When you speak with Macedonian people about Macedonia, they say: “We can go abroad for work, but after ashort time we are back to our homeland, because this place is the best in the world and our family is here”. After this conversation I start to think about foreigners, who moved to Balkans and what they think about this country. Before I came to Skopje, I watched on YouTube a very interesting blog from Russian blogger who lives in Bitola. It was really fascinating and I was surprised about her having 1,600,000 views on her channel. People are interesteda lot in her knitting, toys, making master class and her travel stories from all around the world. And of course for this interview I chose Viktoria Gjorgjevikj from Bitola in our new heading “New in Macedonia”. Let’s start…
Hello, Victoria. I think all readers want to know about your biography from the beginning. Where were you born?
– I was born in Russia in a small town called Miass. It’s nicknamed “the city in the golden valley”, because it’s surrounded by rivers, ponds and lakes. The nature there is amazing! I lived there all my life and graduated College of Culture and Arts there. Then I moved to Chelyabinsk to continue my education. And there I got my diploma as a classic guitar professor. I never planned to travel to different countries in my life and didn’t have these thoughts at all until my friend from college told me that she was going to USA. She asked me whether I wanted to come with her through Work and Travel students program. That’s how my travelling began. After USA, circumstances brought me to Macedonia.
And why did you come to Macedonia?
– I met my husband in the USA. We worked together in a toy store in Wisconsin Dells as students. He had come to the USA with the same “Work and Travel” program. I liked him since the first time I saw him. After coming back to Russia and graduating from my university, my husband took me to Macedonia to show me his country, after which we stayed here. We’ve been living in Bitola for 3 years already. The climate is of course different from the Ural region. I like the winter here, it’s not as cold as at home, but I do miss the snow. There isn’t enough snow here. Summers are too hot and too long for me. At home the medium temperature in summer is +26to+27C, and here it’s +37to+40C! It’s a big difference.
Can you please say something about the negatives andpositives of living here?
– From my point of view, I would say there aremore negatives then positivesin Macedonia when comparing the 3 countries I’ve lived in (Russia, USA and Macedonia). The positives: there are always fresh healthy fruits and vegetables all year round and very cheap prices; long hot summers so you can grow all plants, travel, swim, etc. It seldom rains during the year, so the sky is clean most of the time. The negatives: public service is pretty bad, posts and banks are full of aging people, who despite the fact they’ve been working there all their lives, are very slow, impolite, constantly make mistakes, sometimes they can’t provide necessary information and regardless of that, they don’t allow younger, more knowledgeable people to take their place. It’s not the same when you are 25 and 75. The level of concentration at work is different. Hospitals are not functioning properly, better not to be sick at all. Children’s doctors don’t have enough knowledge. My friends – Russian girls from the capital (Skopje) always complain how terrible it is to deal with doctors in Macedonia compared to Russia. Laws don’t work. You have them on paper, most people know them, but they are not applied in practice. Education is the same, you pay – you have one. The level of knowledge doesn’t matter. In Russia we still have an educationalsystem where knowledge is everything. The smarter you are – the better job and salary you will get, and the more respect in society you will have.
Okay, I see this. But still, there should be something that you like in Macedonian people?
– In my personal experience, I’ve noticed one characteristic which Macedonians have, and everyone, not only Russians and Americans, should adopt. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge they have, how smarter they are from the person they’re having a conversation with, they still treat them as friends. In other words they don’t think less of them. A Macedonian wouldn’t “spit or step” on your feelings or your unknowing. I think this characteristic is very kind in people and necessary in our time.
Are Macedonian people different from Russian people?
– There are differences, but not many. When you get used to something in your life you start thinking: “this is normal, this is how it’s supposed to be”, and then you go to one country, and another one, and you see that different counties have different norms of what you thought was normal for you your entire life. In Russia we are used to working hard. If you don’t work, you cannot survive. In USA it’s the same. In Macedonia it’s different. You don’t need to work hard to survive. Many people here have relatives in Australia and Canada, and if they send little money, you can survive for a long period because of the relatively cheap prices. Some people have property they rent, or small businesses, so they don’t have to worry too much about income. Because of this, people here are calmer and seem to have no worries, while in Russia (in my region to be exact), people are sharper, more aggressive, and don’t smile too often. That is why in Macedonia people don’t really want to move, to improve, to create, they just live their life how it is.
Do you miss Russian food and do you have Russian-speaking friends in Bitola?
– At the beginning, I missed home food a lot. Of course I can prepare the some of the same dishes here, and I still do, but the taste of products is not the same like at home. I miss good quality village cottage cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, buck weed and good sausages. However, in my 3 years of being here I’ve got used to local products. As far as friends are concerned, I can say that language and nationality doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to have people who will understand you, who will support and share your interests. The only thing I miss all the time is my family back in Russia – my parents and my brother. I miss the communication with them, their support… The connection between relatives is irreplaceable!
I know you have a blog on YouTube called “Victoria’s Heart”. You have more than 1,600,000 views on your channel. Can you please share your story of success?
– I decided to make my channel when I had no friends in Macedonia and I was in despair. I thought I could share my knowledge with people through the Internet and have at least some sort of communication. That’s how my channel was born. It consists of 5 different playlists by topics. 1 – my guitar music, 2 – knitting master-classes of amigurumi toys, 3 – painting master-classes, 4 – satin ribbon decorations in the kanzashi technique, and 5 – about me and my life. I had never made videos before, so I was learning something new every day, trying to make my videos interesting and with a good quality, experimenting with sound, cameras, special effects and different computer editors in order to improve my creations. At the beginning my friends were my only subscribers.Then, little by little random people started watching and subscribing to my channel.
And how is your internet business with hand-made creations is going? Is it hard to deliver your toys to different countries? What do your clients tell you about your job?
– I cannot say it is a business. It was my hobby two years ago and still is. I cannot make it my regular job. You have to promote, always create something new and connect with people. Maybe some people can earn through the Internet with something like this. As for me, I can’t do everything by myself. Making new items consumes too much time and eventually you need to sell them. Unfortunately in Macedonia it’s impossible. People here like hand-made stuff, but don’t like to pay for them, so it’s very difficult to sell my creations. I have some sales to other countries from time to time, mostly in the USA. It’s not complicated to send my creations using the post offices, although the post office is another public service which doesn’t do its job properly. Items can be tracked, but plenty of patience is needed nonetheless. All my customershave told me that they are very satisfied with my work, that all toys and decorations have been made accurately and that they can feel the warmth, care and love with which I makethem!
I know if you are very popular on the Internet, you should have a lot of haters. How do you deal with this? What helps to you to save your mental health?
– Well, only about 20000 people have subscribed to my channel during these two years. On a YouTube scale, that’s very little. I cannot say it ispopular. But yes, during these 2 years I’ve had plenty of people who didn’t like my videos, or even decided they didn’t like me personally. I still keep getting negative comments from time to time. Before, I was taking it too close to my heart, I was crying, could not understand how people can be so rude and impolite, why they don’t like me and what I’m doing. I had moments of depression and didn’t have any wish to continue with my channel. Luckily, I had my husband supporting me all this time, talking to me, advising, discussing everything what was worrying me. I’m very glad and appreciativeof his continuous support and understanding. If it wouldn’t be for him, I would have given up this whole idea long time ago. It’s still unpleasant receiving negative comments, however I try not to pay attention to them. I delete them or don’t read them at all. If people have some important questions I always answer and gladly help if they don’t understand something in my master-classes. People will critic all the time, whether it’s me or someone else, because it’s very easy to do this through the Internet, there is no responsibility, and nobody can do anything to you. There are many people whocriticize,there are some who give advice, and only a few who actually create something!
What is the first step for being popular and what do you need to do? What arethe most popular mistakes? How do you be interesting for viewers?
– There are many articles with advice for bloggers, I cannot say anything new. First, you choose the topic of your channel, your unique style and start your channel. Keep working all the time on the channel’s design, video quality and content. Check statistics on your channel regularly and see what you can improve. Usually, the ones who make mistakes are young kids who don’t read some information before creating their channel. For example they didn’t choose a topic for the channel and they make different videos every time. Today, they record how their cat is playing with a new toy, tomorrow they show how to put makeup, next time you see a cooking video. Viewers don’t like this, the topic should be narrow, how to cook only, or about your pet’s life only. Even I’m not sure whether it was a good idea to make 5 different playlists. On one hand I wanted to be original, but on the other hand I wanted to show everything I can do. I didn’t see a point in making 5 different channels and decided to combine all videos into one with various playlists.
Do you have any plan for changing countries? Maybe you want to go back to Russia or USA? Or do you have some plan for Macedonia?
– I wouldn’t prefer to stay in Macedonia because it’s a small country and I cannot realize myself here fully like I would like to. I’m trying several options with Russia and USA, and in case they don’t work,Macedonia is “plan B”. Life is full of surprises, you plan one thing and in real life different thingsare happening. You never know for sure how it will turn out! We will see, I’m open to changes and new adventures in my life!