The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is excited to release this year’s list of Macedonian Diaspora 40 Under 40 Award Recipients. UMD’s initiative 40 under 40 is a celebration of accomplished young Macedonians globally who impact their respective communities and professions.
The Award spotlights professionals in various fields and business sectors, including technology, business, real estate, medicine, finance, teaching, arts, law, and government. With this year’s list, UMD has recognized 240 individuals around the world to date.
“For over a century, Macedonians have been leaving our homeland for a better life. Our people are hard-working and are leaving a mark on society. It is only appropriate that UMD recognize our own as role models in their respective communities as well as for future generations of Macedonians,” said Argie Bellio, UMD Board Member and 40 Under 40 Coordinator.
“On behalf of the UMD Board, I congratulate all of our 40 recipients this year and look forward to engaging them in the future to benefit the Macedonian community-at-large,” concluded Bellio.
As in previous years, UMD will release the Macedonian Diaspora 40 Under 40 List in groups of 10 weekly. For media interviews with any of the recipients, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submit your nominations for next year’s list HERE.
Please join the UMD community in congratulating our first ten UMD Macedonian Diaspora 40 Under 40 Award Winners!
THE FIRST TEN OF FORTY HONOREES
Edward Nickoloff, Jr.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS GROUP OF HONOREES:
Darko Bozhinoski is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Cognitive Robotics, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands. His research interests include software engineering, formal methods, swarm robotics, and self-adaptive systems. In 2017, he received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Gran Sasso Science Institute, Italy. In his Ph.D. thesis, he proposed a formal framework that enables Mobile Multi-Robot systems (MMRSs) to collectively adapt guaranteeing the preservation of safety constraints. In 2020, he received the National Fund for Scientific Research – FNRS funding from Belgium for his work on the verification of robot swarms. Furthermore, in 2020, he was appointed as an external expert by the European Commission in the Sub-Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI), connected products, and other new challenges in product safety to the Consumer Safety Network (CSN). As part of the expert group, he contributes to defining safety for innovative products based on AI.
In the past, he worked on a project sponsored via advanced ERC Consolidator Grant that focuses on the automatic design of robot swarms at IRIDIA, the Artificial Intelligence Lab at ULB, Brussels. In 2016, he received a Fulbright Scholarship that allowed him to spend one year of his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University as a visiting research scholar.
He is personally a big advocate of science communication, especially towards young people. He regularly organizes tech and scientific events where experts from industry and academia are invited to present the latest technological trends. Moreover, he has actively engaged as a European Youth Ambassador in the “European Youth Award.” He contributes by tutoring young entrepreneurs that work on digital projects that address the Millennium Development Goals.
Read more on his scientific work here: http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/~dbozhin/me.html
European Youth Award: https://eu-youthaward.org/person/darko-bozhinoski-2/
It has been an interesting experience to live and work in 5 different countries as a young Macedonian. The perception of what it means to be Macedonian always varied as I moved around. Overall, people knew little about Macedonia but always found it interesting to learn more.
My advice to young Macedonians worldwide would be to embrace who they are, including their heritage. It is the wisdom of the past that shapes your future. Do not take the wisdom of the past generations for granted. After all, a nation without a past is a nation without a present or a future.
All young Macedonians should strive to become an expert in their fields. By doing so, they will increase Macedonia’s visibility worldwide and disseminate Macedonian values, principles, and culture in multinational environments. Do not underestimate the power of your identity as a tool to achieve success. Your Macedonian heritage can play an important part in achieving your goals. Macedonians are known for their persistence and perseverance, unique qualities that we are taught from a young age and that equip us with resilience. As our beloved Macedonian author, Petre M. Andreevski, said in his book Pirey: “And yet Macedonians are like couch grass. No matter how hard you try to destroy it, it always finds a way to survive and thrive.”
Kristina Ivanovska Kleber is a thirty-one-year-old ambitious leader in healthcare with many years of experience in administration and analytics.
She was born and raised in beautiful Bitola – Gradot na Konzulite – for the first ten years of her life and later immigrated to Indiana, where her parents have provided a wonderful life for her and her sister. She received her undergrad from the Indiana University-Purdue University of Fort Wayne and her Masters of Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. She is currently in Healthcare Management and overseeing operations and strategy for a rapidly expanding specialty medical office. Kristina currently resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband Joseph, their 8-month-old son Aleksander and her three dogs, Bella, Loki, and Milo.
From a very young age, my parents taught me the value of respect, dedication, and dignity. Because of my Macedonian heritage, I am who I am today. My heritage has affected my life in knowing that I want to help others no matter where they come from. Healthcare in Macedonia is not as advanced as it is in the United States, so for that reason, I want to be a part of an organization (Parkview Health) that provides the best care in our region – since I know how it is not to have these services available to those in need.
I am proud to be a Macedonian because of our religious beliefs, the value of family, and being born in a beautiful country. I can also share that where I come from is an area that has been talked about in the Bible and share pictures of our beautiful country with others.
For the future – Mali Makedonci – and our younger generation: Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something, listen to your parents – most of the time, they are right. Stay true to your passion and what sets your soul on fire, treat everyone how you would treat your parents and grandparents, love everyone – no matter where they come from, visit Macedonia as much as possible. Moreover, learn how to cook/bake from your Baba!
Emelia Jackson was born in Melbourne, Australia, and has loved baking and food for as long as she can remember. Her cooking skills were put to the ultimate test in 2014 when she appeared as a contestant on season six of Masterchef Australia. She studied hard, practiced constantly, and learned a lot from some of the best professional chefs in the business and the talented contestants cooking alongside her. Since then, she has opened her cake business and reappeared on MasterChef Back to Win. She won the title in July 2020 and has since written her first cookbook – a baking bible and gave birth to her first baby: Adelyn Faye, named after her beloved Baba, Fani.
My Macedonian heritage has always been a great source of pride for me. My grandparents are from Lenin, and my aunties now live in Bitola and Skopje. I have always been so passionate about food, so much so that I have carved out a career in the food industry for myself, and much of that comes from my passionate upbringing by my Baba centered around food. My Baba was one of the great loves of my life; she was fierce, intelligent, passionate, loving, and supportive. She was a proud Macedonian woman who I admired greatly.
Macedonian culture, for me, is centered around the importance of family, and I love that. My advice to the next generation of young Macedonians? Embrace the culture, learn the language, eat the food, connect with your heritage.
Viktor Jakovleski was born in Berlin in 1983. He attended the German Film and Television Academy, has spent time as a personal assistant on Hollywood productions filmed in Berlin, and worked with Benh Zeitlin as a co-producer and assistant director on the short film Glory at Sea! (2008). He is a producer of the German feature, LenaLove, which opened in select theatres in 2016. His documentary feature Brimstone & Glory was produced with the Court 13 collective (Beasts of the Southern Wild). In 2015, Viktor was voted one of 25 “New Faces of Independent Film” by the prestigious Filmmaker Magazine. Currently, he is working on a feature film and TV series project, both located in Berlin, Germany.
Being of Macedonian heritage but growing up in Germany combines two different characteristics in my mentality. The German way is to be organized, structured, practical, whereas I identify my Macedonian side with temperament, passion, and the lust for adventurism and travel. I try to profit from both where need be—being Macedonian means to be proud of your national identity without necessarily being a right-wing nationalist.
I love Macedonian food, wine, homemade rakija, music, and the landscape and mountains. I’m proud that Macedonia has, although being geographically small, so much identity in the fields of history and culture. Macedonian weddings, especially the “Galicka Svadba” in the village of Galicnik in the mountains, are particularly special and unique – nothing like any German wedding I’ve been to. The traditional costumes, instruments, and dances are staggeringly beautiful, and my blood always starts boiling when I hear and feel it.
Traveling to Macedonia at least once per year, I noticed that many young Macedonians feel the urge to leave the country in the hope of finding a better monetary life situation. On the one hand, I deeply understand this fact, and on the other, I would urge young Macedonians to be patient and wait for what the next years will bring. I feel that change is near and that Macedonia will soon develop positively and thrive to become the prosperous pearl of the Balkans that it has been destined to be. Especially to the artist, I’d say: Look inward! The example of the success of Macedonian films like HONEYLAND or SECRET INGREDIENT is proof that immense value and beauty can be found this way.
Tina Kaye is 35 years old, and she currently resides in Toronto, although her family originates from Lerin (current day Florina in northern Greece). She has extensive experience litigating matters on behalf of her clients, and her passion for litigation started straight out of law school. Kaye graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 2010, was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2011, and to the Ontario Bar in 2012. Once admitted to the Ontario Bar, she started her own criminal defense law practice, gaining tremendous litigation experience. She has appeared before the Ontario Court of Justice, the Superior Court of Justice, and the Court of Appeal for Ontario. From there, she joined Miller Thomson LLP on their commercial litigation team.
Being Macedonian, I have found that the heritage has impacted my life and profession by teaching me how important it is to work hard. Not only to work hard and put the time in, but to practice perseverance when times get tough. Hearing stories my grandparents tell me, and the struggles they faced was inspiring because they never once gave up and continued to work hard to achieve their dreams.
I am most proud to be Macedonian because of the determination I find in so many of my fellow Macedonians. There is a general theme of perseverance, and it is an invaluable tool when faced with obstacles.
My advice for the next generation of young Macedonians is to continue to pursue your dream. You can do it, despite feeling that you are not capable. Put in the hard work, and it will pay off.
Max Lewis is a music producer and audio engineer from Columbus, Ohio. He has worked extensively in the music industry for well over a decade as owner and operator of a commercial recording studio, touring musician, and composer for films and television. He currently works out of his home base in Denver, Colorado, where he is a digital literacy instructor for middle and high school classes when he isn’t working on music or multimedia projects.
I have made my heritage no secret when it comes to my life and profession. My handle on most social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is ‘Maxedonia,’ and I like to use the color scheme and part of the flag and Vergina Sun in my social media presence. My grandfather (Pandel Savic) is the source of most of my exposure to Macedonian culture and my Macedonian pride. He not only was a great example of the American dream (first generation, WWII veteran, an accomplished athlete, and entrepreneur) but also exposed me to cultural traditions, and I would like to honor that anyway I can. Even if it means making my future bride-to-be put bread underneath her arms on our wedding day!
My advice for the next generation of young Macedonians is never to lose sight of where you came from because it will help you walk more bravely into the unknown.
Dejan Miloshevski is 35 years old and was born in Kichevo, Macedonia, just like his parents. Dejan’s grandmother on his dad’s side, Darinka, was born in the small but very beautiful village of Belica, and his grandfather, Milosh, was born in the village of Karbunica. His grandparents on his mom’s side, Sinadinka was born in Dobrenoec, and his grandfather Branko was born in Staroec. These villages are located close to Dejan’s hometown of Kichevo. He is very proud of his Grandpa Milos, who was a craftsman, making wooden carts with his own hands. He was very respected in the town because of his hard work and willingness to help everybody. Miloshevski’s parents (Aco and Indira) taught him a powerful lesson: always to give his best, to work hard, and never to give up until he achieves his goals.
Miloshevski started his karate journey in 1996 in Kichevo. His discipline, motivation, hard work, and most of all, the support from his family resulted in his becoming a member of the Macedonian national team for more than ten years, where he was a ten-time national champion and represented Macedonia on the highest level at official karate competitions around the world. 2013 was the most successful year for him. He won the gold medal at the National Championship, became a regional karate referee, and successfully gained the title of European karate judge at the end of the year. All of this he owns to his family. In addition to his huge success, he has also finished his MBA degree the same year.
I am very proud to be the first competitor ever in Macedonia with this level of success and the youngest European karate judge (23 years old) in Europe. In 2018, I gained the title of World karate judge, and at the end of the year, I moved to Chicago, USA. This year I won a gold and bronze medal at the USA Karate National Championship. I also opened my company Miloshevski Martial Arts where I work as a head karate instructor and share my passion for karate. My advice to Macedonian youth is that nothing is impossible, believe in yourself, be brave to make a difference in this world, and never give up on your dreams.
Edward Nickoloff Jr., 32
Roots from Prilep, Macedonia
Edward Lee Nickoloff, Jr. was born in Orangeburg, New York, USA, just outside New York City. His Macedonian roots come from his paternal grandfather Boris and his great grandparents, who immigrated from Prilep to the USA. Edward’s father, Dr. Edward, Sr., and mother Diane preached education to him, and his sister, Andrea. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Business Administration and Management in 2011, he then went on to complete three Master’s degrees. These include an M.S. in Sport & Entertainment Management and an M.B.A. in Sports Business from the University of South Florida in 2014, and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University in 2018. He played club Ice Hockey and Roller Hockey throughout college and graduate school and was named an ACHA M3 Academic All-American in 2010. His passion for sports led to a career in sports business.
Starting with an internship in Minor League Baseball with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, he then went on to work for the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League (for which Macedonian-Canadian star Steven Stamkos plays) for two years in video production and game presentation. Next, he took a position as an Operations Coordinator for the Women’s Tennis Association headquarters. He then spent one year with the Miami HEAT of the National Basketball Association as an Event Coordinator. After this, he returned home to New York and worked for the Columbia University Athletic Department for four years as the Director of Athletic Events. His father, Dr. Edward, Sr., worked for Columbia University for 33 years as an Emeritus Professor of Radiology and Chief Hospital Physicist.
After following his Serbian wife Katarina to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 2019, he started working for the City of Brampton Government as the Recreation Supervisor for Sports & Community Partnerships. In this role, he oversees a team that schedules and rents out the City’s sports facilities, liaises with the City’s sports organizations, manages policies and procedures, and works to grow and improve the level of sports programming for one of the largest cities in Canada. Edward and Katarina welcomed baby Anastasija Elena Nickoloff on August 1, 2020.
Growing up, I saw how proud my father was to be Macedonian. He taught me that Macedonian’s were tough, strong, smart, and great leaders like Alexander the Great. As I got older, I started to appreciate my heritage more and more. I strive to become a Macedonian leader that other young Macedonians can look up to.
I am most proud of how close the Macedonian community is. There is a large Macedonian community here in Toronto. In the Summer of 2019, I joined the Macedonian Hockey League, an amateur hockey association with mostly Macedonian-Canadians who have been playing together for years. I was welcomed like family from the beginning, and I look forward to becoming closer to this community over time.
My advice to the next generation of young Macedonians is to take pride in your heritage and continue learning about your history and culture.
Meri Petkovska has a deep Macedonian background as her parents, Roza and Stanoje Manchikj, are from Kumanovo, Macedonia, where they still reside. She has a younger brother, Tomislav, who lives with his wife, Kristina, in Kumanovo. She lived in her native town up until the age of 24. She attended Brakja Miladinovci Elementary School and Goce Delchev High School.
Upon completing high school, she studied English Language and Literature at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. Soon after her graduation, she and her husband received the US Green Card and immigrated to the US. In 2011, she graduated with her Master of Arts degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. In 2018, she decided to go back to school and get her NJ state teaching license to teach at NJ public schools. She completed the Alternate Route Program at Rutgers University and 15 additional graduate credits at The College of New Jersey to receive her NJ Standard Certificate in ESL and Bilingual Education. Currently, Meri works as an ELL English Teacher at Dover High School in Dover, New Jersey. Previously, she worked as an ESL Instructional Specialist at ELS Language Centers at Fairleigh Dickinson University, William Paterson University, Caldwell College, and The County College of Morris. She was also the Academic Director of the language program at ELS Language Centers at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, and the Principal of the Apple Montessori Elementary School in Wayne, NJ. During her professional career in the US, she has received the Award for Excellence in Teaching, created the NIKE Camps/ELS curriculum, and worked as the TESOL Conference Proposal Reviewer.
In addition, she developed teacher training materials, worked as the speaking and writing IELTS examiner, worked as a Macedonian-English court interpreter, and served as the Technology Liaison and WIDA Screener Coordinator at Dover High School. She also worked as a Macedonian teacher and assisted with the Kids Club activities at St. Nikola Church in Totowa, NJ. Teaching is Meri’s passion. She loves helping her students achieve their academic goals. She has devoted her whole life to bilingual education and promoting her students’ cultural heritage. She is an advocate for all her students with special needs to reach their full potential. She resides in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, with her wonderful husband, Zoran, her two amazing children, Luka and Eva, and their puppy, Duke.
My Macedonian heritage has had a profound impact on my life and profession. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an amazing town with historical significance. My husband and I both come from the same town and share the same cultural values. Being resilient and hard-working are appraised by all Macedonians throughout our history. Hence, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
I am profoundly proud of our Macedonian language and rich history. I proudly represent our language and history everywhere I go. I grew up valuing our Orthodox Christian traditions. Our Macedonian family and friendships are very important to us, and we have maintained close relationships with all of them.
Remembering your cultural inheritance is a very important part of who you are as a person. I would advise the next generation of Macedonian-Americans to strive for greatness and give back to our community.
Jonathon Stoyanovski, 31
Roots from Selo Lavci Resen, Macedonia
As a third-generation Macedonian-Canadian, Stoyanovski is proud of his family’s origin from Selo Lavci, Resen, Macedonia. Having a background in business and finance has pushed Stoyanovski to excel in his role as an Investment Advisor with Southlake Wealth & Estate Group. Active within the Macedonian community and investing in himself, Jonathon has allowed his family-oriented roots to be a key factor in shaping him into an entrepreneur thus far. Having strong determination and integrity allows him always to create the right path for his network of a risk-return concept rendering financial success.
Our strong culture and community have added intrinsic value, providing important social and economic benefits. The added value of culture will attribute social beliefs, customs, and traditions, ultimately shaping our behaviors and understanding. This is why I will always look back at my family’s history to strive for success. I encourage all Macedonians to embrace their unique heritage as a foundation upon which to build their personal and professional networks. Our culture will encompass the set of moral values and language defining who we are as Macedonians.
Submit your nominations for next year’s list HERE.