I remember sitting down with Meto Koloski in August of 2004 in a hotel restaurant in New York City and listening as he explained his vision for an organization of the Macedonian Diaspora that would give a voice and a platform to Macedonians around the world so that they could encourage, engage and educate. I thought him rather young, then, to be embarking on such an ambitious plan and having been involved in non- governmental organizations and knowing what it would take to build such an organization, I thought he would achieve some modest, if not limited success. Ten years later, however, his vision has become a very real, very vibrant and very active organization – the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD). I don’t know if Meto is surprised by what UMD has accomplished and how successful it has become, but it is a testament and a tribute to his original vision that it now celebrates ten successful years.
Many talented people, of course, worked to achieve this vision. And it is their collective work that has helped the UMD to realize unprecedented success. The UMD now spans the globe – literally – with members and activities in North America, Europe, Australia and their expansion has not stopped there. Wherever the Macedonian Diaspora lives and works, the UMD is either there – or soon will be.
The UMD lists its objectives and policy issues on its website and in its annual reports, but I want to share how I see UMD and what I believe it means today.
The UMD works to encourage Macedonians and their friends – both outside and inside Macedonia. They do this by providing a network of individuals around the world who have a love and a passion for Macedonia and her people, who want to see Macedonia succeed – not simply survive. That network of UMD members, friends and allies serves to provide mutual encouragement along the road as we work to make Macedonia successful.
UMD works to engage Macedonians and their friends – again, both outside and inside Macedonia. They do this through charitable events, raising money for worthy causes like orphanages. They do this through cultural events, focusing on Macedonian art, music, food, sports and language. In all of their activities, they bring together Macedonians and non-Macedonians and get them involved in spreading the good news about Macedonia and its place in history and among the family of nations.
Finally, UMD works to educate non-Macedonians about Macedonia, the Macedonian people and the rich history, culture and customs of Macedonia. UMD also advocates for Macedonia at the policy level by holding educational events and conferences and producing publications that tell the truth about Macedonia. UMD speaks to both elected and unelected policy makers, advocating for Macedonia’s name and identity, place at the table in NATO, and in countless other areas and arenas where Macedonia benefits from the help and support of its friends and allies outside of Macedonia.
Over the course of ten years, UMD has grown and developed into the organization it is today. From humble beginnings to now having a full-time office in both Washington, DC and Toronto, UMD has expanded its presence to now have official representatives throughout Europe, Australia, and North America. At the same time UMD has forged close partnerships with other Diaspora groups, finding further strength in these alliances.
Finally, UMD has been active in the homeland – the Republic of Macedonia. It has held educational conferences, given assistance to the needy, brought policy makers into the country and conducted a number of other activities and events that directly benefit Macedonia. All of the work UMD has engaged in along the way – whether in Macedonia or around the world – has been done for one simple fact: a genuine love and appreciation for Macedonia.
Of course there have been many battles fought along the way – and there will continue to be battles. Macedonia secured its independence and freedom on September 8, 1991 but that independence and freedom must never be taken for granted because both are something that must be continually fought for and defended from generation to generation. And that is why the UMD is needed and will continue to be needed now and into the future, standing firm with Macedonia.
This month the UMD celebrates its ten year anniversary with a very special evening in Washington, DC, (click HERE for tickets) which I will be attending along with hundreds of others. Looking back ten years to that meeting in New York City, I never thought I would be attending the UMD’s 10th anniversary and I never thought I would be writing a column dedicated to extolling its successes. But I’m very pleased that ten years later, I have that opportunity.
I am proud of Meto and the many men and women who have worked to make the UMD the premier Macedonian Diaspora organization in the world today. The contributions they have made to Macedonia will continue to build a strong, healthy and vibrant Macedonia for years to come and I look forward to making the journey with them.
Join UMD and support Macedonian causes worldwide today. Click HERE.