THE UNITED MACEDONIAN DIASPORA (UMD) IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THE FOURTH ANNUAL MACEDONIAN DIASPORA’S 40 UNDER 40 LIST.
For the fourth year in a row, UMD is congratulating and recognizing forty Macedonian leaders that have excelled in their respective fields, endorsing them as role models for our community’s heritage and cultural values. The fourth annual 40 Under 40 List is built through a process of nominations, in which the final honorees are chosen by a selection committee.
The UMD Macedonian Diaspora 40 Under 40 list was launched in 2014 to celebrate the accomplishments of Macedonian role models. UMD will be releasing honorees in increments of 10 to allow for proper recognition of each honoree’s achievements. UMD plans to recognize the honorees at an event this year.
UMD hopes this program will recognize the achievements of the honorees, encourage them to continue positively impacting the world in their respective careers, promote the Macedonian culture and continue contributing to the global Macedonian community.
Congratulations to all honorees!
THE SECOND TEN OF FORTY HONOREES:
Mariana Bockarova – Veles, Macedonia and Drenoveni (Kostursko), Aegean Macedonia
Elisaveta Curkoska – Struga, Macedonia
Dalibor Dimovski – Tetovo and Odri, Macedonia
Tanja Gerasimova – Skopje and Kratovo, Macedonia
Alexander Matovski – Bitola, Macedonia
Dino Gramatikov – Skopje, Macedonia
Bozidar Janakievski – Bitola, Macedonia
Gorjan Jovanovski – Skopje, Macedonia
Aleksandra Trpkovska – Bitola, Macedonia
Katherine Vrantsidis – Krstoar, Bukovo, Bitola, Macedonia and Armensko, Bouf, Lerin, Aegean Macedonia
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS GROUP OF HONOREES:
Mariana Bockarova, PhD, is a co-founder of MBMD Consulting, a business consultancy based on the behavioral sciences. With a deep interest in human behavior, at age 16, she entered the University of Toronto, where she completed an Honors Bachelor’s degree within three years.
She continued her education at Harvard University, where she researched PTSD and graduated with highest distinction, at the top of her class. At Harvard, she headed the MIT vs. Harvard Case Competition as the co-Vice President of the Harvard Graduate Consulting Club. Mariana then returned to the University of Toronto to research cognitive test anxiety.
She completed her PhD in an unprecedented two years. During her studies, Mariana was accepted into the Junior Fellowship of Massey College and awarded the University of Toronto TATP Teaching Excellence Award, while also working as a senior consultant at a boutique consultancy with Fortune 500 clients including Nestlé, General Mills, New Balance, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Inc., and Scotiabank.
I’ve always been proud to be Macedonian. In many ways, it has shaped not only my career choice, but the way I see the world: One of the earliest memories I have as a child is defending my identity as ‘Macedonian’ on the playground of my small public school in Toronto. Though I doubt I realized it then, I suppose I’ve been interested in how people think, how they form (or lose!) their identity, and why they do what they do – human behavior – ever since.
What I’ve learned about being Macedonian, as influenced by researching mental health and behavior, is how incredibly resilient we are as a people, due, in part, to the inherent factors born out of our identity: A profound importance placed on family connection; kindness and a keen sense of hospitality passed from one person to the next, generation after generation; traditions that emerge from and beliefs that reside within the Macedonian Orthodox Church; and a sense of responsibility to help others in need.
With a long history, and as a people who have undergone significant hardship and suffering, including ethnic cleansing and the repeated and continuous attempted obliteration of our name, we have nevertheless, to the sanctity of ourselves and the dismay of others, perpetually managed to find resilience and peace in who we are – it’s really astounding from a psychological lens.
While it likely sounds cliché, my advice to the next generation of Macedonians is to know your worth as a person; do whatever you want to in life (hopefully something that’s noble and worth doing), but understand why you’re doing it; don’t deceive or betray yourself; and read history: discover how many trials and tribulations were overcome by your ancestors to allow you to freely identify as who you are – Macedonian.
Elisaveta was born and raised in Struga, Macedonia. She studied English language and literature at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia. She later immigrated to the United States and received a degree in business administration from Miami Dade College. Afterwards, Elisaveta spent five years working at Helm Bank USA. She also is the author of the famous book, “Your Heart Is My Chateau.”
I am a proud wife of a wonderful husband who always supports and motivates me and a mother of two sons who inspire me. Being a bestselling author has always been my dream. I take great pleasure in achieving my goals.
My Macedonian heritage has had a monumental, positive impact on my life. I am truly blessed to be a Macedonian. My ethnic and cultural background – Macedonia’s rich tradition, our national history, norms, shared values, education, music, and the delicious cuisine – have shaped my personality greatly.
My advice for the next generation of young Macedonians is to believe in themselves. Nothing is impossible for those who believe. Determination, hard work, and sacrifice always lead to success.
Dalibor was born and raised in the Detroit area, studying Design at the College for Creative Studies.
He works as a Senior Industrial Designer at Adient, a Tier One automotive supplier with offices around the world, including in Macedonia. Dalibor mixes art and design into his career, as he has founded several online publications based around technology and entertainment, hosted podcasts about a variety of subjects, and embedded Design Thinking into problem solving for social, cultural, and societal issues.
He is also one of the longest-tenured Macedonian deejays in the diaspora, as well as an adjunct professor of Design at Lawrence Technological University.
Macedonians embody the immigrant attitude. When my parents arrived in the US, they had little more than a suitcase and a willingness to work, but over the years they dedicated themselves, sacrificing their immediate gains for a more long-term focus. This perseverance was ingrained into my upbringing, teaching me to remain committed to a goal no matter the circumstances and to make sure I approach it effectively and in the right way. I often feel that this steadfastness for following a process all the way through is something unique to Macedonians, manifesting itself in our traditions and art.
Perhaps that is why I love our heritage so much – it is not just about history, but how we pass it along and use it to guide us, especially through music. Macedonian music is the most passionate and emotional aspect of our culture that I have come across, with songs of family, love and death, hardship, and celebration. It can connect us to millennia of experiences which mirror our current lives, providing answers even through a few words and notes. Each song tells a complete story.
It is understanding that which would be my advice: make every day your best day, no matter the circumstances, fears, or situation. Resolve to accomplish your best 24 hours, every 24 hours.
Tanja is a technical development engineer at Novelis, an aluminum supplier for the automotive industry in the Detroit area. She graduated from the University of Michigan as a materials science engineer. Tanja also has received the Metallurgical Engineer Certificate and was the former Lego Robotics Captain.
At Novelis, she helps to launch programs and to create new solutions to existing problems. Tanja works as a program launch formability expert, engaging with customer specification and working on a dynamo team. Tanja worked on the launch of a new grade of aluminum in the B pillar automotive application.
She loves to work within her community and can be found volunteering at the Detroit Children’s Hospital and participating in crisis counseling as a domestic abuse counselor. In all of these aspects of life, she carries a passion and intensity that are rooted in her Macedonian heritage.
I grew up in a Macedonian home with lots of ajvar and even more love. My parents were dedicated to their children and taught my sister and I the importance of family.
From them, I learned that it is important to foster the sense of Macedonian community all around you. As I went to the University of Michigan, I was able to participate in a Macedonian Club that sponsored a 5K and showcased Macedonian dancing. I stay active in the community that raised me to value hard work and to temper it with passion. I try to carry Macedonia with me in my heart as reminder of the love of my great family abroad.
Dino is an accomplished commercial manager with more than 15 years of international experience in technologically advanced and disruptive industries. His career kicked off in pioneering Macedonian ISP and eCommerce companies in the mid-90s, took off among the clouds at Wizz Air, and is currently in geosynchronous orbit as the Head of Product Analytics in Inmarsat, a leading global satellite telecommunications company.
A special mention goes to the end-to-end management of Wizz Air’s record breaking Macedonia expansion, as part of a larger role as a key contributor to the company’s >500% capacity growth from 2007 until 2015.
His Macedonian background translated into local market knowledge and drive to disrupt the commercial air transport access to Europe with air fares accessible to everyone were key for success.
Dino holds an Executive MBA in International Management from the University of Geneva, where he graduated in the top 5% of the 2014 class. He is also a member of Macedonia 2025’s Ambassadors Club as a European chapter representative.
My Macedonian heritage has impacted my life profoundly. The set of values instilled in my youth has permeated both my professional and personal life. Humility, tenacity and perseverance, passion for doing the right thing, hospitality and spontaneity have stayed with me to the present day and have been key for success.
Macedonian values listed above, music and food are aspects of the Macedonian culture I take great pride in.
My advice for the next generation is to live and lead by a positive set of values. Believe in yourself and go out of the well trodden pathway to fulfill your dreams. And when everybody else is silent and waiting for somebody to speak up, step up and lead the way.
Bozidar Janakievski, 32
Bozidar is the Vice President of Business Intelligence and Reporting at Lifestyle Communities, a multi-state A+ apartment developer and manager. He is a Certificated Public Accountant and a graduate of The Ohio State University with majors in both Accounting and Finance. Bozidar’s work career began early, as he spent his high school and college years working at his parent’s sandwich shop, Easy Living Deli & Catering in Columbus, Ohio.
This experience laid the foundation for his professional career, giving him exposure to all phases of business. Bozidar currently lives in Columbus, OH with his wife, Frances, and two children, Theodore (3 years) and Samuel (10 months).
My father immigrated to the United States in middle school, and my mother came in high school. I grew up with both sets of Macedonian grandparents, a large and vibrant family, and our ever-present Macedonian culture. I had a fun-filled childhood surrounded by many family members and friends who shared my background.
My father walked onto The Ohio State University’s football team and held the record for goal-kicking until the early 2000s. Later, he and my mother opened their own deli, which they have owned and operated since the 1980s. Their passion, determination, and never-ending energy continue to inspire and influence me. My parents and family made sacrifices to ensure that I had a better life. Now, as a parent, I hope to be able to do the same for my children.
I believe my Macedonian heritage is the foundation for my work ethic. Coming from a family of immigrants and watching them own and operate a small business instilled a strong sense of purpose and continual betterment in me.
I am proud to be Macedonian for so many reasons: for our rich history, for the warmth of our culture and people and mostly for the importance placed on the family unit. Growing up in a Macedonian household and community where family is held in the highest regard laid the foundation for my set of values. My fondest memories are of our family sitting around the table enjoying home-cooked meals, made with love from Baba and homemade wine from Dedo.
My advice for the next generation is to connect with your homeland and proudly identify with your Macedonian heritage. If possible, trace your roots, make connections with long-lost family, travel to your city of origin, and soak in all that the country has to offer. You’ll never regret the time and money spent because it will be the experience of a lifetime. Connecting with your homeland is a special bond which can never be broken.
Born in Skopje, Gorjan lived in Macedonia for 7 years before moving with his family to the United States in 2000. While only in second grade, Gorjan learned English beautifully, but also managed to almost forget Macedonian!
Moving back at the age of 9, Gorjan reintegrated in Macedonia, and following his passion for technology, became an official representative of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation at just 16 years, spreading the idea of an open an collaborative web.
Gorjan graduated from the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius university in Skopje, and while studying, got involved in multiple projects (both commercial and social).
The idea of MojVozduh was born during his undergraduate years, and evolved both while he was in Macedonia and after, when he moved to the Netherlands to complete his master studies in Software Engineering at the University of Amsterdam.
Since then, Gorjan lived in Amsterdam for 2.5 years, and has been working at Booking.com for 1.5 years as a software engineer and team leader, leading a team of 8 awesome people in building new products.
His love for Macedonia never disappeared, and that’s why he still invests a lot of his free time in MojVozduh and the eco-movement back home because he feels that breathing clean air is a human right!
Macedonia and Skopje have and always will be my home. Just as the song from Vlado Janevski goes, while I am still alive, I’ll be coming back. In my desire to travel and experience the world, I always bring a good word for my country wherever I go, and try to avoid politics. Instead, I talk about the hospitality that lives within the people, the rich history of the region as well as the amazing nature that we were gifted with.
However, I find the most enjoyment in cooking traditional food from our region for my friends here in the Netherlands and introducing them to Macedonia’s amazing cuisine. The smile on their faces whenever they try ajvar or gravce is always a welcome sight!
As for the next generation of Macedonians, remember, no matter where you end up in the world, you can always make a positive impact on the country where you came from. In the end, it is, and always will be our home.
Alexander is a Senior Vice President and Private Client Advisor with U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. Headquartered in northern New Jersey, he provides customized wealth strategies and advice to individuals, families, and institutions. He orchestrates collaboration across a team of specialists, paying attention to the unique needs of each client. In this respect, strong relationships constitute the foundation of his approach.
Prior to joining U.S. Trust, Alexander held client advisory roles with Morgan Stanley Private Bank and Wells Fargo Private Bank in New Jersey. He earned his undergraduate degree in Business Management from Montclair State University and began his financial services career in 2001. Outside of work, Alexander volunteers his time to various local organizations and is active in his community.
My parents moved to the US in search of a better life. In 1972, they decided to leave their family and friends in Bitola to start over. When they arrived, they networked with fellow Macedonians and quickly gained employment as laborers. They started off earning just a dollar an hour and through their relentless work ethic and frugal lifestyle managed to purchase their home in cash after only nine years. They were thrilled to achieve the American dream of homeownership and felt a euphoric sense of accomplishment. These were the best times, and although I was only a small child, I can still remember the happiness in my parents’ faces.
My parents continued their pursuit of the American dream, working hard to achieve financial stability by establishing passive income. My father was handy and had a deep passion for real estate. This led him to acquire investment in real estate properties. In 1998, his dream finally came to fruition, as he successfully signed a contract for a four-family home.
Unfortunately, my father’s dream was derailed by a tragic accident at work, and he passed at the young age of 46. I will always remember the heartache of losing the man I admired most. This led me to ensure that his legacy would live on.
As soon as I was able to scrap up enough money after college I purchased my first property. As the years went on I acquired more and more properties in my father’s honor. It was as if each one brought me closer to him. I could almost feel his presence on the job site as we renovated and built these homes. I named the business Go M Blue Development to reflect the special bond he and I had.
Like most Macedonians, my parents had a lot of help from the Macedonian community upon their arrival in the US. The assistance my parents received created a great sense of gratitude in their hearts. They were always ready to open their home and hearts to any Macedonians in need. These values were instilled in me at a young age and have lead me to live my life knowing that happiness is not gained by possessions. Happiness is quantified by how many people’s lives we can touch and change.
To that end, Mato’s Dream Fund was created. Mato’s Dream is a non-profit organization that helps Macedonian families to achieve the American Dream of home ownership. Our purpose is to help families through financial assistance, education, and ongoing support as they purchase their first homes. Through the help of the Macedonian Diaspora, we are sure that Mato’s Dream will live on long after we are gone.
It gives me great joy to know that we, as Macedonians, can collaborate in our efforts to help more of our country men and women achieve greatness. The Macedonian Diaspora has been essential in bringing about this synergy amongst a new generation of hardworking, humble Macedonians.
Born and raised in Bitola, Aleksandra and her family moved to the Detroit area 15 days before she started high school. Four years later, she had a full scholarship to Georgetown University, in Washington D.C.
Aleks obtained both her Bachelors in Government/ International Affairs and Masters Degree in Business from Georgetown, as well as a Summer Program Certificate and a Deans Award from Stanford University.
In addition to a professional career in Management Consulting at PwC, in September 2017 Aleks published an Amazon #1 Bestselling book “The Pain-Free Path To College: A Step-by-step Guide for College Admission and Life Success” where she shares her lessons learned from her college journey and mentoring other students for over 15 years.
Her best job is the joy of being a mom to Petar (4) and Anabella (2).
My whole family works hard and takes pride in our results. We believe in meritocracy. I believe that to be the story of a lot of Macedonians.
I am proud of our culture/music/traditions, family values, and generosity. Regardless of where we are, we are Ambassadors to our culture.
My advice for the next generation is to focus on the present and doing what fuels you. Our history is important to know and to learn from, but being stuck in the past can hold us back. For example: It’s great if you had all As in school and you can apply to top schools – great! If you didn’t get all As though, you still can make your dreams come true. Don’t dismiss your future because of your past. Today, right now, we each have a choice on what we do with our lives and we all need to choose powerfully, without any excuses. Dream it. Do it.
Katherine Vrantsidis, 23
Krstoar, Bukovo, Bitola, Macedonia
Armensko, Bouf, Lerin, Aegean Macedonia
Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Katherine graduated from the University of Windsor in 2016, receiving an Honours Bachelor of Mathematics degree with Great Distinction, along with a minor in Biological Sciences.
Katherine is an Actuarial Analyst at the global management consulting firm of Willis Towers Watson. Actuaries are mathematicians that deal with the management of risk and uncertainty. The actuarial field requires a series of rigorous mathematical exams over a period of years. She is currently working her way through the Society of Actuaries Associate exams.
She was on the President’s and Dean’s Honour Rolls, receiving the Board of Governor’s Medal in Mathematics and Statistics for graduating with the highest academic standing in her major.
Katherine was the recipient of the University of Windsor President’s Medal, which is awarded to one student out of over 3,200 graduates in recognition of outstanding contributions to
campus activities and exceptional service to the university community, while maintaining a superior academic record. She is the first mathematics graduate to receive the medal.
Katherine was the President of the Mathematics and Statistics Student Association, and held leadership positions with Students Offering Support, Toastmasters, and faculty administration councils, among other involvement.
Katherine values the importance of service. She is a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit’s Worksite Mentorship Program. She is particularly interested in the advancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, volunteering with Let’s Talk Science and Science Rendezvous as an undergraduate and Build a Dream as a professional.
Being born with Macedonian heritage in North America, I inherited a marvelous past as well as a future of unlimited opportunity. I have always been proud and thankful to be part of a beautiful, vibrant, resilient culture so rich in religion, history, and tradition. My family has taught me that anything is possible with a strong work ethic, perseverance, and a healthy dose of humility. They have provided me with love, guidance, a defined sense of morality, and endless support for my inquiring mind. My Macedonian heritage has been an anchor in my life that keeps me grounded.
The struggles my ancestors overcame constantly inspire me and have instilled in me an intrinsic sense of gratitude. I directly attribute my achievements in my life to date to the traits I have learned from both my family and my Macedonian heritage.
My advice to all young people is to remember that in every endeavor, you will get out of it what you put into it. It is important to keep your mind and your options open. Above all, be your true self in everything you do, and never forget where you came from.