruitment" involved the use of a pro-Yugoslav communist Macedonian Orthodox Christian priest, later de-frocked, who in 1976 offered to act as a character witness in a Melbourne court for a known street brawler of Macedonian background, Dragan "Dragi" Gastevski (aka GASHTEVSKI)--who was facing a criminal charge--in return for spying upon Macedonians and Croats.

Street brawler Dragan "Dragi" Gastevski (1946-2012), born in the village of Capari, near the town of Bitola in modern day The Republic of Macedonia, which declared its independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991. Gastevski was facing a criminal assault charge in 1976 for beating up a pro-Yugoslav Macedonian community leader at Preston Town Hall in Melbourne's north. The Red Priest offered to act as a character witness.

After the fall of Yugoslav communism in 1991, the Red Priest was de-frocked for selling unauthorised souvenirs, such as crucifixes, without church permission.

Melbourne Macedonian community sources have told TEAM UZUNOV that Gastevski tried to throw his weight around in Sydney's Macedonian community but was run out of town and unofficially banned from ever stepping foot in the harbour city.

Gastevski was active in Saint Nicholas in Preston and was an enforcer for Pisevski. Gastevski had been accused of vandalising Altin's car but it was a charge he denied. 

Rapprochement- ALTIN-PISEVSKI PEACE TREATY"

In 1991 the "Belgrade Wall" collapsed. Yugoslavia fell apart and the Republic of Macedonia emerged as one of the successor independent states. As a consequence of this incredible change, there was a re-alignment of political loyalties and alliances. People such as Pisevski who had strongly supported Communist Yugoslavia  had now tried to re-invent themselves as Macedonian patriots, the very people they had worked against prior to 1991. New groups and factions developed. Long time enemies became friends out of political convenience and necessity.

Altin, ever the pragmatist and political chess player par excellence, reached out to Pisevski in 1995, after he anticipated a coming religious and political storm about to engulf the Australian-Macedonian Orthodox community. Altin and Pisevski had a lot to talk about.

HUBRIS & Political chess - PISEVSKI'S 1974 CONSTITUTION COMES BACK TO HAUNT HIM - - Peter's Bishop to Pisevski's Pawns

In December 1994 the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC) authorities in the now independent Republic of Macedonia recalled its Head of the Australian and New Zealand diocese, Bishop Timothy (Vladikata Timotej). In 1995 a three man delegation arrived in Australia: Bishop Peter (Vladikata Petar), Bishop Stephen (Vladikata Stefan) who was later promoted to Archbishop and the Head of the MOC, and Father Ratomir Grozdanoski (ironically the name translates into War-Peace Dennis in English) who later became head of the MOC's theological seminary. 

Altin, sensing that his Saint George Church could be a victim to a "hostile takeover" of its assets and cash by the new MOC authorities swung into action and extended an olive branch to longtime enemy Pisevski, who also had come to the realisation that his Saint Nicholas Church would be taken over. Before long both developed a united front. Pisevski had been warned by some activists of the 1974 MOC constitution was a ticking time bomb and which he had ironically supported and adopted for Saint Nicholas in the 1970s. This constitution, which Altin had fought tooth and nail to keep out of Saint George, came back to haunt Pisevski. But Pisevski ignored the warnings until too late. When he made his move to change the constitution it was too late. Bishop Peter and his supporters and the Pisevski camp fought out the matter in the Victorian Supreme Court in 1998 with the Bishop emerging the winner and Saint Nicholas chalking up a legal bill of $800,000 plus. But ever the canny survivor Pisevski did not pay a cent, others being left to to carry the burden including his henchman Dragan "Dragi" Gastevski to the tune of $15,000 as well as other individuals who had put their faith in Pisevski but ended up being burnt in the hip pocket nerve and in spirit.

As a consequence, the Australian-Macedonian community remains divided over the issue. Some are for Bishop Peter and some against him. The irony is it was the 1974 MOC constitution pushed by the Communist authorities in Belgrade via Skopje that forced Pisevski to hand over the Saint Nicholas Church. The very same regime that Pisevski had put his faith in but as always managed to land on his feet whilst others took the hit!

Previous story: link

Thursday, February 07, 2013
ENTER THE DRAGANS & THE RED PRIEST !

Yugoslav spying in Australia
ENTER THE DRAGANS & THE RED PRIEST !
by Sasha Uzunov

It could easily be a plot for a Bruce Lee martial arts film or a Quentin Tarantino blockbuster but fact is stranger than fiction. Here in Australia during the early 1970s, clergy, petty thieves, ex-communicated communists, embezzlers, gamblers, bar room brawlers, and international con men were used by the Yugoslav communist secret police, the dreaded UDBa, to spy and intimidate dissident Croats and Macedonians.

According to a de-classified intelligence report compiled by Australia's domestic spies (ASIO), one method of "recruitment" involved the use of a pro-Yugoslav communist Macedonian Orthodox Christian priest, later de-frocked, who in 1976 offered to act as a character witness in a Melbourne court for a known street brawler of Macedonian background, Dragan "Dragi" Gastevski (aka GASHTEVSKI)--who was facing a criminal charge--in return for spying upon Macedonians and Croats.

read on ....

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LUKE LEON MEDIA (LLM) is the video production arm of TEAM UZUNOV. LLM needs funding to be able to film events overseas or in Australia.
Independent and tough reporting !
http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com.au/

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