Ohrid is a truly special city where rich nature abounds with all the desired natural features. Mountains and forests surround Lake Ohrid, one of the most beautiful in the world in terms of flora and fauna, the clarity of the water, history and artefacts more than 5000 years old, cultural and historical monuments, and 365 churches. In one word, a City museum under the open sky, where every stone has a history!
One of the famous features of the city of Ohrid is the Ohrid Pearl, so in this blog, we are bringing you a story about it. Our team had the pleasure of speaking to Mihajlo Filev from Ohrid, whose family crafts Ohrid Pearls for almost a century. We present you his story below.
‘The Filev family is one of the oldest families in Ohrid with a rich family history in pearls crafting, since 1750. My great-grandfather Nikola Filev emigrated to Austria as a young man. He was engaged in hotel management as a member of the overseas Committee of the Macedonian Board, which helped the revolutionaries in Macedonia. He married Austrian Hermina Reisinger, and in 1909 my grandfather Mihajlo Filev was born. When he was 11 years old, back in 1920, the family returned to Ohrid, where they opened a tavern near Stariot Cinar. The secret of the Ohrid pearl was born in that tavern.
Fate brought a Russian emigrant Jovan Subanovich who became a great friend of my great-grandfather Nikola. As he was originally from Baikal Lake which has the same flora and fauna as Ohrid Lake, he knew the secret formula of making an emulsion from the scales of the endemic frogfish (Latin name Albidus Albornus Alborela). As a sign of friendship and gratitude for the care and help given by my great-grandfather, Jovan handed him the formula to start the craft of making Ohrid pearls.
The tradition of making the Ohrid pearl in the Filev family began in 1928. Today, it is a recognised Ohrid and Macedonian symbol of culture. I am the 4th generation of the Ohrid pearl makers. From my early years, I watched and learned the craft from my parents and my grandmother, enjoying the way they communicated with customers and tourists from all over the world, with a special feeling that one day I will bear the responsibility of the secret and the family craft.
As each generation upgrades the craft, I was focused to improve the technique and the quality of pearls, the creation and combination with Filigree (another traditional craft) for all fashion directions. I did many projects of affirmation of Ohrid and Macedonia through the Ohrid Pearls. My family published a monograph on the Ohrid Pearl with the help of the Ohrid Institute & Museum and the Ministry of Culture, and we made a documentary shown at the Ohrid Summer Festival.
Finally, together with the Talev family, we protected the Ohrid Pearl and got it certified through a legal framework as a protected geographical name with a patent formula code, which belongs to two families. We did it at the international level as a member of the Lisbon Declaration.
I hope that my children will awaken the affinity, love, and desire to inherit and extend the long family traditional craft.
In addition to my craft, I hold a Master’s Degree in Tourism Sciences and another in International Diplomacy. I invite everyone who lives in Ohrid to protect the city and to be proud of the nature surrounding them because it is a privilege to live here. While we live, we are only borrowing the benefits from nature, and Ohrid should be preserved for future generations.
There are countless places to visit in Ohrid, but the most iconic are Samoilova Tvrdina, the Ancient Theater, Plaoshnik, St John Kaneo, St Sophia, St Virgin Mary Perivlepta, the Ohrid Old Bazaar and Stariot Cinar, Biljana’s Sources, the Lake Riviera, the surrounding residence near Gradiste to St Naum and many more.
The original people of Ohrid differ from the rest of the country in terms of dialect, jokes, and their cosmopolitan and cordial attitude, with great respect for other religious and ethnic communities. A large percentage of the inhabitants live primarily on tourism as the main industry, being welcoming hosts who love their city!’
Thank you, Mihajlo, for this amazing story! There is nothing left for us to say but to invite you to visit the wonderful city of Ohrid on our carefully crafted tours and enjoy in person the stories Mihajlo shared with you.