There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who wonder what happened. The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) makes things happen and our efforts affect Macedonians around the world. Your help has enabled UMD to accomplish even more on your behalf and for Macedonia. We wholeheartedly thank you for your important support.
January saw the delivery of gloves, scarves, and hats to orphans in Skopje, milk to infants in Bitola, and food to the homeless in Skopje. UMD commemorated the victims of the International Holocaust and urged Bulgaria to offer an apology and compensation to the families of Macedonian Jews who suffered under Bulgaria’s cooperation with Nazi Germany.
In February, UMD urged Secretary Rice to reiterate U.S. recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name, support for Macedonia’s admission to NATO, and the U.S. position that the ‘name dispute’ between Greece and Macedonia is not relevant to Macedonia’s NATO bid. During a visit of Greece’s Foreign Minister to Washington, D.C., UMD published an advertisement in the Washington Post’s Express, a statement that Macedonians have a right to exist and that Greece seeks to distract the world from the continuing mistreatment of ethnic Macedonians in Greece.
In March, UMD advertisements appeared in the Macedonian dailies Dnevnik, Utrinski Vesnik, and Vecer that stressed the Diaspora’s opposition to a change in Macedonia’s name. A UMD letter-writing campaign to the leaders of all NATO states urged support of Macedonia’s NATO bid and resulted in seven million letters in a week from Macedonians and supporters of Macedonia throughout the world.
Greece’s veto in April of Macedonia’s bid for entry into NATO triggered UMD opinion pieces in the Washington Times, Dnevnik, and the Hill’s Congress Blog. Greek acts of intimidation against Macedonia and Macedonians rose dramatically:
• Macedonian tourists in Greece were beaten.
• Macedonian exports were blocked from entering Greece.
• Macedonian airliners were barred from Greek airspace.
• Ethnic Macedonians in Greece also were attacked.
UMD closely followed these events and apprised the State Department and Congress. In Australia, the Ambassador of Hungary indicated that the Greek veto had humiliated Hungary and all the other NATO members. Later in the month, UMD hosted a gathering at St. Jovan the Baptist Macedonian Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida.
May saw UMD become the first Macedonian Diaspora organization to open an office in Washington, D.C. A new fellowship program was started that will bring Macedonian university-level students to Washington, D.C. as interns for UMD. The interns will be exposed to policymaking, networking, and functioning in a non-governmental environment. UMD sponsored the first Macedonian Film Festival taking place in London organized by the Krug Cultural Group.
While Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki’s was in the U.S., in May, a Declaration of Strategic Partnership and Collaboration with the U.S was signed. In UMD’s meeting with the Foreign Minister, we praised these excellent efforts on the nation’s behalf. That meeting was followed by one with Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Daniel Fried, on bi-lateral relations and Macedonia’s prospects for Euro-Atlantic integration. UMD helped coordinate a protest of 20,000 people in Melbourne on May 24 against Australia’s failure to recognize Macedonia’s name. Subsequently, Macedonia ended visa requirements for Australians—a position often urged by UMD. UMD condemned Bulgaria’s frequent harassment of OMO Ilinden-PIRIN, a political party of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria whose registration the Bulgarian courts continue to deny.
By June, UMD had announced The Fund for Macedonian Children—a partnership with the Splash of Hope and the Macedonian Mission for Humanity—to create humanitarian programs for Macedonian youth. Congressman K. Michael Conway withdrew his support of House Resolution 356, an anti-Macedonian resolution put forward by the Greek-American lobby, thanks to UMD’s educational advocacy. In commemorating World Refugee Day, UMD called upon Greece to acknowledge its inhumane treatment of Macedonians expelled since 1944 and to repeal those Greek laws intended to repatriate and return confiscated property solely to those who are Greeks “by genus.”
In July, UMD secured a matching grant from the Turkish Coalition of America in the amount of $150,000. UMD needs to raise $50,000 each year for a three year period and TCA will match this amount each year for three years, thus a total of $300,000. On July 31st, a UMD delegation met with Macedonia’s President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in Skopje. UMD was able to reiterate its unwavering position against any negotiations over Macedonia’s name, or any considerations of changing the name of the Republic of Macedonia. Unfortunately, Ambassador-designate, Philip T. Reeker’s confirmation was blocked by Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, both supporters of the Greek-American lobby. UMD’s letter-writing campaign was carried in The Star Ledger newspaper in New Jersey and squarely addressed Senator Menendez’s actions. By August, both Senators lifted their hold on Ambassador Reeker’s confirmation.
Macedonia’s name and human rights in Southeast Europe dominated UMD’s efforts in August. UMD visited over 350 congressional offices informing representatives on Macedonian issues. In Melbourne, UMD attended the Ilinden Celebrations and discussed strengthening Australian-Macedonian relations with The Honorable Harry Jenkins, the Speaker of Australia’s Parliament.
Also in August, UMD established a Planning Committee for the First UMD Global Conference to be held on June 11, 12 and 13, 2009 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia (Click HERE to see the hotel). We will launch a conference website very soon with more information. Meanwhile, stay up to date at http://www.umdiaspora.org. Please save the date, as we need your help to launch a great, new Macedonian tradition. UMD held a meeting during the 34th American Canadian-Macedonian Orthodox Diocese Convention at St. Nikola Macedonian Orthodox Church in Totowa, New Jersey, where over 300 people heard and discussed the pressing issues facing Macedonians in North America and the world.
A September Boat Cruise on the Potomac River allowed UMD to commemorate 17 years of Macedonian independence. Ambassadors Philip Reeker and Zoran Jolevski welcomed the Washington, D.C. Macedonian-American community’s celebration of 17 years of Macedonian independence. UMD met Ambassador Reeker during September and discussed U.S. investment in Macedonia. UMD also met with Prime Minister Gruevski in New Jersey and with President Crvenkovski at the UN and discussed Macedonia’s relations with Greece and UMD concerns over the ‘name dispute.’ Later that month, UMD congratulated outgoing President of the UN General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, on his achievements.
On October 2, UMD sponsored an international conference, New Allies and the New U.S. Administration: Priorities for U.S.-CEE Relations, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The conference allowed UMD to inform the 100 plus attendees, including representatives from the two U.S. presidential campaigns, diplomatic community, regional experts, analysts, business representatives, scholars, and the media, about Macedonian issues. Later, at the Friends of Macedonia Forum at the Macedonian Embassy in Washington, D.C., UMD helped strengthen its ties with other Macedonian-American organizations.
Later in October, UMD met to discuss U.S.-Macedonian relations with a staunch supporter of the Greek lobby, Senator Robert Menendez. This was a first! On October 24, at the invitation of the Bush Administration, UMD attended a signing ceremony to witness the NATO Accession Protocols for Albania and Croatia at the White House.
UMD sent a congratulatory letter to President-elect Barack Obama in November on his historic victory and pledged its strong support in promoting the relationship between the U.S. and Macedonia. UMD published an op-ed in the Macedonian daily Dnevnik on the potential impact of an Obama Administration on Macedonia and, later, hosted an event in Toronto on that topic.
December saw UMD commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th. 2008 also marks the 60th Anniversary of the Mass Exodus of Macedonian Child Refugees from Greece during the Greek Civil War. UMD again called upon Greece to acknowledge its tragic human rights record and to allow Macedonian refugees to return to their homeland and reconnect with their roots. The Fund for Macedonian Children launched a fundraising campaign for blankets – a key necessity in orphanages, as well as children’s clinics and hospitals throughout Macedonia. The spirit of voluntarism has eliminated any administrative costs connected to UMD charity campaigns, so every dollar donated goes straight to the purchase of blankets. Our goal is to invest in Macedonia’s economy, involve the local community, and join all our efforts worldwide, so as to maximize our efforts locally in Macedonia!
“Impact” is the operative word at UMD. To make a continuing impact, UMD needs your participation and support. UMD cannot implement its many activities in support of Macedonia without you. In these challenging times, we need your support like never before.
As we reflect on this holiday season, we write to say Thank You for your support and your good wishes for our continued success. We also ask that you too reflect on the year just ending and remember our brothers and sisters around the world. Macedonians must care for one another and work together to advance our community’s welfare and interests. United, We Can!
We wish you and your family a joyous Christmas and a very happy New Year!
UMD Board of Directors
Metodija A. Koloski, President
Aleksandar Mitreski, Vice President
Michael Sarafin, Secretary
Denis Manevski, Treasurer
Ordan Andreevski, Director, Australian Operations