Remarks delivered by Vonna Bitove, Executive Director of the Bitove Foundation and UMD Advisory Council Member during the 3rd Canadian-Macedonian Leadership Conference (full summary HERE) at the University of Toronto on November 12, 2016.
Good Morning Everyone
I am so pleased to be here for this 3rd Canadian Macedonian Leadership Conference at University of Toronto.
Thank you Kristina, Trajce and Luka, as well as your entire Generation M team for all the hard work, dedication and passion you have put into planning CMLC2016.
Allow me to give you a bit of my background. I was born and raised in Toronto, the eldest of 5, with four brothers.
My father John was also born in Toronto and My mother Dotsa was born in Macedonia but raised in the USA. My parents met at a Macedonian convention in Indianapolis.
From a young age my brothers and I were immersed into our Macedonian culture and traditions.
Macedonian was my first language.
We attended church, dances, conventions and cultural events.
We regarded everyone as family. That’s how it was then.
My parents worked hard to instill the same hard-working ethical values to my brothers and me. We carried these values into our own lives.
One of the first lessons I learned was to never fear to ask for support from our community.
Many decades ago, my parents noticed a growing need in our community to look after our aging population.
Together they spearheaded a campaign to build the first and only senior citizens home “Canadian Macedonian Place,” in Toronto.
At that time, in Toronto, there were many and varied Macedonian organizations and societies. But it was also fractured and divisive. Not the unity you see now.
My parents worked hard to enlist various individuals from different organization to help unite our community in order that Canadian Macedonian Place would come to fruition.
They were inclusive instead of exclusive.
They never feared to ask for support, they knew they couldn’t do it alone. They built a team.
A team of hard-working, dedicated and passionate individuals with a vision, very much like you today.
In 1991, when Macedonia became independent, my parents reached out to President Gligorov and offered their support for anything Macedonia needed.
My father realized that the only way our homeland would get strong was by a united Diaspora’s help.
My parents travelled globally to meet with likeminded Macedonians.
My father lobbied Washington, to recognize Macedonia.
After generations of struggling with the Macedonian question, we now had a country that was recognized but that fledgling country needed so much more.
In 2005, in Toronto, at a family organized event to honour President Branko Crvenkovski, our family met Meto Koloski.
Meto had flown in from Washington, D.C. to attend the dinner.
Meto had founded United Macedonians Diaspora in 2004.
At a later meeting when Meto and Jim Daikos presented the mission and vision of UMD, my father believed that UMD was the future for our community. A group of young people not engulfed in the baggage and difficult times of the older generation working to unite Macedonians worldwide.
Macedonians needed a strong voice and with UMD’s offices in Washington, D.C., he knew they could help.
My father once said,” there has never been an organization like UMD in the global Macedonian community.”
I also believe we are on the right track with UMD. We have never had this level of professionalism united in their goals for solidarity in our community.
As a united team we will achieve our goals.
The Bitove Foundation strongly believes in youth and the next generation.
Through our establishment of scholarships in partnership with UMD, we have provided funding to students in Canada and Macedonia.
Alex Karapancev, a rising lawyer in Toronto, is with us here today.
UMD’s next generation of leaders, Generation M, are the future leaders of our community.
Never listen to negativity, never allow anyone to put you and your goals down.
Our community has faced a lot of tribulations and challenges over the decades, just like our homeland Macedonia, but we can never give up!
We have come so far.
Generation M is doing phenomenal work to bring out the youth.
Ask yourselves today, how can you give back to the Macedonian community?
We Macedonians are responsible for each other.
United we can or as my father would say, “ Zaedno.”
Thank you Kristina, Trajce, and Luka and the entire Generation M team for allowing me the opportunity to speak.
May God Bless you, Generation M, UMD and our entire Macedonian community and homeland.