Posted at;globalvoices.org/ –
Vanja Lazarova, a singer of Macedonian folk songs, died on Sunday, March 12 in Skopje at the age of 86.
Lazarova enjoyed a distinguished career, but towards the end of her life she had fallen into obscurity and was living with few resources — until she became the focus of an online initiative that helped her achieve the status of National Artist. The effort not only helped Lazarova, but also represented an important victory for Macedonian citizens against a government that didn’t take kindly to criticism.
Lazarova was born in 1930 in the village of Stracin, and worked in the Opera of the Macedonian National Theatre and the National Folk Music Ensemble Tanec. She performed internationally, including playing the Royal Albert Hall in London for Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. She was the first Macedonian singer to make records for labels such as Polygram and Philips.
Last farewell to the irreplaceable Vanja Lazarova. She sung our destinies in a single breath.
She will be remembered for her performances of songs such as “I Was Born in Hardship” (the 1980s video below is from the archive of the Macedonian Public Broadcaster).
She contributed to the soundtrack of the most successful Macedonian movie, “Before the Rain,” with the band Anastasia. The movie won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1994 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. The director, Milcho Manchevski, stated that the music in the movie was one of its essential elements.
During the last period of her life, Lazarova was living in a private nursing home off of a meager monthly pension of less than 170 dollars. She wasn’t receiving any benefits from the copyrights on her music, and the owners of the nursing home were covering her expenses.
In May 2014, journalist Ognen Janeski discovered Lazarova’s plight. His report, aired by independent TV 24, did not draw much initial attention, but when Janeski published it online May 13, it caused wide outrage on Facebook.
Overnight, more than 8,000 people joined the Facebook page “Support for Vanja Lazarova.” By becoming fans of that page, they also supported its request that Lazarova should “receive the status of National Artist and a national pension.” Several celebrities also voiced public support, most prominently musician Zlatko Origjanski who worked with her on “Before the Rain.” In less then a day, the number of “signatories” reached 10,000 and would nearly double by the end of the effort.