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 second ten UMD Macedonian Diaspora 40 Under 40 Award Winners!
THE SECOND TEN OF FORTY HONOREES
DAKI (JORDANKA) STANOJKOVA
Click HERE for last week’s ten recipients in case you missed the announcement.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS GROUP OF HONOREES:
Dr. Denis Aljush, 31
Roots from Skopje, Macedonia
School in Skopje and, in 2008, earned his degree as a General Nurse. That same year, Aljush started his studies in medicine and surgery at the University of Goce Delchev in Shtip. He was awarded a scholarship from the European Union as a part of the Erasmus Programme in 2012. Aljush studied in the EU as the first non-European student to represent Macedonia at the State Medical University in Sofia, Bulgaria. Aljush graduated from State Medical University in 2014 as a Medical Doctor. In 2017, Aljush started a Master of Science in Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Malta. He graduated in 2020, getting a higher title from the University of Malta.
As the son of the very famous Yugoslavian Model Marija Jovanovska, Aljush launched his first fashion blog in 2008 once he started getting deep into fashion observations. He began writing fashion articles for local newspapers and magazines. Aljush won the title of Mister Macedonia that same year. He competed in Mister Model International in Mexico, bringing Macedonia the best result to date. Aljush placed in the top 5 contestants that year. After this success, he started being a constant guest in many fashion shows and international fashion weeks. These included New York fashion week, Milan, London, and Paris fashion weeks. Aljush was accredited as a fashion international blogger and influencer. In 2014, Aljush moved to Malta, continuing to work in the fashion industry. He launched a new fashion blog as one of the most present and controversial models and bloggers in the fashion industry in Malta.
Since September of 2017, Aljush became an official member of Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana and Milan Fashion Week. He is, to date, the only blogger in Malta that had the chance to work on all four global fashion weeks.
In 2017, he started working on his fashion brand and continuing to contribute to the industry as a blogger and model. Aljush launched his first collection in 2019. He premiered his women’s swimwear line named SPARKLING. This collection brought him a lot of success in Europe and America. SPARKLING also led him to participate in the Fashion World Expo in Hong Kong later this year.
After releasing his first collection, he won the title of best male fashion blogger of the year. Dr. Aljush also started judging a reality show for models in Malta and still stars as a judge to date. In 2020, Aljush launched his second collection MARRAKECH with massive success in Malta, Europe, and America. He also participated as the first Macedonian in the Supra Star Search modeling competition. Aljush brought Macedonia the 3rd place that earned him a spot in the final of Mister Supranational. He officially represented Macedonia in the first Mister Supranational competition in Poland. Aljush was a semifinalist at the talent competition and was twice in the top 10 contestants for the influencers challenge.
Aljush currently holds the title of Mister Macedonia for the 2021 year. In December, Aljush will release his first wedding collection, MARIJA, dedicated to his mother.
To be of Macedonian heritage always helped me a lot as we are coming from a country where education is very high and valuable, especially to students with ambitions that want to succeed outside Macedonia.
I am always proud to be Macedonian, as all Macedonians are proud of our small, beautifully unique country. Whenever I have the chance, I always talk about our beautiful country, trying to describe it in the best way possible to all the people that have never heard of it. There are many Macedonian history highlights, such as Alexander the Great, Mother Teresa, our sport, and ancient history.
My advice to the young Macedonians is that they should always stand proud of our country as whatever they do and wherever they go, the bond with their country will keep their soul warm. As well it will always bring memories and pleasant emotions reminding them of their mother country Macedonia.
Thomas Angelidis, 38
Roots from Lerin, Macedonia
Thomas Angelidis is a third-generation Canadian-Macedonian, born and raised in Toronto, Canada, to Alex and Susan Angelidis with grandparents from the Lerin region of Macedonia. His Paternal Grandparents, Goce and Evanka Angelidis (Angelevski), descend from Armensko/Bouf, and his Maternal Grandparents, Dimitri and Tomka Sersta, are from Nevoleny/Lerin.
He graduated from York University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration, Angelidis received honors in Marketing and Sports Administration. Angelidis has spent the last thirteen years as a Sales and Marketing professional in the Entertainment and Sports industries. Having grown up with a strong passion for sport and a keen interest in business, he began his career at Nike Canada, eventually working at the Canadian Football League as the Director of Licensing.
Much of his career has been spent at one of Canada’s fastest-growing and most exciting business stories over the last decade, Spin Master. Spin Master is a leading global Children’s Entertainment and Toy company and one of the largest globally that has brought to market such hits as Paw Patrol and Hatchimals. Angelidis currently holds the role of Senior Director, eCommerce US Sales, managing a high-performing team that delivers revenue above nine digits. He specializes in and leads the commercial planning process in the eCommerce channel working with major online retailers in the United States such as Amazon, Walmart.com, and Target.com. With his team, Angelidis has catapulted the volume of online business through these channels by effectively tailoring product development, supply chain, and other business strategies to meet the needs of the online consumer.
Angelidis grew up in a traditional Macedonian home rooted in strong family values and a determined work ethic. Through his father and mother, high importance has always been placed on an unrelenting family support system that means supporting each other in all endeavors. Over the last decade, alongside his brother and sister, Angelidis assisted his father and mother in their entrepreneurship journey with the start of Aqua Ice, a packaged ice and dry ice company in Toronto in 2008. With the enjoyment of business strategy, Angelidis has been a key contributor to the family business from its inception, assisting in its growth and becoming a thriving business succeeding in a volatile business environment through the current pandemic. This family business accomplishment is typical of many Macedonian families and a source of pride in using traditional Macedonian values to create opportunities, persevere and work together with tenacity and spirit.
Angelidis currently resides in Toronto with his wife, Karina, a first-generation Canadian (immigrated from Venezuela) who has strongly embraced his Macedonian heritage and with their four-year-old daughter, Mila, who is a big fan of Macedonian music, dance, and Zelnik.
My Macedonian heritage is a significant element of my identity and has profoundly influenced my personal and professional life. The most significant impact can be distilled down to creating a solid recognition and value in diversity and minority rights and being infused in a culture that has a determined work ethic and the strength to persevere.
The complex nature of our Macedonian history, including the oppression of our language, culture, and the hardships that have endured the Macedonian people, have impacted my understanding of the world and life in general. For one, the interpretation of history, how it is told, perceived, and understood from multiple perspectives, has impacted how I view current events and geopolitics. All of this has given me a strong appreciation and respect for different cultures while also instilling empathy and a high value on the importance of protecting minority rights. I am grateful that my grandparents chose Canada, where my Macedonian heritage has been respected and celebrated as part of my identity. Appreciating, respecting, and celebrating diversity and culture has been a core tenet of my business leadership as I work with people from around the world with diverse experiences and cultures.
Through the challenges and the sacrifices my grandparents and parents have made, it has instilled a strong work ethic, a determination to persevere, and a motivation to continue to build for the next generation while passing on our Macedonian heritage. This spirit is exemplified through the many successes that Canadian-Macedonians have achieved in Toronto and around the world, creating our own opportunities, building thriving communities, and having successful lives in many ways. This has always served as a great motivator and something to be proud of.
I had the opportunity to visit Macedonia in 2008, exploring the Lerin region, Bitola, Ohrid, and Skopje. Seeing first-hand the rich, unique, and beautiful culture and history we share was an incredible experience. I am proud of our perseverance as a people to protect and celebrate our identity. I am proud of the strong values that we have that are rooted in family and tradition. There are so many beautiful traditions and components of our culture, but the one area that I love the most is the music and dance. Growing up in a traditional Macedonian home, Macedonian folk music was consistently on the playlist from Aleksandar Sarievski to Vaska Ilieva. A fond memory of my Macedonian experience is having Vaska Ilieva stay at our home on one of her trips to Canada, attempting to teach my brother and me Macedonian songs. My siblings and I also were involved in Macedonian dance at a young age, and to this day, we all love being on the dance floor at Macedonian events. The Teshkoto is my favorite dance, and the Aleksandar Sarievski version of Zajko Kokorajko is my favorite Macedonian song.
Never lose sight of your Macedonian heritage; cherish it and pass it down. We are a big community around the world with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds professionally. Lean on that community and reach out in any way for advice and support in any endeavors you pursue. As Macedonians, we have a strong willingness to help each other succeed. And take a trip to Macedonia to see your roots!
Dr. Thomas M. Bebekoski, 29
Roots from Bitola and Vevcani, Macedonia
Thomas Bebekoski graduated from Indiana University in 2015 with the highest distinction with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Bachelor of Arts in French. He was also involved in the honor society of Phi Beta Kappa. While attending Indiana University, he was awarded a Founders Scholar for maintaining over a 3.8 cumulative grade point average every semester. Indiana University also named Bebekoski a Grace P. Young Undergraduate Scholar in French for his exemplary academic work as a student of French.
After his undergraduate Bebekoski continued his education at Oakland University, receiving his Doctorate in Medicine. While attending Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, he also volunteered to provide tours of Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak and the Oakland University campus to prospective medical students and their families during interview days; answered questions in student panels to individuals applying for admission. Bebekoski completed his residency at the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in the Emergency Medicine Residency Program to further his medical profession.
Bebekoski currently serves as a Resident Physician through Michigan State University in the College of Osteopathic Medicine out of the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital. He has continued to impact the medical field with his capstone study of the relationship between consultations placed to Infectious Diseases for therapy given multiple antibiotic allergies and diagnoses associated with a preponderance of somatic complaint. Along with his research, Bebekoski has co-authored many publications that have been featured in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice. Bebekoski also had the honor of presenting at The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology / World Allergy Organization Annual Conference.
Bebekoski founded a pulmonology interest group and a “Breather’s Club,” a program for Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students to shadow the pulmonary rehabilitation of chronically ill respiratory patients alongside respiratory therapists and further explore interest in pursuing a career in pulmonology. He also coordinated student and faculty acts for the annual Pediatric Interest Group Roast Show, a fundraiser benefiting a local community organization, CARE House of Oakland County. Bebekoski served as the Treasurer of the Pediatric Interest Group, creating twelve budgets for annual events, organizing physician panels and volunteer initiatives in Beaumont Children’s Hospital, and liaising with Medical Student Government for grant applications and other financially related matters. His chapter was presented with The American Academy of Pediatrics “Chapter of the Year” Award during his tenure on Executive Board. Bebekoski participated in lectures and forums with addiction psychiatrists and recovering addicts, aided in the care of individuals with addiction, observed methods of recovery such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and networked with other American and Canadian medical students. He also facilitated a Journal Club, reading, and discussion on “Addiction in the Medical Profession” upon returning from Betty Ford to share his experiences and teachings with Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students and faculty.
Among his vast professional and educational experience, Bebekoski also volunteers with various organizations, including the Beaumont Children’s Hospital. He participated in the annual events “Silent Disco PJ Party,” “Getting Your Kid On – Extra Life Fundraiser,” and “Teddy Bear Clinic” to fundraise for and engage with hospitalized pediatric patients. At the COMPASS Center for Community Engagement Volunteers, Bebekoski volunteered for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Advocacy Tables at Chandler Park Academy Schools, the American Lung Association “Fight for Air Climb,” and Avondale High School’s “Teach Biology” Program. Bebekoski also volunteered and assisted in various office duties, such as communicating with general adult foster care facilities for openings, preparing consumer’s intake history to be sent to local hospitals/physicians for their concomitant medical history, preparing consumer’s medical records, and contacting clients to inquire about the continuation of services with Easterseals. Easterseals is an American nonprofit providing disability services, with additional support areas serving veterans and military families, seniors, and caregivers.
Bebekoski has a vast knowledge and understanding of English, Serbian, French, and Macedonian. This has allowed him to volunteer as a Translator and Global Health Initiative Liaison at the Henry Ford Health System’s Global Initiative. He assisted by translating English, and French lectures and presentations shared between Henry Ford Hospital and Université Quisqueya École de Médecine (Port-au-Prince, Haiti). Bebekoski also facilitated a panel of Haitian medical students presenting their backgrounds, research, and methodology of learning to Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine students.
After being nominated by classmates, Bebekoski was inducted into the national society of physicians and medical students as a Gold Humanism Honor Society Member. He was also invited to share his capstone research to the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine community and was announced as a Dean’s Choice Award Finalist.
To read more about his research and publications, follow these links:
I have been blessed with having had both personal and professional relationships with other Macedonian-Americans and Macedonian citizens, who have enriched my life in innumerable ways. As a Resident Physician, I frequently encounter patients of Macedonian heritage in the hospital where I work, many of whom are elderly, ill, and do not have the ability to converse in English comfortably and adequately. Being able to speak in Macedonian affords me the ability to talk with them more easily, provide and obtain accurate information, which is vital to my work, and provide assistance to these patients, representing myself as a steward of goodwill through my ethnicity.
I am most proud to be Macedonian because of our unique history and ancestry. Our many monuments, churches, fortresses, and beautiful landscapes stand testaments to the fact that our ancestry is rich with culture, art, music, and history. No matter where one goes in Macedonia, one can learn exciting facts about centuries-old places.
Travel, learn the language, and keep in contact with your family! Appreciate the history, music, and food that render us as Macedonians unique!
Samer Faza, 34
Roots from Strumica, Macedonia
Samer Faza was born in 1986 in Skopje, where his family lived for a few more years, and then out of fear of the Yugoslav war spilling over to Macedonia, moved to Jordan in 1989. Upon finishing elementary school, his family realized that Macedonia was safe, so we returned. He completed four years of school in Strumica, the last two of which were in the Public High School “Jane Sandanski” in Strumica.
He is a product of a multicultural background of Macedonian and Palestinian origins. His father, Zuhair, is Jordanian with Palestinian roots, and his mother, Ana, is Macedonian born and raised in Strumica. Faza graduated from the Faculty of Engineering & Technology at The University of Jordan with a Mechatronics Engineering degree. Currently, he is working in the Hospitality industry as Director of Revenue at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts in London, UK.
Faza completed his high school education in the College De La Salle – Freres in Amman, Jordan, and further continued his education at the University of Jordan in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, majoring in Mechatronics Engineering.
During his university life in Amman, it was very obvious to him at that time that the majority of Jordanian society had no clue where Macedonia was and if the country existed. Faza took the challenge to educate his fellow students by participating in student fairs for international students with a booth representing Macedonia with very minimal resources. He received support from the Macedonian embassy, based in Ankara, Turkey, and from UMD, his first interaction and communication with the current UMD President, Metodija Koloski.
Upon graduating, Faza soon realized that his passion is not in the engineering world but traveling and working in a multicultural atmosphere. That enabled him to receive a scholarship from the University of Lund in Sweden to complete six months of Exchange program and a certificate for participation in Middle Eastern Studies and Modern Greek Language for which he was increasingly curious in light of the Macedonian Greek dispute over the name, identity, and language of the Macedonian people.
Faza started his career in Jordan in the national airline Royal Jordanian in the planning department as a Revenue analyst. That position has combined his passion for travel and tourism and the analytical skills that he developed during his engineering years of study. He worked at Royal Jordanian for three years before Faza finally found a position in Four Seasons Hotel Amman in Jordan. His job was as Revenue Manager, in which he was in charge of the revenue management department within the Sales & Marketing division.
During his five years of work at Four Seasons Hotel Amman, Faza was trusted with several projects, including a three-month task force project with Four Seasons Hotel Beirut in 2015, a six-month opening project of Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait in 2017, and finally, a two-year opening project of Four Seasons Hotel Tunis which was completed in Early 2019.
During these years, Faza was promoted to Director of Revenue Management in recognition of his many contributions to the company and successfully becoming Revenue Management certified by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Upon completing his years with Four Seasons Amman, he had been trusted by the company to transfer to London and build on his experience to support the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square in March 2019, a position that Faza presently holds.
Faza nominated himself for the 40 under 40 program because he believes he is a true ambassador of the Macedonian culture in the Middle East in general and Jordan, precisely at a time when not many people knew the story of Macedonia and the struggle for independence.
During his life away from Macedonia, Faza has regularly visited his birthplace Skopje and his home in Strumica, during which he has maintained close relationships with his friends and relatives in Macedonia. In August 2012, Faza participated in President Ivanov School for Young Leaders, which further increased his love for Macedonia and enabled him to actively follow his country’s progress and, hopefully, go back home someday and work in Macedonia.
I am a product of a multicultural background of Macedonian and Palestinian origins. My father, Zuhair, is Jordanian with Palestinian roots, and his mother, Ana, is Macedonian born and raised in Strumica. They met during my father’s studies in Skopje in the 1970s, creating the beginning of my journey.
My Macedonian background has enabled me to regularly travel between Jordan and Macedonia and thus fall in love with traveling and tourism to promote and cherish my culture and background. I am most proud of the Macedonian music & dance with its 7/8 time signature, which is in our DNA and is recognizable worldwide.
My advice for the next generation of Macedonians is always to come home and enjoy the beauty, nature, and culture and potentially help highlight our uniqueness and peacefulness in a region filled with irredentism.
Dr. Stefan Ignatovski, 33
Roots from Oreshe, Chashka, and Kriva Krusha, Macedonia
Mr. Ignatovski was born and raised in Macedonia. Although he was born and lived in Skopje, his ancestors originate from the Veles region, specifically Oreshe, Chashka, and Kriva Krusha. He emigrated to the United States as a teenager.
He completed his elementary education at OU Dimitar Miladinov and his high school education at SUGS Rade Jovchevski Korchagin in Macedonia. Ignatovski obtained his entire higher education in the United States and completed his bachelor’s degree in Accounting, his master’s degree in Accounting Forensics, and his Ph.D. in Finance. He worked as an accounting professor in several colleges and universities in the United States. Currently, Ignatovski is a tenured accounting professor at the Los Angeles Pierce College.
As an educator, Ignatovski implemented innovative techniques in education, accompanied by an integration of the latest technology. On several occasions, he has been voted and elected as the Professor of the Year. Additionally, Ignatovski is an entrepreneur, a published author of a very rare digital and interactive accounting textbook, and a volunteer in his community.
My Macedonian heritage has played a significant role in my life and my accomplishments. The passionate, persistent, and hard-working nature we have as Macedonians shaped me into the ambitious person I am today. As shown in our history, there isn’t a challenge we cannot overcome. It is also essential to note the diversity, friendliness, and open-mindedness of Macedonians. We love to be surrounded by our family, friends, and community, and we are always willing to help those in need. We value diversity and quality education immensely, and that is exactly how I am as an educator today. The Macedonian values taught me to respect, love, and help others.
I am most proud to be Macedonian because even though we are scattered across the globe, we manage to find ourselves, get to know each other, help each other, and never forget where we came from. I am most proud that, generation after generation, we still manage to preserve our culture, including our Macedonian language, Macedonian folk dances, Macedonian music, and Macedonian food.
My advice to the next generation of young Macedonians is to be curious, think differently, and not be afraid to fail. Never forget our culture, our values, who we are, and where we come from. As a Macedonian, you know how to persevere.
Oliver Janevski, 40
Roots from Skopje, Macedonia
Dr. Oliver Janevski was born in 1980 in Skopje. He went to Rade Jovcevski Korcagin high school with a focus on Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Janevski spent his summers in Gradsko, working on the family farms. He continued his education at the Faculty for Veterinary Sciences in Skopje. During that time, he applied and was awarded a one-year Fulbright Scholarship at the Dairy Science Department, South Dakota State University, in 2007. After the year spent, Janevski was awarded a full scholarship for graduate studies.
Janevski worked on various projects during his graduate studies, including a salt reduction in American cheese, cheese bacteria exopolysaccharides functionality as prebiotics, and probiotics in the human body. Janevski was trained and won a national championship for the evaluation of dairy products quality. Occasionally, he serves as a butter judge for the collegiate competition that happens every year.
After his graduation in 2011, Janevski started working for Leprino Foods Company, the largest mozzarella producer in the world. He has been in various roles, and he is embarking on a special assignment in Ireland where we will start a new cheese factory worth over $115 mm. Janevski was part of the team that developed a new cheese-making process in Denver, CO, and he will be in charge of commissioning and personnel training in the newest facility. He is also happily married and has three beautiful children. Janevski has since relocated to Ireland with his family, where he is working to further his career.
I grew up in economic hardship and understood at a young age that education and hard work is a very powerful tool for success. My parents and grandparents taught me to work very hard, and the most important thing that has shaped my career is that they taught me to respect everyone, especially the elders. My interaction with people today opens every door, and I owe that to the Macedonian upbringing.
The world is a melting pot; you must work hard, have your mind and eyes open for new experiences and cultures, but always remember your roots and the culture you come from. Those are the ones that made your ancestors both seek a better life and shaped their attitude towards life and other people. Their hardship made them strong and humble, a trait that is embedded in every Macedonian.
Daniela Jankovska, 31
Roots from Kriva Palanka, Macedonia
Daniela Jankovska was born and raised in Kriva Palanka, nested in the Northeast Osogovo Region in Macedonia. Jankovska completed her secondary education at the local Gjorche Petrov high school. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Apparel Merchandising and Product Development from the University of Arkansas. Jankovska completed her graduate studies at Colorado State University, where she received the Master of Science in Design and Merchandising.
Currently, Jankovska is a faculty member at the Department of Retailing at the University of South Carolina. She teaches a broad range of subjects at the nexus of design, development, and the business of fashion and apparel. Her research focuses on user-centered design and human factors engineering in apparel. Jankovska says that she chose a profession that is highly rewarding and welcomes an inquisitive mind. “Every term, I am challenged to inspire the heart and prepare the minds of hundreds of undergraduate students.”
Jankovska’s work has found recognition for contributions in the classroom as well as her impact on the community through advising campus organizations, mentoring students, and leading study abroad programs in Europe. Jankovska is the recipient of multiple University of South Carolina distinguished teaching awards – Innovative Teaching Pedagogy, Teacher of the Year for the Department of Retailing, and Teacher of the Year for the College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sports Management.
The roots of my family are deep in the soil of our nation. My mother and her large family hail from Podrzi Kojn, and my father’s family has lived for generations in the Northeast Region, with the family homestead near Berovo. I have always called Kriva Palanka my hometown, even when living in Arkansas, Colorado, Texas, or other parts of the United States. I am who I am today, thanks to my family and my heritage. I have always felt inspired by my parents’ attitudes toward work, education, and family life. My two siblings, Toni Jankovski and Olivera Jankovska, followed a similar path of studying and living abroad at a young age. Despite the many challenges, we always kept looking forward, focused on making our family proud and our nation recognized on the global stage.
I am very proud of the role family has in our culture. I believe that family values are the bedrock of our society and the single most important institution that gets Macedonians through any challenge. Being a first-generation college student, coming from a developing country, and studying a subject in a different language was probably the most challenging obstacle of my life. However, with the support of my family and the encouragement of the University of Arkansas and Colorado State community, I was able to get across the finish line.
It is important for all Macedonians to know that it is never too early or late to advocate for Macedonia’s right to its own language, independence, and economic growth. I believe these attributes could help us imagine a better future where our culture and family values are preserved, our economic state is empowered, and our beautiful language is celebrated. My advice to young Macedonians is to be optimistic about the future, have the courage to learn from your failures, and be proud of our homeland’s rich culture and history.
Kristian Mukoski, 32
Roots from Vevčani and Bitola, Macedonia
Kristian Mukoski was born in Struga, Macedonia, to a father from Vevčani and a mother from Bitola. His family immigrated to the United States in 1989 and eventually settled in Crown Point, Indiana. After finishing high school, Mukoski attended Loyola University Chicago, majoring in political science and international studies. Following college, Mukoski attended Notre Dame Law School, where he served on the Notre Dame Law Review and graduated cum laude. Upon completing law school, Mukoski clerked for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Lansing, Michigan. Mukoski then worked as an associate at Foley & Lardner LLP in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before leaving private practice to pursue a career as a state criminal prosecutor. Mukoski subsequently served as a Special Prosecutor in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and as an Assistant District Attorney in Portage County, Wisconsin. In November 2020, Mukoski became a federal criminal prosecutor, joining the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana, located in Evansville, Indiana, as an Assistant United States Attorney. In that role, Mukoski specializes in the prosecution of federal drug and firearm offenses.
My Macedonian heritage has impacted my life and profession by equipping me with values concerning the importance of faith, family, community, and discipline. These values have, in turn, affected how I approach my social and professional obligations.
I am most proud to be Macedonian because of the emphasis Macedonian culture places on family. I have received unconditional love and support from my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins throughout my life, and I have witnessed the same devotion shown by other Macedonians to their family members, both immediate and extended. I consider this familial commitment a great source of strength for the Macedonian community, particularly in an age where family ties are often frayed by the stresses of life.
I would advise young Macedonians in the next generation to take proactive steps to connect with their Macedonian heritage, such as visiting Macedonia, communicating with their relatives in Macedonia, and practicing the Macedonian language.
Zoë Paliare, 36
Roots from Tersie, Zhelevo, and Oshchima, Macedonia
Zoë Paliare is a 36-year-old trial lawyer turned entrepreneur, leadership coach, learning & development professional, and a lifelong social justice advocate. Paliare works with lawyers, business owners, and leaders on developing positive corporate culture, maximizing productivity, leadership development, and shaping equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.
Paliare is the creator and host of The Field, a podcast that shares the stories of formerly incarcerated people and aims to inspire a future where they are seen for their humanity, not judged for their past. Paliare is also a committed volunteer and advisor to Peacebuilders International (Canada), an organization that supports and empowers youth to succeed. As for her history, the villages/town her grandparents came from were Tersie, Zhelevo, and Oshchima.
My Macedonian heritage has had a significant impact on my life and on the strong values that were instilled in me from my childhood, namely the importance of family, community, hard work, and always fighting for equality for all.
The aspect of Macedonian culture that I love most is the food! I will never forget all of the delicious dishes my Baba made for me growing up, and I often do my best to recreate them (though we all know nothing will ever be as good as Baba’s cooking).
I have two pieces of advice for the next generation of Macedonians: follow your dreams, and aim to leave this world a better place than you found it. Whatever it is you want to do, however impossible it may seem, don’t give up. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will get there.
Daki Stanojkova, 39
Roots from Sveti Nikole, Macedonia
Daki Stanojkova was born in the beautiful city of Sveti Nikole. She and her brother, Nikola, were raised by wonderful parents Aco and Sofce. Stanojkova graduated from Skopje with a degree in mechanical engineering. Stanojkova first visited the United States in 2002 where she met a fellow Macedonian in San Antonio, Texas. Stanojkova was convinced to immigrate to the United States and remains great friends with the fellow Macedonian today.
After graduation, she decided to work in hospitality with Carnival Cruise Line travel exploration. She later started her own transportation business with O’Hare and Midway Airport for a few years. Then decided to use her degree as a mechanical engineer and joined Ammonia refrigeration system as a PSM coordinator. Stanojkova was quickly promoted to environmental supervisor due to her diligence and hard work.
She has lived in Chicago for about 14 years, where she serves as the current president of women’s auxiliary at Macedonian Orthodox Church Sv. ”Kiril and Metodij.” Stanojkova is one of the top community organizers in the Macedonian community in the United States. Over the past 5 years, she has also been a part of the team that created the first Macedonian magazine in the United States called “Macedonia Social.”
Stanojkova is happily engaged to the love of her life, Aleksandar from Bitola. They are expecting the birth of their precious baby girl later this year.
My Macedonian heritage and roots are something that defines who I am, and where I come from. This built my character and gave me a vision for success and the courage to live my dream. My parents, the culture, the food, warm people, and the importance of hard work have all led me to where I am and inspired me to become an advocate through my church organization. In my church organization, I have been helping with donations as well as organizing women’s events that celebrate our culture and beliefs as Macedonians.
There are not enough words to describe how proud I am of my Macedonian culture. The history that defines us centuries ago, delicious food that everybody likes, music that warms hearts, beautiful places, and nature in Macedonia. These are all the things that make us unique and warm people. That is culture for me. That is what defines me as Macedonian.
My dear Macedonians, all of you, all over the world, be proud of who you are, where you are coming from and never forget your motherland, Macedonia.
BECOME A UMD MEMBER TODAY!
Your commitment to becoming a member today is necessary for UMD to make an impact globally while continuing the Macedonian struggle for justice and preservation of our name, heritage, identity, and language.
Your annual membership gift will go a long way towards our charitable programs in Macedonia and around the world, including funds for orphans, the needy, and furthering the education of our future leaders by providing annual scholarships.
UMD can continue to accomplish its valuable work only with the help of dedicated Macedonians and friends of Macedonia like you.