Two Americans, one Australian, and two Canadians – five students of proud Macedonian heritage – are spending three incredible weeks in our homeland, Macedonia, through the fourth annual Birthright Macedonia program. During their first weekend, they visited the Kale Fortress, the grave of Macedonian independence revolutionary Goce Delchev, the Old Bazaar, and Canyon Matka.
Kristina Blazevska, Alexander Bouneff, Emilija Dimitrievski, Vanessa Owen, and Evan Simoff started their experience on June 29, 2018 and will be in Macedonia till July 20, 2018.
The five students are residing with host families, and will spend weekends touring Macedonia, including places like Lake Ohrid and Galichnik where they will attend the famous Macedonian wedding festival. Mondays to Fridays are devoted to internships; this year’s students have been placed in the office of the President of the Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Gjorge Ivanov; the Skopje General Hospital “September 8th;” Taskforce BPO; and the renowned Zan Mitrev Clinic.
For the fourth year in a row, UMD, and its local partner, the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC), hosted an opening ceremony on June 29, 2018 for the students at the Stonebridge Hotel in downtown Skopje, followed by a lunch with beautiful views of the Square.
“Eight years ago, when my first granddaughter was learning to speak, I tried to get her to call me by the Macedonian word for “grandfather” (dedo). At one point, I realized that this four-letter word is the only connection between my granddaughter and my Macedonian descent. I also realized that this relationship will disappear the moment when I will no longer be alive because my grandchildren will have no more reason to use it. I had to do something about that problem,” said UMD Advisory Council member Peter Dallas, who founded the Birthright Macedonia program.
“It is impossible to remain indifferent when hearing Peter’s story of motivation and the way he kept this project alive, even after the fourth time. In 2015, we accepted to participate to help achieve our goals, because we see how much it means for people to get acquainted with their country of origin,” said MCIC Executive Director Aleksandar Krzalovski.
The participants expressed satisfaction as well having high expectations for this life-changing experience. “My grandfather (a UMD member) told me about this program for the past two years and when I finally looked at it, I realized that this is something I want to do,” said Alexander Bouneff from Portland, Oregon.
Other speakers at the opening ceremony included outsourcing executive Aleksandra Murgoska, who moved back to Macedonia after completing her studies in the United States, and made the original introduction between Dallas and MCIC; James Cvetkovski from Australia, who participated in last year’s Birthright Macedonia, and is on his second visit to Macedonia since; and Trajce Nikolov from Canada, a member of UMD’s young leaders program – Generation M. All of them touched on how important it is to give back to their homeland and help the country prosper, noting the great hospitality they have felt in Macedonia.
The fifth annual Birthright Macedonia program is slated for June 28-July 19, 2019. Reach out to [email protected] for more information.