UMD Raises Assistance Funds for Human Rights in Greece, Hosts Unprecedented Leadership Conference in Canada

The United Macedonian Diaspora Canada (UMD Canada) held two important events this past weekend: the first assisting one of the world’s most vulnerable and discriminated Macedonian communities to preserve its rich historical culture and heritage in Greece, the second assisting one of the world’s most thriving Macedonian communities to face the challenges of the future together, in unity and friendship.

On Friday, April 26th, about 200 friends from throughout Canada, the United States, and Macedonia gathered at Sveti Dimitrija Solunski Macedonian Orthodox Church in Markham for the “Vecer Za Voden” 2013. This annual spring event helps support UMD’s human rights activities in Greece, where, today, hundreds of thousands of native Macedonians suffer cultural oppression and religious freedom violations by the Greek State.

Proceeds will go towards a variety of initiatives coordinated by UMD Regional Representative in Greece, Eugenia Natsoulidou through the Educative and Cultural Movement of Edessa (Voden) including: promotion of the Macedonian language in Greece at European Union institutions, support for independent Macedonian media, such as the newspaper Zadruga in Edessa, the newspaper Loza in Thessaloniki (Solun), the Voden Makedonsko Internet Radio, translation and publication of important books about Macedonia, and the teaching of Macedonian folk traditions through dancing classes.

The long-term goal is to open a Macedonian Cultural Centre in Edessa, and to restart the Macedonian language classes, which were previously shut down due to Greek government pressure. Funds will also help Natsoulidou fight her defamation lawsuit against Proto Thema, one of the largest newspapers in Greece, whose yellow journalism has been associated with the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn, and whose slander against Natsouldiou led to death threats against her late last year.

UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos, himself a native of Banica, Egejska, stated: “As Canadians of Macedonian heritage, we deeply appreciate the freedom and opportunity that Canada has offered us. This event is a chance to give back, because we know how our brothers and sisters in Greece and elsewhere struggle to preserve their Macedonian identity, culture and language on a daily basis.”

Click here for pictures from Vecer za Voden.

On Saturday, April 27th, UMD hosted an all-day event, which was the first of its kind – the Canadian Macedonian Leadership Conference 2013 (#CMLC2013). Held at Sveti Kliment Ohridski Macedonian Orthodox Cathedral in Toronto, the vision of CMLC2013 was to bring together about 50 leaders from Toronto’s many cultural and faith-based Macedonian organizations: to interact, to network, and to share effective methods in leadership, fundraising, educational advocacy, and civic engagement in Canadian society. A great deal of focus during the CMLC2013 was put on student/youth community engagement, best ways to tell the Macedonian story in Canada, and how to promote our rich cultural heritage in Canada.

CMLC2013 brought together UMD representatives from Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., as well as the United Macedonians Organization of Canada, Macedonian Orthodox Churches in Toronto and Hamilton, the Canadian Macedonian Place Foundation, the Canadian Macedonian Historical Society, the Macedonian Business Association of Canada, the Macedonian Film Festival, Children’s Relief Fund, Macedonian Edition TV, Makedonija newspaper, Macedonia Radio,, university student leaders, and Macedonian government representatives, including keynote speakers His Excellency Ambassador Ljuben Tevdovski and the Honourable Pavle Sazdov, North American Member of Macedonia’s Parliament.

UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov said: “Although organized by UMD, this event belongs to all of us. United, we are stronger, and we can achieve so much more. Macedonians understand the phrase ‘divide and conquer’ all too well, as it has been used against us, and we are still living it. But there is a common bond that we all share. Safeguarding Macedonian human rights, promoting Macedonian culture and language, defending our identity and our country’s one and only constitutional name… on these core issues, we all agree, and today, we strengthen this bond.”

UMD Council Member Chris Stanwyck added: “In our Canadian Macedonian community, we need to be united. We need to pool our resources and be more efficient with our dollars. Teamwork is the best way to have our interests served and to have our voices heard.”

Click here to see pictures from CMLC2013.