When I first took up the study of the Vlachs, my investigations were much more in the nature of a personal quest. I was looking for my own roots with the kind of curiosity anyone might feel about his or her ancestry. I eventually came to be more interested in the distant origins of the Vlachs themselves, having realised that, whatever those origins might be, they do not necessarily invest the Vlachs with a collective identity.
At first glance, Asterios Koukoudis’s Studies on the Vlachs is a huge index of all the Vlach villages in the southern Balkans, an index that includes a historical review of the ancestral Vlach villages and a lengthier account of the history of the Vlach villages in Central Macedonia. In order to amass this vast quantity of material, Mr Koukoudis worked not only in libraries and archives, but with the Vlachs themselves. The sheer volume of material alone makes this work commendable; but its contribution to the history of the Vlachs is much greater.
When I used to go to my mother’s village in Roumlouki, I remember how my Grekos grandad, barba-Dziordzi, would ask me: ‘What are you, lad, a Romios or a Vlahos?’. And in Veria, my Vlach grandad, lala-Steryios, would ask me in Vlach: ‘Tse hi tini, Armin ia Grek?’ (What are you, an Aroumanian or a Grekos?). And, anxious not to disappoint either of them, I would give each the answer he wanted to hear. It was years later that I realised that they both wanted me to say the same thing, but each wanted to hear it in his own language.