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Saving the Macedonian Private Ryan

If Spielberg that rediscovered the beaches of Normandy to the large public through the original story of Private Ryan, than the tradition of the legendary stories inspired by the great battle on D-Day continues, but this time from a surprising new source, a local Macedonian story.


The premiere of the short documentary “Private Ryan from Bitola” was held on the 30th of May 2014, in the City of Bitola, Macedonia. The movie retraces the life story of Pande Matevski, the only soldier from Macedonia who participated and perished in the battle on D-Day. 

The documentary starts in 1914 in Bitola, Macedonia where Pande was born. The Balkan wars and the First World War left Bitola destroyed and in an impoverished state. The Matevski family led a modest life, but faced with hard living conditions, some of the family members moved to America in quest for better life, as many Macedonians in that period. Among them were Pande Matevski and his younger brother Petar. But, when they reach the “dream land”, America decides to join the allied forces in the Second World War and the brothers are recruited in the American army. Destiny ships them off to the beaches of Normandy. Their involvement in D-Day proved tragic for Pande who lost his life in the battle. His body is transferred from Normandy to America, and later to Bitola.

Pande Matevski’s grave is in his home town and his story is only known by the locals. It is our hope that through this short documentary his name will be remembered as one of the heroes who gave their lives for freedom.

With the opening of the Western front in Europe, the invasion of Normandy is considered today as a decisive battle in World War II history because it’s the turning point that leads to the capitulation of Germany. The beaches as well as the territory of Normandy will forever bear the scars of those historic happenings. From that day on, the date 6th June will resound in the thoughts and memories as an arduous battle for France as well as the rest of the World. The testimonials of this war are of legendary proportions and contributed to transcend this military operation in the after-war as a symbol of peace and reconciliation.

The story of Pande is replaced in this unique historical context that joined so many young men under the same flags in the name of freedom. This movie is a commemoration; a symbol of that collective history lived by nations of the whole world on the beaches of Normandy, and is shared by many men and women. This film is not Spielberg’s and this documentary is not a blockbuster. However it is precisely in this sense that it holds an even greater importance. It is an homage to this Macedonian story that is encrypted in the testimonial of the greater World history.

The local initiative to film this story is supported by the Decentralised Cooperation between the Lower Normandy and Macedonia, coordinated by ALDA. This initiative contributes to the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion – the D-Day. This year, on June 6, the Lower Normandy region will host an international commemoration that will reunite the veterans who fought on the beaches of Normandy, as well as many leaders of the countries which participated in the battles.

Inspired by this historical moment, which forever changed the Europe’s faith, and following the 100 years of the beginning of the WWI, the Lower Normandy Region and the Republic of Macedonia will reinforce their cooperation, focusing on the themes in common, such as: Memory, peace, and reconciliation; Cultural Heritage and Human Rights.

For more information, please visit the official blog of the Private Pande Matevski’s life and the official site of the Decentralised Cooperation Lower Normandy - Macedonia


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