On Friday, July 10, 2015, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) and its local partner Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation (MCIC) kicked-off “Birthright Macedonia,” at Stonebridge Hotel in Skopje, Macedonia. Natasia Kalajdziovski andLucas Strezos from Canada, and Filip Jotevski and Aaron Kimson from the United States embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime three-week internship program in Macedonia. Over 14 Macedonian media outlets covered the inaugural launch of “Birthright Macedonia.”
These students of Macedonian heritage have been assigned an internship that complements their academic goals, career goals or general interests. The mission of “Birthright Macedonia” is to offer all youth who are of Macedonian heritage and live abroad the opportunity to come to Macedonia for three weeks during the summer to establish contacts and friendships among themselves and with their counterparts in Macedonia. During their stay in Macedonia, they are living with a host family and will become immersed in the fabric of Macedonian everyday life and culture.
The project was developed by UMD Advisory Council member Peter Dallas who was born in the U.S. and has origins from Gevgelija and Aegean Macedonia. “The connections of Macedonians to their ancestral roots are on the decline”, said Dallas at the welcoming ceremony, “particularly among the youth of first, second, and third generation Macedonians living abroad. Concerned with the growing assimilation of overseas Macedonians into other cultures, I was determined to do something to help Macedonians abroad maintain their connection to the homeland.”
“We are very pleased with the results of our cooperation with UMD”, said Aleksandar Krzalovski, First Executive Director of MCIC. “These steps may look small to someone, but we believe that it will enhance trust and contribute to more intensive cooperation with the Macedonian diaspora.”
Pavle Sazdov, Member of the Macedonian Parliament for North and South America, and one of the inaugural UMD Advisory Council members Jerry Naumoff, Minister without portfolio responsible for attracting foreign investments, who was born in the U.S. and came back to Macedonia to help the homeland, were also present at the event and spoke during the press conference.
Over the weekend, these four students had the rare opportunity to attend a traditional Galicnik wedding in the Mijak region of Macedonia, which gathered over 3,000 guests. The trip, organized by MCIC, also consisted of a visit to the Mavrovo Mountains. Other cultural trips are planned so that these students are fully immersed in Macedonia’s rich heritage.
Today, the students started their first days of internships, at the Institute for Democracy, the think-tank Analytica, the First Children’s Embassy in the World “Medjashi,” and the Cabinet of Minister Jerry Naumoff.