As Mellios recounts, he saw this with his own eyes in 1956, or he would not have believed it. In the midst of what was until then the worst season of the Cold War –the Suez Crisis combined with the brutal Soviet assault on Hungary’s national uprising—as he was resigning himself to a global catastrophe, a renewed outbreak of world war, Prespans told him that what they saw in the lake predicted this: an outbreak of conflict, a great panic, and then a sudden, more or less immediate, resolution. They had read the future in the lake in 1870 with the French–German war, and again in 1914 -1918 with WWI, and again with 1939-1942 with WWII. Mellios, writing in 1976, two years after the fall of the right wing dictatorship, does not say anything about what was said about the levels of the lakes during the civil war from 1946 to 1949. He declares that the lakes are now in balance, and by this we can understand that he means that there is peace for the time being.
The main Greek eco-NGO, the Society for the Protection of Prespa, calls Prespa “an ecosystem that still resists,” that still “defends itself.” The lakes are the embattled breeding ground of ‘heroic’ migrant species, crossing boundaries despite global threats to their survival and political barriers to cooperation across old Cold War boundaries and new neo-liberal nationalist and pan-nationalist blocs. Some Eastern European news bulletins report a hazardous increase in water levels and average temperatures in the lakes as a result of global warming; others report that the Big lake, blighted by pesticide, is drying up. The local population worries: its survival is predicated now on a delicate balance of agriculture dependent on abundant water and cheap Albanian labor, shrinking government pensions and dwindling civil service employment, sporadic tourism, fragile family enterprises, remittances from globalized kin. The twelve year old daughter of my friend Olga tells me they don’t teach local Prespa history in school, and anyway only the old people talk about the past anymore; her grandmother, she notes, used to talk about nothing else, and never forgave anyone. The equation of history and ‘ruin’ here is strong (as Olga asked me, honestly perplexed and somewhat irritated, “What is it with you foreigners and the ruins?”). A new generation seeks resolution in the aftermath of so many centuries of war by rejecting (perhaps like the generation whose trajectory Homer described) “problems of justice…right vs wrong…truth vs lies.”