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The Village of Gabresh

Gabresh nestled at the base of Mount Kula, east of Mount Malimadi, and bordering the villages D’mbeni to the south, Breznitsa to the north, and Drenoveni and Pozdivishcha to the east, in a region called Koreshta. It was a small village, home to about one hundred and twenty families, numbering about four hundred people, at its height.

Legend has it that the original village was founded in the early 15th century by Macedonian settlers looking for new lands. At the time the entire region was almost impenetrable, due to a peculiar species of shrub known as “gaber”. The village was later attacked and destroyed by the Turks for resisting the Ottoman occupation. About two-thirds of its residents fled to southern Italy while the rest hid in neighbouring villages, returning later to build a new Gabresh some distance away.

It was a typical Macedonian village, predominantly agricultural producing wheat, rye, corn and other grains. Potatoes, beans, onions, peppers, cabbages, and other vegetables were also grown as were grapes for wine making, and pears and other fruits for winter preservation. Gabresh was fed by the “Zhelevo” and “Breznitsa” Rivers, tributaries of the Bistritsa River, but due to over consumption upriver they often ran dry in the summer. Fortunately there were three large natural springs nearby which supplied the village with most of its water needs.

When the village faced economic hardships, the men pursued pechalba (migrant work) in other regions of the Balkans and Asia Minor. In 1890, some ventured as far as the USA and Canada. Another group of ten young men followed in 1900, landing in Detroit, Michigan. This group, determined to survive and succeed formed the first organization outside of their village known as “The Benevolent Society of Gabresh”. Upon arrival in the USA and Canada, the society took root and is still active to this day.

Among the families that left Gabresh and sought their fortune in the outside world were the Bitove’s and the Stavro’s, both of whom established and built their businesses in Toronto. Like every other Macedonian village, Gabresh suffered its share of tragedies during The Balkan Wars, The World Wars and The Greek Civil War. In 1939, eighty families fled Gabresh for the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece with many eventually ending up in Toronto, Detroit, Skopje and Sofia. Of the thirty nine families remaining, fifty men were killed during the Greek Civil War forcing sixty children to leave as part of the refugee children evacuation program.

By the time the Greek Civil War ended, ninety five percent of the population had fled. The five percent that remained were moved to a new location in the 1970’s by the Greek State, thus rendering Gabresh uninhabited. Untended, time took its toll on the village and one by one the houses fell into disrepair until today the only buildings that remain standing are the Church a nd the school - the rest of the village is in ruins.





 

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