In early March 2014, Macedonian students demanding better life conditions in state university dormitories published a blog entitled “Operacija studentski” [mk] (“Operation Dorm”) that was accompanied by photos of inadequate living conditions in the facilities. The campaign urged others to share the information, and has since gained much attention both in the country and internationally.
While the vast majority of people are supporting the students, the campaign has been criticized by a few and even called “anti-Macedonian” and “unpatriotic” by one Macedonian columnist.
The students have continued to demand better conditions in university dorms, and Operation Student Dorm has posted [mk] on their blog recently that after just 20 hours of displaying the images and descriptions of the deteriorated state of public university dorms on social networks, they gained more attention “than by talking to authorities during the previous 20 years:”
The Operation Student Dorm initiative was born while waiting for a stuck elevator, while the second one was lying in the shaft – where it fell several years ago. It was born waiting in line in the mess hall during the time when food should be there (not saying tasty or healthy food, just a supposedly warm meal), waiting in line to shower or to go to the toilet (you need someone to guard the door – because there’s no door), while we were waiting outside to die because of the fire sparked by an obsolete electrical installation, while we were asking neighbors if they had Internet or warm water, whether to go together to the manager to report it…
Independent student magazine Izlez (Exit) tweeted [mk] that access to Facebook for the residents of the “Goce Delchev” Student Dormitories, one of the dormitories represented in the photos provided by Operation Dorm, was blocked after the story broke:
“Access to #Facebook blocked for residents of “Goce Delchev” Student Dormitories in #Skopje this evening. Share!”
A day later, Macedonian Telecom (T-Home), the Internet provider for the dormitory, tweeted [mk] that they weren’t behind the block, but that it was their client, the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science [mk] that was using their software. The branding within said software has been changed to that of the Ministry since this statement.
The most critical reaction came in the form of a column [mk] on pro-government website Puls 24 by G. Angeleski, a person claiming to be a former dorm resident. He admitted that the information about the living conditions was true, but that talking about it is “unpatriotic”:
As the problems of a family should stay in the family, and so the problems of our little state should stay between us. Damn this inarticulate cyberspace that I use to write this! This must be the biggest, strongest, most convincing anti-Macedonian advertisement ever to appear. “Yes, this is a student dormitory, and yes, there are 1,200+ students living in it as we speak.” is the title on, I think, an American portal imgur.com. Click, click on the title and see, if you haven’t seen it on your first [Facebook] page already. See how famous we are. Well, my soul is hurting because those people across the ocean are mocking us now. They even put descriptions under each photo, truthful descriptions. My soul is hurting because the whole world will know now. My soul hurt while I was living there, but this hurts more.
I know that many of you don’t care about this because you intend to leave the country. But when you go to the Americas to work and say you are from Macedonia, people won’t socialize with you. Because of these images, they will act as if you have some disease. My soul is hurting because we enjoy the anti-Macedonian commercials. I have lived in this dorm, and I know many people who still live there, but now the world will put us in the class of middle African countries. Your soul should hurt too because of that!”
As part of a Twitter discussion about the above article, actor and professor Sinolichka Trpkova tweeted[mk] in reference to a recent government publicity campaign:
“No comment. This is worse than the dormitory conditions. Keep your shit under the carpet, Macedonia – Timeless.”
Operation Student Dorm continues publishing videos filmed in the student dormitory “Goce Delchev” in Skopje, part of Saint Cyril and Methodius University. Meanwhile, more influential websites such as US-based Business Insider and British Independent conveyed the news and horrifying photos, some of which are shown in the video below.
In November 2013, Alternadil, a visiting blogger from Serbia, compared [sr] this dormitory to “a ghetto”. A Macedonian student retorted with a following comment to his post:
“Sadly, the “Goce Delchev” dormitory is one of the more decent ones in Skopje. You should see the “Stiv Naumov” dorm or some of the dorms for high school students. There you will see real misery! In comparison, “Goce” is like three- to four-star hotel. Even more pathetic is that you need connections to even get a bed in the dorms, or to move to a slightly better room. It has been like this for years… Absolute misery! I understand our standard is miserable too, but not to this extent!”