In Stip, a small town in Macedonia, every January the local priest throws a wooden cross into the river and hundreds of men dive after it. Good fortune and prosperity are guaranteed to the man who retrieves it. This time, Petrunya dives into the water on a whim and manages to grab the cross before the others. Her competitors are furious – how dare a woman take part in their ritual? All hell breaks loose, but Petrunya holds her ground. She won her cross and will not give it up.
Teona Strugar Mitevska
Teona Strugar Mitevska was born in 1974 in an artistic family in Skopje, Macedonia. She made her debut as a short film director in 2002 with Veta (Special Jury Prize, Berlin International Film Festival 2002). Film How I Killed A Saint (Tiger Awards Competition of the 2004 Rotterdam International Film Festival) is Teona’s first feature. Later, her feature film, I am from Titov Veles, received Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sarajevo Film Festival and was selected for the 2007 Toronto International Film festival (Discovery section), 2008 Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama) and Cannes Film Festival (ACID). Feature film The Woman Who Brushed off Her Tears premiered at 2012 Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama Special). Feature film When The Day Had No Name premiered in the Panorama Special of the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, while her latest feature film God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya premiered in the Competition of the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival.
On the holiday of Epiphany, the throwing of the cross event takes place in almost all the Orthodox world of Eastern Europe. In 2014, a woman caught the cross in the town of Štip, in Eastern part of Macedonia. Her act was deemed as outrage from the local population as well as the religious authorities. As a matter of fact, women are not allowed to participate in the event. Consequently, they tried to take the cross away from her, but she would not give in. Next day, she gave an interview to the local station encouraging more women to jump for the cross in the future. She was labeled by the population as a “crazy”,“disturbed”, “troubled” young woman. These reactions exposed a natural reflex of social conformism; they also revealed the misogyny that is supported by the deeply incrusted patriarchal norms within our society. It was frustrating and maddening. The story of Petrunya rose from this frustration, we had to react.
If this story was happening in an office and was about breaking the glass ceiling, things would be more evident, but by placing it in a traditional environment, a small Macedonian town, things become more complex. Petrunya, as a symbol of modernity, stands against not one but two establishments, the Church and the State. She is powerless facing both but hopefully, education is her savior.