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Sonntag, 12. Februar 2017

The water mills in Kavadarci – Empire of the silence


The entire region of Kavadarci was full with water mills – around a hundred, and even more in the Tikvesh region. The locals have a saying that electricity has milled the water mills, with the reduction of water and wheat also contributing significantly to that.
Historian Petre Kamchevski, Director of the museum in Kavadarci, told us that the mill in Moklishko, near the village of Vatasha, is one of the oldest in the region. It belongs to the monastery “St.Nicholas”, so we went there, along with father Borche Bogoevski, Head of the Vatasha parish, to take a photo of it.
“People have told me that the mill had worked until 1940. It was used to grind wheat for the people and animals at the monastery, as well as the region of Vatasha. The monastery had several herds and land for its own use” – the father says.


The mill is no longer active. There was a person in charge of it until three years ago. We asked father Borche if it was true that thieves were stealing the equipment and sold it at the scrapyard. “I can’t say for sure if it was stolen for that purpose, but there are consequences because part of the equipment is really missing”.
Someone had locked the front door, so we couldn’t go inside, at least not in the usual way. In order to see where the wheat was ground, we had to go through an opening in the lower part of the object, where water should run in normal circumstances. There was something strangely beautiful about that antique with all the stones, spider webs and dust around us.
“We are prepared to activate this mill at any time if the water level rises, if there is wheat as before and if there is need for it to be ground. We will change the lock as soon as possible for everybody that wants to see it to be able to enter it freely. There are many people interested in seeing this old mill, especially young people, who have never seen such an object” – Bogoevski says.

Functional, but with nothing to grind


The mill in the village of Krnjevo, near Kavadarci, is functional, but there is nothing to grind. There used to be five mills at the river that produced flour and animal food for around four thousand people living in the villages in this region. Today, this old mill is the only one working, but with the small number of people still living in the villages nearby, it is also slowly dying.
Eighty­two­year­old Vangel Andonov from Skopje returned to his birthplace several years ago and went from a retired mechanic to a dedicated miller. He died around 40 days ago without seeing his water mill working as it used to, even though he ground some flour for some dogs, chicken and a pig before he died.
His 63­year­old grandson, Ljupcho Jovanov, occasionally visits the village, but plans to spend more time here once he retires.
“I come from a milling family. I grew up by the four stones that used to grind flour day and night. I learnt the craft and because I am a lathe operator, I keep the maintenance on the mill parts. I am one of its heirs now. But wheat is scarce now for the mill to be able to work. Even though this is the only mill in a 50­km radius, it is rarely working” – Jovanov says.
He recalls that there were farmers from many villages near Kavadarci and Negotino grinding their flour, sometimes even red pepper, in the mills. Jovanov says that the mill is open for tourists at any time.

Mills for flour and poppy oil
According to Turkish documents regarding the history of the Macedonian nation from 1570, there were many mills in the Tikvesh region, seven of which were located in Vatasha. The provision for the millers was 15­20% ­ flour or money.
In early 20th century, there were 12 mills at the Luda Mara River. Some were used only for wheat, while others were also used for poppy oil. During the high season, up to 20 people were working in the mills.


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