Olivera Jankovska is an award-winning community activist and a champion for children’s rights. She both works for and is committed to the mission of the United Nations. She is an imaginative soul who transforms her daydreams into creative expressions. Olivera sings, dances, and writes, but her favorite ability is to be able to engage with people around the world in the eight languages she is proficient in. A published economist with a love for numbers and a service leader at her core, Olivera is an avid traveler whose mission in life is to be an organizer for peace and to inspire the celebration of diversity. A recipient of the 2017 United States of America President’s Volunteer Service Award and one of the ‘Top 30 Influential Women of Houston’, Olivera is a global citizen with rich personal and professional stories. Olivera, a native of Macedonia, and her husband of 5 years, Tushar, who hails from India are raising a trilingual son and are helping him navigate life at the nexus of three very different homelands. The My Homeland book series was inspired by Olivera’s desire to ensure her son appreciates his Indian, Macedonian, and American heritage and to celebrate immigrants like her and second-generation nationals like her son. In a recent interview, she stated:
“Since the first day I arrived in the USA, 12 years ago, I promised I’ll do anything necessary in order to preserve my heritage. As the years went by, this personal goal grew into a goal for communities. I saw many people like myself struggling to remain ‘diverse’ and often feeling as they have lost their identity. I would hear myself and other multiethnic people say: ‘I don’t belong there nor here’. I felt passionate to change that and decided to lead with the goal to the international diaspora remain diverse.
I launched My Homeland book series to help societies preserve diversity starting from the youngest. These books are meant to apply counter pressure to nationalism, racism and the ‘melting pot’. They challenge to expand the narrow race and ethnic category of identity – ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Asian’ etc. to add the option of ‘multiracial’ or ‘all of the above’. I dream of a day when a multiethnic child will not be pressured to identify themselves as one category. For instance, my son should never have to say I am 50% Macedonian and %50 Indian, but live in the USA, rather to say I am 100% Macedonian, 100% Indian and 100% American.
That mission of diversity promotion and preservation I now shortly describe as ‘connecting people to peace’ never ceased to guide me in my daily decisions. Basically with this in mind, I’m ‘keeping the soul of the diaspora alive’. In a hypothetical situation, without such social initiatives — to cherish and preserve the cultural diversity, cultures will be lost, languages will cease to exist or even worse, without multicultural society, extreme differences and lack of communication can cause conflict. We have seen all these issues in history.
The driver for this new project I have undertaken came when my son was born. I found myself putting tremendous amount of effort to preserve his Macedonian and Indian heritage WHILE he is growing up in the USA. I searched for a long time for educational content for children on teaching children about the value of preserving their identity while living in the diaspora — and found very little on this subject. There’s plenty of books on diverse topics, but no books on the topic of WHY cherish and HOW to nudge your child to appreciate their culture.”
To read more about the author, her personal and professional experiences, please visit her personal webpage.