Over 1,000 Guests Attended UMD Global Conference in Toronto

The 2nd Annual United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) Global Conference was a huge success, with over 1,000 Macedonians and friends of Macedonia attending from close to 20 countries from June 3-6, 2010. The closing Gala on Saturday, June 5, 2010 brought together over 500 guests to the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto to honor UMD Goce Delchev Award recipient Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, UMD Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and pillar of the Macedonian community John L.N. Bitove, C.M. and UMD Macedonia Friendship Award recipient Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney.

 

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Mark Branov

[email protected] or 1-800-UMD-9583 x1

 June 8, 2010 – Washington, D.C. & Toronto – The 2nd Annual United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) Global Conference was a huge success, with over 1,000 Macedonians and friends of Macedonia attending from close to 20 countries from June 3-6, 2010. The closing Gala on Saturday, June 5, 2010 brought together over 500 guests to the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto to honor UMD Goce Delchev Award recipient Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, UMD Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and pillar of the Macedonian community John L.N. Bitove, C.M. and UMD Macedonia Friendship Award recipient Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney.

 The conference kicked off on June 3 with opening remarks by UMD President Metodija A. Koloski and Honorary Chairman Macedonian Ambassador to Ottawa Ljuben Tevdovski followed by a keynote address from Thomas S. Caldwell, C.M., Founder and Chairman, Caldwell Financial, Ltd. on the topic World Financial Crisis: How Did We Get There and Where To From Here – A Broad View. Throughout the remainder of the 4-day conference attendees listened to speakers talk about the economic development opportunities in Macedonia, the country’s tourism potential, how Macedonia fits in a globalized world, strengthening of Canadian-Macedonian relations, the history of Macedonian emigration, preserving the Macedonian identity and language, success stories and building partnerships, UMD’s achievements and future goals and plans, human rights, healthcare, youth leadership, and a wide-range of other topics.

 Speakers included to name a few, well-known entrepreneur John I. Bitove, InvestMacedonia CEO Victor Mizo, high-ranking corporate executive Mike S. Zafirovski, Renato Dicenza, CEO of Invest Toronto, Lui Temelkovski – first Canadian MP of Macedonian heritage, who received UMD’s Macedonian Heritage Public Service Award, Viktorija Gierer of the Macedonian Foreign Minister, Dr. Lillian Petroff – prominent Canadian-Macedonian historian, Aleksandar Nikoloski, Macedonian Member of Parliament, Jason Miko, Dr. Christina Kramer of the University of Toronto, Julie Lindhout, President of the Atlantic Council of Canada, Dr. Vladimir Ortakovski from Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, Tim DiScipio, founder of ePals, among numerous others.

A reception hosted by Ambassador Ljuben Tevdovski for all conference attendees and a screening of the documentary A Name is A Name concluded Thursday’s program. The Ambassador formally opened an exhibit by Ottawa-based artist Dimce Isailovski.

Friday night’s aLIVE – a Macedonian Cultural Celebration featured performances by folklore ensembles Selyani, Zdravec and Makedonka, 16-year-old violinist Ema Nikolovska, and the Canadian debut of the world-renowned ethno jazz band Synthesis all the way from Macedonia. Emceed by TV personality Elizabeth Naumovski, the evening opened with three award ceremonies recognizing three exceptional individuals in the arts. The awardees included Virginia Evans, for her idea to start the first Macedonian Film Festival outside of Macedonia, Olga Veloff Sandolowich, for her 59-year career in traditional Macedonian dance and folklore, and Aleks Petlickov, who has lead the ensemble Makedonka for close to half a century.

 On Saturday, four individuals were recognized for their long and hard work in ensuring human rights for Macedonians in Southeast Europe. UMD Canadian Director Jim Daikos introduced Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias, and awarded him with the UMD Religious Freedom Award, outlining his long struggle with Greek authorities for defending the human rights. Director Denis Manevski then gave the UMD Human Rights Award to Mayor Edmond Temelko of Pustec, a long-time activist representing the Macedonian community in Albania. Director Stojan Nikolov honored Hristo Ivanovski with the UMD Human Rights Award outlining his long career in academics and journalism, whose specialty is the various human rights issues of ethnic Macedonians. The fourth UMD Human Rights Award was presented by UMD Director Boban Jovanovski, and awarded to Liana Dumitrescu, recognizing her achievements as the first Romanian Member of Parliament of Macedonian heritage.

 During the conference, UMD launched its new program for young leaders Generation “M.” Generation “M,” is UMD’s new generation program, which will work to inspire and empower young professionals to engage today’s critical domestic and international issues. Working at the nexus between the Macedonian community and the world, its goals will be to reach out to diplomats, policy makers and young leaders of diverse ethnic communities and strive to re-envision the role of young Macedonian leaders in global affairs. Young leaders participating in the launch included Amanda Kostoff and Justin Vasilievski of the University of Michigan’s Macedonian American Students Association, Alexander Karapancev, University of Western Ontario, Goce Dimitrioski, McMaster University in Hamilton, Andrew Ananievski, Australian Macedonian Student Association of Victoria, Marijana Josifovska, Investors Beyond Borders, and charity activist Kristopher Maslardzievski.

On June 5, Ambassador Ljuben Tevdovski opened the Gala touching on the importance of UMD’s role in Macedonia’s international development, as well as the Republic of Macedonia’s role in reaching out to the Diaspora as an essential and unbreakable part of the Macedonian nation.

 Emceed by Canadian TV Personality and CTV News Anchor Ken Shaw, the dinner ceremony portion of the program kicked off with a very special series of awards. The first remarks were offered by Dr. Srgian Kerim, high-ranking Macedonian diplomat, former Macedonian Foreign Minister, and former President of the United Nations General Assembly. Dr. Kerim presented Canada’s Honorable Minister of Citizenship, Immmigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney with the UMD Macedonia Friendship Award. Minister Kenney praised Canadian-Macedonians for helping to build Canada, and noted their hard work in all sectors of Canadian life.

Canadian-born Editor of UMD Voice magazine, Mark Branov, spoke about the multicultural heritage of Macedonia and Canada, and the importance of Canada’s official recognition of Macedonia under its one and only historical and constitutional name in September 2007. His remarks were followed by a video acceptance speech from the Right Honorable Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was awarded the UMD Goce Delcev Award for his act of statesmanship in fully recognizing Macedonia. In his video acceptance speech, Prime Minister Harper said “Zdravo” and expressed how he is truly honored to receive the award, which acknowledges his work and the work of his government, but also the shared history that binds Canadians and Macedonians. “Canadians and Macedonians are united by our shared commitment to universal principles, freedom, democracy, and justice,” stated Harper. “This is why our government has been so supportive of the Republic of Macedonia and its aspirations for full membership into the EU and NATO.” He concluded that he proudly accepts this award “as a symbol of this enduring friendship between our countries, Blagodaram.” Click HERE for full video message from the Prime Minister.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the UMD Lifetime Achievement Award to John L.N. Bitove, C.M. in recognition of his perpetual support, dedication and committed philanthropy to the Macedonian Community at home and abroad. Canadian-Macedonian leader George Markou described his personal friendship with Bitove, and Bitove’s sense of commitment to family, business, and community introducing a special tribute video made in Bitove’s honor. The video looked at  Bitove’s heritage from Aegean Macedonia, his rise in Canada’s business community, and the heartfelt tragedy of the Deca Begalci generation of Macedonian children, who were forcibly expelled from their homes in what is now Northern Greece. Tears filled the room at Bitove’s description of this unfortunate story. Bitove also detailed his key role in various philanthropic initiatives in Canada and in Macedonia, and his personal direct friendship and involvement with President Kiro Gligorov in the highly unstable transition years of Macedonia’s independence in 1991.

UMD President Koloski presented Bitove with the UMD Lifetime Achievement Award calling Bitove his personal role model, a role model for all Macedonians, and a true leader in the global Macedonian community. After receiving the award, both sat down for a unique never-before-done in the Macedonian community on-stage interview where Koloski questioned Bitove on his work and vision for Macedonia. Bitove noted the important work of the United Macedonian Diaspora stating that there has never been an organization like UMD ever before in the global Macedonian community and he is proud to be a member and associated with UMD. Bitove called for Macedonians to work together to build a more prosperous, stable and united Macedonia. Bitove highlighted the great efforts being made by Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, making a special toast in the Prime Minister’s honor.

 A live auction was conducted by Ken Shaw raising $14,000 from generous supporter Gigo Cackirovski for the John L.N. Bitove Macedonian Heritage Scholarship Fund. The prize was two business class roundtrip tickets to Macedonia, via Istanbul, generously donated by Turkish Airlines, 2-night stay in Skopje, 2-night stay in Ohrid, dinner at the Presidential Villa with President Gjorge Ivanov and the First Lady of Macedonia. At the end of the evening, Vonna Bitove, the daughter of John L.N. Bitove, C.M., presented UMD President Koloski with a check of $50,000 on behalf of the entire Bitove family and The Bitove Foundation. The donation will go towards setting up the John L.N. Bitove Macedonian Heritage Scholarship Fund, which will benefit Canadian and international students based on need and merit.

Overall, the 2010 Global Conference was a huge success! UMD thanks all of the donors, participants, panelists, awardees, as well as a very special thank you to all the volunteers who made this event possible. UMD especially thanks our sponsors Turkish Airlines, Brookdale Recycling, Mike Z. Zafirovski and Family, and George and Pennie Markou. Without their financial support, UMD’s 2nd Annual Global Conference would have not been so successful.

UMD looks forward to welcoming all Macedonians and friends of Macedonia to the 3rd Annual UMD Global Conference, at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, D.C., next door to the White House, on June 23-25, 2011. During the 3rd Annual UMD Global Conference, UMD will mark the 20th Anniversary of Macedonia’s Independence.

Click HERE to download the UMD GC2010 Commemorative Journal. Pictures and complete video coverage of the conference will be up on our website soon. The next issue of UMD Voice magazine will detail the panel discussions and other conference activities.

Pictures courtesy of Zoran Karapancev

Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora is a leading international non-governmental organization addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world.

UMD’s headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., and it has representatives serving Macedonian communities around the world, including Brussels, Canberra, Chicago, Detroit, Kiev, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Perth, St. Petersburg, Stuttgart, Sydney, Toronto, and Vienna.