Why the UMD matters

Reader, if you’ve been kind enough to click on this post I can only suppose you know a little about the United Macedonian Diaspora.

I didn’t when I first clicked onto this site.

This might surprise you by way of confession for its new Communications Director, but there’s your logic for why it matters right there.

You see, three years ago I couldn’t point to Macedonia on a map. I have a degree in International Relations, and yet when my now fiancée told me she was from there I had to pause for a moment.

As I’ve discovered, there’s an uncanny parallel between my native Scotland and the country I now consider a second home. It’s almost offensive to call them ‘my in-laws’, it’s such a stoic term that lacks any of the experience that goes with it, for they took me under my wing and educated me about who, and what, Macedonia is.

My Macedonian family told me about their culture, their history and what the Germans call a ‘Weltanschauung’ – their way of thinking. I am eternally grateful for the enthusiasm and love my Macedonian side have extended to me – language was never even much of a barrier, but the sheer exhaustion that my better half endured as her conversationalist of a grandfather and I met to discuss *everything*, well, I’ll let her tell you that story.

Macedonia and Scotland are united in maths. Small countries of a few million have, over the centuries, somehow managed to form a global diaspora double the size of their homelands. An affinity for the home country and a love for where these disparate diasporas have made their new home is not an oxymoron. To be ‘Macedonian’ and to be ‘Scottish’ are two self-descriptions which are far wider and deeper than mere geographic boundaries.

There is, however, one big difference. As Macedonia’s very right to self-determination is rooted in an absurd name debate, its diaspora seems dwarfed. There is a horrible predisposition to cite ‘the Balkans’ as a staple of nationalism and a hotbed of hate. It’s an unfortunately enduring cliche, and one that must, and should, be challenged at every turn.

So that’s where the UMD come in. From the first time I clicked on to the site and right through working with the organisation it has become, remains, and will continue to be the defining light for Macedonian interests. Its work is ambitious, but it’s rooted in the simple belief that Macedonian culture is global, transcendental and should be unified to showcase the best and serve its people spread out across the world.

It also happens to adopt those who cherish the opportunity to support it and learn more about it.

Alastair Stewart was appointed UMD Communications Director in 2018. Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Alastair has close ties to Macedonia through his fiancée. Her family are from Gevgelija, which they both visit for several months every year.

Photo: Gevgelija, Macedonia / Credit: Alastair Stewart