Friday night, September the 6th 2013 in the typically fashionable Melbourne style, crowds eagerly lined up in a hidden laneway to enter Johnny Tsiglev's "Sold Out" Detsa Begaltsi Multimedia Art showcase.
A very relaxed full-house enjoyed Macedonian beverages and food when the house lights were suddenly cast shut and in the darkness the crowd was glued in silence as they watched the stunningly shot short film about the Detsa Begaltsi (Macedonian Child Refugees also spelt 'Deca Begalci' by many Macedonians). The film which was Premiered on this very special night, was Produced by Johnny Tsiglev, collaborating together with Award Winning Director Anton Blajer (of God's Fool's fame) and renowned musician Anton Klimev (who wrote an English song for Tose Proeski and Composed the Original musical score for the film).
After a standing ovation of cheers and whistles, the covered artworks were then revealed in a burst of light, glowing around the entire venue! 25 metres of continuous Art! The audience was stunned and in awe as they circled the room analysing the illuminated major artworks at a scale which have never been seen before! An illustrated journey where Johnny pays homage to a stolen generation. "Akin to the indigenous of Australia, these children were, and still are, 'The Stolen Generation of Macedonia'" Johnny Tsiglev
A moving, emotionally charged speech further captivated the 300 (estimated) audience where Johnny spoke of his inspiration behind his Art and Exhibition, for people to put themselves in the position of the almost 30,000 Detsa Begaltsi in a modern context, and for them to imagine the pain and hurt they endured. He even sprayed some of his own blood (after severely cutting his finger hanging the art) on his first piece 'Exodus' to further illustrate his point. Johnny then thanked the two Begaltsi (refugees) who featured in the film Tase Filipov (who was the inspiration behind Johnny's Original 'Detsa Begaltsi' Painting) and Lazo Christov , then called them up to join him up front. It was truly inspirational to see. Johnny proceeded to call up and thank his filmmaking partners, Director Anton Blajer and Musician Anton Klimev and then thanked his wife Meri (who managed the entire event and who played the role of 'mother' in the film) and young children Liam ( who played the role of 'Begalche' in the film) and his recently born young son Kirin.
The event doubling up as the AMHRC's Official Party to the Conference on the 100th Anniversary of the fateful Partition of Macedonia, saw many high-profile national and international guests in attendance, including Ms Beti Korunovska Consulate General to the Republic of Macedonia , many representatives from Australia's Macedonian Communities such as Chris Angelkov from Perth, Michael Radin from Adelaide and Con Christov, Zoran Zdravevski and Angelo Pateras from Melbourne, all the speakers from AMHRC's Conference including Professor Victor Friedman from the University of Chicago, Professor Andrew Rossos from the University of Toronto, Professor Peter Hill from the University of Hamburg, Dr Akis Gavrillidis from the University of Macedonia, Professor Christina Kramer from the University of Toronto, Professor Grace E. Fielder from the University of Arizona, Dr Vasko Nastevski and George Vlahov from the AMHRC and Dr Jim Hlavac from Monash University. There were also many prominent Australian Artists, Filmmakers and Press in attendance including Journalist Pobeda Piskacova from Canada.
Coinciding with the 65th Anniversary of the plight of the Detsa Begaltsi and also being the AMHRC's Official Conference Party, with spectacular Artworks on display and a moving short film, this truly was; "A Once in a Lifetime Event!"
Here's what some of the guests had to say:
"Thank you for providing a wonderful event for the Macedonian community of Melbourne tonight. It is obvious that you put so much work into the event, the film, art, the layout, everything. The art was interesting, haunting, and captured the fear and isolation the children would have felt. I did not know that it was 30,000 children. The design of the partly covered art (in red) was so well done, and then the unveiling of the art lit up was dramatic, and captivating". Marika Tashevska, Clinical Forensic Psychologist
"Just wanted to say great event on Friday night (Detsa Begaltsi) when I told family and friends about the event, they asked if there was any other dates for Melbourne? They all expressed interest" From Sophi K
"I had a fun night and met some interesting folk. Thanks for introducing me to such an important story in our heritage" Jim Shomos, Writer, Producer, Director
"Amazing event Tsiggies! Fantastic fun night and a very powerful display of art! Congratulations, incredible work!" Keith Hibbert
"Fantastic night. Hat off to you all". Oli Cvetkovski
"Well done Johnny and Meri, it was a great night, the paintings looked spectacular!" Amanda Prince
"We enjoyed an awesome Art Exhibition thanks to Johnny and Meri last night at Thousand Pound Bend. Great Doco by Anton. Where can I get one of these amazing pieces of Art. Thanks for remembering my Dads History!" Anna Christov Vasiliou
"John and Meri. Fantastic night awesome artwork as always. Hopefully this leads to bigger recognition for you John" Xxx Suzi Neda
"WOW" What a night!!! John, I'm sure I speak 4 everyone when I say, we are very proud of you. "You're a star"... Steve Nedanovski
"A fantastic night John & Meri. Thank you for inviting me to be part of it. John you are a very talented artist whose art work tells a very important yet poignant part of history. Especially touching as my mum & uncle were one of the 'Detsa Begaltsi.' Honoured to be at you very first Detsa Begaltsi exhibition" Sue Gigliotti
"Congratulations Meri and Johnny on an awesome exhibition! Where passion & creativity unite"...Sandra Damevski