United Macedonians Organization
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|Founder||James Saunders (first president)|
|Type||Political, cultural, human rights|
|Focus||To work for the national unity of Macedonians worldwide, regardless of their religious beliefs, political opinions or affiliations|
|President of the Organization Mendo Bakalovski
Executive Board of Directors
The United Macedonians Organization of Canada (Macedonian: Организација Обединети Македонци) is a non-profit membership organization founded in 1959 and based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada addressing the interests and needs of the Macedonian community of Canada. The organization also supports the human rights of the Macedonian minorities in Greece and Bulgaria, and promotes the irredentist idea of a united and free Macedonia.
The United Macedonians Organization has embarked on the following mission:
- To work for the national unity of Macedonians worldwide, regardless of their religious beliefs, political opinions or affiliations;
- To raise the national consciousness and pride of all ethnic Macedonians;
- To work for the attainment of National and Human Rights of all Macedonians, especially those living in the occupied territories of Macedonia;
- To promote good public relations with all peoples and governments who support the national independence and development of Macedonia;
- To work towards a full international acceptance of the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name, and for a greater well being for all its citizens;
- To work towards easier integration of Macedonians in their countries of residence; and
- To help all Macedonians achieve their utmost in their chosen fields, and thus help society as a whole.
By the 1950s Toronto had become the epicenter for organizational activity among post-WWII Macedonians in North America. A total of 20,000-30,000 Aegean Macedonians, including many of the deca begalci, or child refugees of the Greek civil war, settled in Toronto. Many among them were spoiling to attack the Greek government for its poor treatment of its Macedonian minority and child refugees. The relatively liberal Canada of Prime Ministers Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau provided fertile ground in which a left wing emigre organization could grow.
In 1959 a group of eight men met at the Bermuda Tavern on Yonge Street. The initial eight men became 12 when they met again at Zhelevo Hall, the social space owned by the Zhelevo Benevolence Brotherhood, a mutual aid society founded in 1907 by migrants from Zhelevo (Antartiko) in Aegean Macedonia. Chairing both meetings was James Saunders, a Macedonian-Canadian who had migrated from Zhelevo to Toronto in 1938. On April 28, 1959, the group established itself as the United Macedonians of North America at a gathering at the city’s King Edward Hotel. It started with the Ilinden picnic, an annual gathering of Macedonians on the anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising. The first picnic was held in the summer of 1959 and had brought over 3,000 people together. This manifestation encouraged the committee to make Ilinden an all-Macedonian holiday, which today has become a tradition; drawing ten to fifteen thousand people every year.
The organization undertook many other projects such as publication of periodicals, magazines, newspapers and bulletins explaining the situation in their homeland, and the history of Macedonia. The United Macedonians Committee held many social affairs such as dances, banquets, lectures, and invited many prominent speakers to enlighten Macedonian Canadians about their culture and heritage. In 1962 the committee decided to invite a religious delegation of the Macedonian Orthodox Church from Skopje to attend and officiate at the memorial service for the fallen Macedonian heroes of the 1903 Ilinden Uprising. The delegation was headed by Bishop Naum. The organization also played a significant role in establishing the first Macedonian Orthodox Church in Canada, St. Clement of Ohrid. In August 1962, members of the United Macedonians Organization held a meeting in the King Edward Hotel in Toronto and the decision was made to build a new church in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood which will bear the name of the medieval Saint Clement of Ohrid. After this decision was brought forth, an assembly was also formed and a church delegation was sent by the Holy Synod in Skopje, Macedonia. The first holy liturgy of the parish was carried out on the 12th of August, 1962 in the Zhelevo Hall. The UMO listed over a hundred members by 1965. Many more non-members routinely attended UMO dances and picnics. The list of members contained a large number of Greek surnames – Papadimitriou, Mangos, Sideris, Loukras – a clear indication of the influence of Aegean Macedonians in the group.
The group’s presence in the United States never achieved the size or momentum it did in Canada, with the possible exception of Detroit. A locus of leftist Macedonian activity since George Pirinski's time, Detroit formed an active United Macedonians chapter in 1970. As in Toronto, much of the UMO's work in Detroit was cultural and educational, and brought together Macedonians from the greater Detroit and Windsor area for dances, picnics, and banquets
During the early 1990s, at the height of the Greek-Macedonian dispute, the organization was involved in several disputes with members of the Greek community of Toronto over issues regarding protests for Macedonian human rights in Greece, a Macedonian flag raising ceremony at Toronto City Hall, Macedonian independence parades, and a Macedonian wreath laying ceremony at the bust of Alexander the Great - an historic figure claimed by both communities as their own. Despite strong objection from Toronto's Greek community, Macedonian Canadians were able to successfully carry out these activities throughout the city with permission from city officials. As a result, the then mayor of Toronto, Mel Lastman, fell victim to an attack from Greek-Torontonians, where he was publicly kicked and spat on for his support to the Macedonian community and alleged anti-Greek actions.
The Organization today
The United Macedonians Organization continues to fulfill the cultural and political needs of the Macedonian communities in North America. It holds annual cultural events such as the Ilinden Picnic, the Goce Night Banquet - an annual gathering commemorating the birth of the Macedonian revolutionary Goce Delchev, church events, and festivals. In February 2009, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honorable Stepphen Harper attended the 50th anniversary celebration of the United Macedonians Organization, where he was welcomed as the guest of honor.
The organization is the owner of "Ilinden Park", a 30-acre (120,000 m2) lot in Whitby, Ontario. In 1979, UMO built a war memorial dedicated to Canada's unknown soldier and to all those who lost their lives fighting for the liberty of Macedonia. The memorial is made of granite and is located near St. Clement of Ohrid Macedonian Orthodox Church in Toronto. The organization is also the publisher of The Macedonian Herald, a Macedonian-Canadian quarterly newspaper.
According to the UMO committee, membership is open to all Macedonians born in ethnic Macedonia, their descendants and spouses who need not be of Macedonian descent, without distinction as to sex, religion or political beliefs, and who agree with the Mission and Goals of the Organization.
Annual activities of the United Macedonians Organization are:
- February 4 - Goce Night (Komitska Vecher): birthday of the Macedonian revolutionary Goce Delchev
- April 28 - Anniversary Banquet: Founding of the United Macedonians Organization;
- May - Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day: Days of Macedonian Culture and Literature
- July 23 - Birthday of Alexander the Great;
- August 2 - Ilinden Celebrations: Uprising against Ottoman occupation - Ilinden Picnic, Wreath laying ceremony on the UMO war memorial for the fallen fighters for the Freedom of Macedonia and Canada;
- September 8 - Macedonian Independence Day;
- October 11 - Day of the Macedonian uprising against the Bulgarian, German, Italian and Albanian (Balisti) fascists - wreath placing at Monument of fallen fighters for the Freedom of Macedonia and Canada in front of MOC St. Clement of Ohrid. wreath laying ceremony at the UMO war memorial
Past Presidents of the United Macedonians Organization were:
1959-1966: James Saunders
1966-1967: John Givens
1967-1968: Georgi Lukras
1968-1969: Jimmie Trentos
1969-1971: Tely Moriovche
1971-1973: Anton Opashinov (Pandov)
1974-1975: James Saunders
1976-1977: Tely Moriovche
1978-1979: Petre Vasilevski
1979-1981: Nikola Stojanovski
1981-1982: Branko Stojcevski
1982-1983: Trajan Tegovski
1983-1984: Dragan Dzolganovski
1984-1987: Mendo Bakalovski
1987-1989: Steve Pliakes
1990-1991: Vlade Grozdanovski
1991-1993: Steve Pliakes
1993-1994: Tely Moriovche
1994-1999: Vlade Grozdanovski
1999-2003: Dragi Stojkovski
2003-2006: Boris Mangov
2006-2009: Dragi Stojkovski
2009–Present: Mendo Bakalovski
Information on the organization's logo, according to the committee's official website:
- The United Macedonians Logo was designed by Simo Temovski.
- It represents the desire for unity that the Macedonians have sought since the forced divisions at the end of the Balkan wars in 1912-13.
- The three torches represent the three parts of Macedonia (Aegean, Vardar and Pirin) that were occupied and separated into three countries in the Balkan wars of 1912-13 *.
- The letter "M" in the middle represents the first letter of Macedonia.
- The two hands under the "M" show the desire of the Macedonian people for unity, irrespective of the borders that divide them.
- The Maple Leaf in the background represents Canada, the country where the United Macedonians Organization was founded in 1959, and the country of choice for over 200,000 Canadians of Macedonian origin.
- "United Macedonians Organization of Canada > About Us". Unitedmacedonians.org. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "United Macedonians Organization of Canada > About Us". Unitedmacedonians.org. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Macedonians: Ontario Ethnocultural Profile
- See “Macedonians: Ontario Ethnocultural Profile,” in Macedonia: A Collection of Articles About The History and Culture of Macedonia (Toronto: Selyani Macedonian Folklore Group, 1982).
- Macedonian-American People’s League of U.S.A., Greek Terror in Aegean Macedonia: A Threat to World Peace and Security
- "Activities - United Macedonians Organization of Canada". Unitedmacedonians.org. 1972-01-23. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Toronto Star, Jul 30, 1990, A7: "Ancient Rivalry flares on Danforth"
- Toronto Star, Dec 07, 1992, A6: "Lastman kicked in Public Brawling"
- TJ-Hosting. "Macedonian Human Rights Movement International". Mhrmi.org. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "Activities - United Macedonians Organization of Canada". Archived from the original on 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "Activities - United Macedonians Organization of Canada". 2007-08-23. Archived from the original on 2007-08-23. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- "United Macedonians Organization of Canada > About Us". 2007-10-10. Archived from the original on 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2010-07-29.