You may not have met Alex Gigeroff before, especially if you are new to the Canadian Macedonian community or have not had an opportunity to meet him, or view his paintings—paintings that hang in corporate offices as well as private homes and galleries. A series of his paintings were incorporated into the first published Macedonian children’s book called Baba’s Macedonian Socks, based on an old Macedonian folk song (which he sings with great gusto). You can view his murals in the lobby of Canadian Macedonian Place.
He was born at home on Niagara Street, Toronto of Macedonian parents from the village of Zhelevo. He was the apple of his mother’s eye as he had three older sisters. His sister Vera lives in Mississauga. He obtained his Master’s in Law from the University of Toronto, and his PhD. in Criminology while at the London School of Economics, London, England. In fact, when it came time to receive his first degree, he chose to keep his “foreign-sounding” name and add his father’s name, to honour him. Alexander Kire Gigeroff.
Alex had two sons. Lex and Andrej. Andrej is an accomplished musician, song writer, director and performer with whom he has collaborated on set designs, and has even acted in one of Andrej’s musicals. Alex has written and directed a play on Violence in the Schools which was performed by local and Halifax school boards for children. His other son, Lex, was a very well-known writer and actor on the East coast. He was the co-writer for the cult science-fantasy TV series LEXX from 1997 – 2002. Lex Gigeroff died suddenly in 2011 at the age of 49. Alex is a Dedo to Andrea and Kier.
Now that we have the basics with this man of letters, we get to the real Alex. The Alex who is also a performer and a writer, the lawyer turned artist when he moved to Nova Scotia, who has appeared in productions of Oro Makedonsko. In the first Oro in 1984, he exhibited his paintings in Roy Thomson Hall, while in 1991 he wrote and performed his version of Macedonian history—a sweeping two millennia of history. He has written poems, essays (about Zorba the Greek no less!) and published books. In fact, he is in the process of publishing another children’s book called The Sky and the Stars Dance Too. By the way, he is a great cook, even makes zelnik and manga, and has even penned a small booklet on How to make Zelnik!
What makes Alexander unique is his innate wisdom or knack for saying the right thing to people, all the while encouraging them to be themselves, or like not being afraid to smile, or attending university when most people are retiring, etc. One of the people he touched said that he “leaves bones”. I say that he leaves ripples in the water from the pebbles of words he throws, wherever he goes.
In his youth, he was involved with Sts. Cyril and Methody Macedon-Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church. When you check the history of the church, it will indicate that it was Macedonians who donated and established the church for almost 80 years. It was the Macedonians that originally built and maintained all three churches that were established in downtown Toronto, even though they were aligned with the Bulgarian Diocese. At the time, of course, there was no choice. It was either the Bulgarian or the Greek Church if, as Macedonians, we were to follow the Orthodox faith.
He was on the Executive of the Youth group, along with his best friend James Vasoff, when there was an active young people’s group at the church. They planned out-of-town trips such as to Niagara Falls, or square dancing, picnics, etc. The Church even had a bowling alley at that time in order to engage the youth of the church, as well as the surrounding community.
He loves to talk, and people love to listen, and have discussions. He listens to their opinions very carefully, not always agreeing, but giving them their due, whether he is speaking with a learned person or simple folk. He lets people have their say without denigration. Did I say that he was a prolific thinker!
And now to Resolution 1674. This is what people in Yarmouth think about their unique and lovable character, where he has lived since 1975. As an artist, the Town has hired him to paint various murals to commemorate or beautify the town. His work is displayed throughout Yarmouth, in pubs, schools and on sides of buildings.
The Member of the Provincial Parliament of Nova Scotia, Zach Churchill, MLA, honoured him with the Resolution 1674 on behalf of the citizens of Nova Scotia. This Resolution calls him “prolific and renowned”, but more importantly, he has “touched their hearts and minds”. All the while retaining his Macedonian character. The Resolution asks that the House of Assembly “thank him for being an instrument of good in the world”. How unique is that, and how proud are we to have such a man represent the Macedonian community in far off Nova Scotia.
By way of spreading awareness of Macedonia, he has established the Friends of Macedonia in Yarmouth which costs a nominal amount. Members receive a root of the Zdravets to plant in their front garden. This is the plant which early immigrants to Canada carried in their pocket for many months while they traversed the ocean to the new world. When they planted it in any front yard where they stayed, other Macedonians knew there were “friends of Macedonia” in that home. And now in Yarmouth, we have friends of Macedonia. He is a fierce and dedicated Canadian Macedonian, in everything he is, and does.
We, as Macedonians, claim him even if he is the lone representative of the Macedonian community in Yarmouth, but his influence reaches throughout the world, with his correspondence with folks in North America and Australia as well as his children’s book, Baba’s Macedonian Socks. This is a man who spreads the reality and name of Macedonia wherever he sets down roots. Sometimes, it is the small things that spread the word and makes a difference.