The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), the leading organization for Macedonians abroad, 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 280 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 UMD Chairman Argie Bellio.
“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
Biographies of Our Recipients:
Alexandra is a 30-year-old Canadian Macedonian residing in Stouffville, Ontario. She recently married a fellow Canadian Macedonian. Her family comes from the villages of Armensko, Gornichvo, and Putle. Alexandra holds a Master of Teaching and Master of Health Sciences from The University of Toronto. She is a Speech-Language Pathologist working for the York Region District School Board, and York Region Preschool Speech and Language Program. Alexandra has a passion for working with the pediatric population, specifically supporting children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Alexandra grew up inspired by watching her father and grandfather advocate for the people of Macedonia, along with keeping the Macedonian culture alive in Canada. Her heritage empowered her to connect with people of diverse backgrounds and inspired her passion to enter a profession that advocates and helps others. She is proud to be Macedonian because she embraces the culture’s strong ties to family relationships and unique traditions. To the future generations of young Macedonians – stay true to yourselves and immerse yourselves in the Macedonian culture and traditions!
Andrej Risteski is a Professor in the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Prior to CMU, he was Research Fellow jointly in the Applied Math department at MIT, as well as the Institute for Data Science and Statistics. He got his PhD in Computer Science at Princeton University, where he also got his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.
His area of research concerns the mathematical and scientific foundations of machine learning and artificial intelligence, with a particular focus on deep learning and neural networks. He regularly publishes in flagship conferences for machine learning, like NeurIPS, ICML, and COLT, and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses at CMU.
He is also an inaugural member of CeNIIS (Center for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research) at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje, whose purpose is to connect Macedonian scientists across the world and encourage collaborations between scientists in Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora.
If I had to choose one trait mostly strongly permeating the Macedonian psyche, it would have to be resilience. Petre M. Andreevski compared Macedonians to pirey in the eponymous novel: “Pirey is hardy and grows in impossible places. Hoe at it as much as you like, dig it up, uproot it — it won’t die.”
When I left to study in the US, I came to a country I knew little about, to a university where I befriended, learned from, and competed with extremely talented and driven people from all over the world. These words stuck with me, and I’ve felt them over the years.
I also had a lot of selfless help getting here and was lucky at many forks on the road — or as we would say, my “k’smet” was working for me. My advice to the next generation of Macedonians is to work hard but be humble and remember those moments when the basketball hits the rim, and it can go either way; and most importantly, don’t forget the help you received, and pay it forward to your country fellows, wherever you encounter them.
Angela Kalanoska is 34 years old. She was born and raised in Struga, to Marko (Father) – an entrepreneur from the beautiful village of Vevcani, and Sofija (Mother) – an English teacher from Struga. Angela started playing basketball at a very young age and was a member of the Macedonian National Team. Then she continued to play professionally, winning multiple gold medals. At the age of 17, Angela left Macedonia to pursue her education on a basketball scholarship at Oklahoma City University. Angela graduated with a degree in business management and later she completed her MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. Playing basketball and being part of a team for most of her life, Angela learned some lifelong lessons on the importance of teamwork, respect, trust, humility, and integrity. All of these have helped pave the way for Angela to continue to succeed in her professional life. Angela currently resides in Long Beach, California, working for Toyota Motor North America overseeing the production operations at the Port of Long Beach.
I am extremely proud to be Macedonian and very grateful and lucky to have had the childhood I did. I had very humble beginnings and grew up very free. My parents always allowed me to do what I want and pushed me to follow my heart and dreams which ultimately helped me get to where I am today in life. Some of my favorite childhood memories include swimming in Lake Ohrid, snow sledding in Vevcani, rowing, and playing soccer and basketball. I’ve tried any sports you can think of, and I am so lucky that I grew up in a country like Macedonia, where the sport is valued and implanted in kids at a very young age. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the opportunities and freedom that Macedonia provided me at a very young age.
I am proudest of our rich history, our language, and our traditions. I visit Macedonia at least once a year and I am always amazed by some of our wonderful deep-rooted traditions that are passed from generation to generation, such as making of the Ohrid pearls and making handmade paper that was used in the 16th century by printing on Gutenberg’s press. It makes me proud to come from a place with so much heart and soul.
My advice for the next generation of young Macedonians is to not stop dreaming. You were born to do great things. Surround yourself with people that support you and who have a similar mindset that will push you to reach your potential. No dream is too big.
Danielle Zafirovski is a mixed media artist, and educator from Markham, Canada. As a proud Macedonian, with family from Bitola and Skopje, she understands the importance of family and giving back to the community. Over the years, she has sold many commissioned pieces and has worked with various brands. Her works hang on the walls owned by professional athletes to music icons. In 2019, her work was featured at Art Basel Miami. Since 2020, Danielle’s ‘Paint it Forward’ initiative has raised over $5,000 for her local hospital and charities.
Danielle credits her family for teaching her the importance of hard work and perseverance. Despite immigrating to Canada (via Australia) with nothing, Danielle’s grandparents worked multiple jobs to support their family. Similarly, when her dad arrived as a traditional folk dancer (Kud Koco Racin), not only was language a barrier, but he also had to restart his professional career as an electrical engineer. As an artist and educator, Danielle tries to emulate the work ethic of her family, while supporting others.
Danielle encourages young Macedonians to explore their passions with purpose and effort. It is important to remember that life will not be defined by attaining goals, but rather by the lessons learned along the way.
Kliment Coceski was born in Ohrid, Macedonia, and migrated to Melbourne, Australia with his family when he was 5 years of age. He graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Business (International Business) in 2012.
Kliment is currently the founder and managing director of Allied Print Australia, an industry-leading printing company with its headquarters located in Melbourne and production facilities around Australia.
He is also the co-founder of Boots for Balkans, a charity organisation, which donates sporting apparel and equipment to disadvantaged youth in Macedonia. He has a passion for philanthropy and helping others, especially kids and adolescents in his homeland.
Kliment has always had a love for sports, especially football (soccer). Growing up, Kliment played for the well-known Preston Lions Football Club. His love for the game inspired him to establish his own sporting brand, Gordian Sports, together with former Macedonian international footballer, Daniel Georgievski and previous 40 Under 40 recipient Yane Coceski.
My Macedonian heritage has allowed me to form lifelong friendships with people within the Macedonian community in Australia through sports and other social events. It has instilled in me a strong work ethic and resilience to persevere and achieve my goals no matter what the challenges are.
I am most proud of our unwavering desire to make a better life for ourselves and our families. The sacrifices that our parents and grandparents have made, leaving their homeland to build a new life in a foreign country is truly inspirational.
No matter where in the world our Macedonian people have migrated to, I am proud that we have kept our culture alive. Whether it be Christmas, Easter, or a name day, we get together with our family and friends to enjoy each other’s company and practice our unique and rich cultural traditions.
To the next generation of young Macedonians, I would advise them that with hard work and determination anything is possible.
I was born in one of the most picturesque and cultural towns, Ohrid, Macedonia. Growing up in Ohrid, being surrounded by the city’s ancient history, charming old town and beautiful nature are where my love and appreciation for history and culture was born.
My high school, “Yahya Kemal College” in Struga, was a colorful Macedonia in a small classroom. A mix of different ethnicities, languages, and religions. There I found my love for Mathematics, side by side learning to understand and respect other people’s traditions.
My fascination with the different cultures and my ambition for the natural sciences led me to take a chance and enroll in Computer Science at the ‘Jacobs University Bremen’ in Germany.
The campus in Bremen is the mecca of different cultures, customs, and traditions. Parallel to the academic experience, there is a unique opportunity to get to know people from 70 different countries, learn about other people’s traditions, and also to advocate your own.
Our small Macedonian community made sure that we stayed connected to our Macedonian heritage through everything, from the food we ate, the music we played, the humor and compassion we had, to the way we talked loudly and partied hard. I am grateful to have been a part of this multilingual and multicultural environment, to share our traditional dances, to prepare traditional food, but at the same time, I am humbled to receive all appreciation for our culture, religion, and language from my friends from abroad.
Having this special experience, I knew that my further education had to be in a similar multicultural environment. The University of RWTH Aachen was the perfect opportunity to continue my journey. To further develop academically with the excellent master’s program of Software Engineering and at the same time to be again in a very international environment. From the first steps in the old city of Aachen, I got the resemblance and similarity to my hometown of Ohrid. I remember walking on the old cobblestone (‘kaldrma’) streets, thinking this is like walking in Ohrid’s old town, giving me peace and assurance that I was at the right place.
I am still in Aachen, working in a software company on complex algorithms for business software. I am blessed to have a partner, friends, and colleagues that appreciate my heritage and are as enthusiastic to explore the culture of my home country Macedonia as I am. To have them learn a few words like ‘Lele’ and ‘Ajde’ and to enjoy the taste of ‘ajvar’, ‘burek’ and ‘rakija’. That is when I realize, my Macedonian heritage accompanies me in my everyday life.
Macedonia is colorful, rich in culture, and has soulful food and magnificent nature. Going back home is always an enjoyable experience that helps me recharge my batteries and cherish my heritage.
Mara Rose Livezey, PhD
Mara Rose Livezey is a third-generation Macedonian-American who was born and (mostly) raised in Michigan. She remembers frequently attending vecherinki and Macedonian Patriotic Organization (MPO) conventions as a child, running through the mazes of people dancing, in between drinking Shirley Temples with her two brothers. Mara has always loved dancing and started taking ballet classes at the age of 4. She attended Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, Canada, from 9th-12th grade while pursuing her hopes of becoming a professional ballerina. Life eventually took Mara to Kalamazoo College, where she received a B.A. in Chemistry in 2013. Following college, Mara spent a year living in Struga, Macedonia as a Fulbright Scholar. There, she taught English and organized science activities at her local embassy-sponsored American Corner. Her favorite memories of Macedonia are hiking through the beautiful mountains surrounding Lake Ohrid with a local hiking club, Zakamen Struga.
Following her year in Macedonia, Mara attended the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, where she studied a novel breast cancer drug and determined how it targets and kills cancer cells. She received a PhD in Biochemistry in 2018. After defending her thesis, Mara came home to Metro-Detroit and is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, where she teaches biochemistry. Mara loves working with college students, as well as constantly improving her teaching methods so that every single student who wants to study science, can succeed. Mara married her husband, who she first met at Kalamazoo College in Calculus II class, on January 7th, 2022.
When I think through my most salient identities, being Macedonian certainly rises to the top. I was raised in the Orthodox Church, grew up around my dedo, tetas, and veechas, and loved attending vecherinki, so Macedonian culture was constantly around me. I’ve heard about the struggles my family faced as poor immigrants, and the pressure they felt to assimilate and only speak English. I’ve learned and practiced the patience required to hand-stretch pita dough. My culture and experiences living in Macedonia have greatly influenced who I am today. Many of my students at Detroit Mercy come from immigrant families or are themselves immigrants from around the world. I am passionate about serving my students, no matter their educational background or level of privilege. I especially aim to support those students who may be disadvantaged so that they can find a home in my classroom. What I have learned is this- my life and career is not just for myself, but also for others. In the service of others, our identity as Macedonians is a strength; we should use it to inform and support our values and life decisions.
Martin Saveski is a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University and an incoming Assistant professor at the Information School at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020. His research develops tools for analyzing large-scale social data, aiming to provide a better understanding of the social structure and behaviors online while also impacting the design of digital social systems. His work has appeared in prestigious international conferences such as ICWSM, WWW, and KDD, and has included collaborations with researchers at Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. He has been selected as a 2021 Rising Star in Data Science by the University of Chicago and his research has been featured in popular media outlets, including The New York Times, NPR, and the MIT Tech Review.
Growing up in Macedonia in the 1990s and 2000s gave me a unique combination of rigorous education and street smarts that I always felt helped me enormously in navigating the world as I moved through different places and cultures, both in my academic and everyday life.
One aspect of Macedonian culture that I did not take notice of growing up, but I got to greatly appreciate after many years living abroad, is our ability to use humor in difficult times. Humor is interwoven in so many of Macedonians’ social interactions making life more joyful even in the most difficult of times.
My advice for young Macedonians is to explore other cultures and try to find the commonalities that bring us together rather than the differences that pull us apart; professionally, my advice is to be curious, dive deep, and explore the things and ideas that interest them.
Peter Stefanovich is the President and co-founder of Left Lane Associates, a Toronto-based investment bank focused solely on the transportation and supply chain industry throughout North America. His team of over 15 employees has helped both acquirers & sellers in the supply chain industry execute over 50 transactions ranging from 1M-500M in Enterprise Value since 2016. Peter is also the co-founder of Rite Route Supply Chain Solutions, a successful third-party logistics business that provides full-service supply chain solutions for domestic and international shippers throughout North America. Before co-founding Left Lane Associates in 2016 and Rite Route in 2021, Peter Stefanovich spent over 8 years in operations and sales for Radiant Logistics (formerly Wheels Group) in Toronto and RMS, a construction/maintenance company in the Chicago area. Peter spent several years working with the Canadian Government in various capacities while attending graduate school at the University of Carleton. Before attending graduate school, Peter Stefanovich graduated Summa Cum Laude in both Business Finance and Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (Huron College). Peter’s extensive connectivity across the supply chain industry continues to grow through his positions on industry boards such as the Toronto Transportation Club, Ontario Trucking Association, and the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Most recently, he has been a featured speaker at the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) and Business Transitions Forum (BTF).
My Macedonian heritage has given me an understanding of other similar Eastern European cultures, languages, and origins that I can draw on to better understand many of my clients and friends alike. It’s easier to understand someone when you know where they came from and having that sense of a deep culture being a Canadian Macedonian has allowed me to flourish in that respect.
I’m most proud to be Macedonian because of how accepting and inclusive we are as a people. Macedonians have endured a lot of adversity in our past because of who we are, and this has shown us how to be inclusive as a culture. Welcoming others from other ethnicities, languages, and cultures allows us to be model international citizens, at home and abroad.
To all the young generations of Macedonians out there, please remember your past while you look forward to your future. Don’t forget the path your ancestors and relatives have paved for you to get to the place you are today. Their struggles are meant to take the burden off of you to make a better world for you and your family, whether in Macedonia, Canada, the United States, or anywhere else. And don’t be shy about who you are and where you came from.
Dr. Vedud Purde, born and raised in Gostivar, Macedonia, is a research advisor and principal investigator at Eli Lilly and Company working on developing biopharmaceuticals for diseases. He is the oldest son of Turkish parents Hadis and Ilkan Purde and brother to Ennur Purde.
Dr. Purde moved to the USA in 2006 as a foreign exchange student to study in high school. During this time, he lived with an American host family (Leanne, Amber, Matthew, Chris Mason, and Daimon Mckeever) and with his roommate from Spain (Alvaro Megias Garcia) in Moreno Valley CA.
After high school, he received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from San Francisco State University and conducted state-of-the-art scientific research at the University of California Berkeley.
In 2019, Dr. Purde successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation work focused on “developing anti-cancer therapies using deadly bacterial toxins and oncolytic viruses” from the Kudryashov Lab at the Ohio State University.
Dr. Purde has published scientific papers in highly prestigious journals, his research articles have been recognized nationally and internationally, and his work has received national prestigious grants, particularly from the National Cancer Institute.
In 2021, Dr. Purde was recognized by the city mayor of Gostivar Arben Taravari and the president Stevo Pendarovski as a young scientist representing Macedonia internationally.
Dr. Purde and his wife Pervin Purde, who is an early childhood teacher, currently live in Indianapolis.
Being born and raised in a multicultural and diverse environment in Macedonia is one of the advantages that made me adapt to the US. I am privileged to be raised in a family that leads by example and has helped me shape my life, personally and professionally.
The diversity of cultures, religions, and languages in our home country allowed me to be a citizen of the world. We are always curious, willing to learn, help, progress, be open-minded, and most importantly have the mentality to be proud of representing Macedonia around the world.
Leaving Macedonia as a teenager by myself was not the easiest decision I had to make. However, being born and raised in a diverse population prepared me at a young age to be respectful to others and successful in new environments. Today, as a young successful scientist and as a citizen of Macedonia living in the United States, I am proud to represent all the cultures and nationalities that form the core of our home country.
My naïve advice to everyone reading this would be that success is a combination of multiple good practices, such as hard work, good personality, curiosity, imagination, and failure, but most importantly it’s the enthusiasm and passion for the things that one would want to accomplish.
As Rumi says “You were born with Potential. You were born with Goodness and Trust. You were born with Ideals and Dreams. You were born with Greatness. You were born with Wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.”
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