Setting the Stage

Chapter 1Brief Village History

Very little is known of Chereshnitsa’s (Polykerasos’) beginnings. To my knowledge there is nothing written. Information included here is by word of mouth (local accounts of the past) from one generation to another. Whatever I have written is from information I was able to get from village elders and relatives. These villagers are, Staseto Shamoff, Naseto Zourloff, Risto Pliastoff, Gligoreto Zekoff, Popo Naki Ristovski, Gileto Bellioff, Tometo Mangoff, Vaneto Mitoff, Koleto Pandoff, Nacho Shamoff, Kiro Zekoff, and many other villagers.

Chereshnitsa (Polykerasos) began with about six Slav shepherding and animal husbandry families back in the 1500’s. It is said that these six families first lived in Pelister Planina (mountain) near a chiflik (landholding) called Magarovo north of Bitolia. Because they were having difficulties with an Ottoman Bey (a Turkish Governor), they took their complaints to his boss, the Osman Bey. The Osman Bey, not wanting to reverse the Ottoman Bey’s rules and decisions, suggested to them that they move south to a better location with plenty of water and pasture for their animals. This was close to the village of Fotinishtsa which is southeast of Chereshnitsa. They took his advice and moved to this area. Fotinishtsa was a Turkish village and on the main travel route. The Turkish Army usually used this route to travel from Mavrovo and Litchishtsa to Kontorbi, Tiovlishtcha and Kostour.

After being there for some time, the six families decided, because of the proximity to the Turks and the travel route and because they needed better pasture for their sheep and goats, to move to Toplitsata. Toplitsata is south of Chereshnitsa between Kontorbi and Grebointsa. It is called Toplitsata because it is warmer there. Even this, however, was not ideal because it was still too close to the travel route. They wanted to be away from busy traffic and the bother of the Turks. They decided to move again, but this time they split. Some followed the river and went to Ponesh and others went to Lapkata while still others went to Cheyma. Lapkata is equidistant from Grebointsa, Cheyma, and Dolnoto Selo and for the most part they could see each of them from Lapkata.

Ponesh, Cheyma, and Lapkata were good places; but still the families were not quite satisfied, probably because the sheep needed a cooler climate. The Lapkata and Cheyma groups then moved to Dolnoto Selo. Here they must have stayed longer than any other place because it was here that they built a small church. The church was still standing in the 1940’s.

While at these places they were living in Koushari (Shepherds’ Huts built of straw). To communicate with each other they would send a person with a good voice to Kotka or V’ro, the highest points in the area. These were not only audible, but also visible to all the different locations. This person would yell the announcement or call them to a meeting.

Eventually, due to their fear of the Turks and desire to be left alone, they moved again north to the present location, the village of Chereshnitsa. Another story has it that while at Dolnoto Selo they lost a pig. They searched for it and found it in the present Chereshnitsa area. While there they noticed that the area was flatter for farming, plenty of water, cooler, and plenty of pasture for their live stock and that is why they moved.

Chereshnitsa is located in the northwest corner of the Aegean part of Macedonia. It is in a valley at the foot of mount Vitcho surrounded by hills and is approximately twenty-four kilometers (thirteen miles) from the city of Kostour (Kastoria). To the north is Tsero and the village of Prekoupana (Perikopi). To the west is Blatskata Booka and the village of Blatsa (Oxia). To the east is Surbinoff Kamen, the village of Olishtcha (Melisotopi), and St. Vrach (St. Anargiros) Monastery. And to the south is Dolnoto Selo, Lapkata, Kotka, Grebointsa, Cheyma, and the villages of Kontorbi (Metamorphosis) and Tiovlishtsa (Tihio). The narrow roads and streets in Chereshnitsa testify to the unplanned development of the village. About the only thing planned, in order to protect each other from thieves and robbers, is that the houses are built close to each other, the walls are made of stone about two feet thick, and the windows have 10” x 10” inch grated iron bars. Very much unlike the United States where the farmer lives on or near the farm. The village is also dissected by a small reka (stream/ river). Now this stream has dried to a mere trickle.

The name Chereshnitsa, means a village with many cherry trees. Right now there are no cherry trees in Chereshnitsa. How they came to adopt this name is not known. It could be that at one time there were many cherry trees in Chereshnitsa, or that at some time or other the families may have lived in an area where there were many cherry trees.

It is estimated that the present village of Chereshnitsa was settled in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s. The move from Pelister planina may have been around the late 1500’s.

shep21

A shepherd tending his sheep.

In 1903, during the Ilinden Insurrection against the Ottoman Turks, the Turks burned the village because the villagers had risen against them. Only five houses remained standing. They were Lialkina, Tarpchinova, Dzonova, Mangova, and Zekova. The village was rebuilt after the Illinden Insurrection, mostly through the help from Chereshnitcheni in America and Anatolia (Asia Minor).

Map of Village

Left Click to Enlarge