Macedonians around the world mourn the loss of John Bitove

- famous Canadian-Macedonian businessman passes peacefully

TORONTO, July 31, 2015 /CNW/ - The Republic of Macedonia is deeply saddened to inform the Macedonian public about the passing of Mr. John Louis Nicholas (Lazo) Bitove Sr., on July 30, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

John Bitove was a Canadian businessman of Macedonian origin. He was born in Toronto in 1928 to Macedonian parents, Nikola and Vana, who came from the village of Gabresh, formerly Aegan Macedonia and today's province of Western Macedonia in Greece.  Growing up in a family that carried the scars of persecution and suffering had impressed in John Bitove a sense of patriotism for Macedonia and deep love for the Macedonian people. This love became the force that compelled John to dedicate his life to his beliefs and ideals of helping Macedonia and Macedonians across the globe.

It was his strong will which had led him to grow into a successful businessman. He started at an early age as a helper in his father's butcher shop. He then opened his first restaurant that grew into a chain of restaurants and consequently steered towards several larger ventures, including the largest dining and catering operation in Canada at major stadiums, hospitals and airports.  John Bitove was one of the most successful businessmen of Macedonian origin around the world.

In addition to his business success, John Bitove is truly one of the very few Macedonian heroes of the modern day. He believed in freedom, justice and the ability for all Macedonians to enjoy basic human rights in the states across the Balkans. He donated funds to many organizations that are dedicated to helping Macedonians who were in need. Many churches have been built thanks to his support - most recently the Saint Mother of God in Cambridge and St. Elijah in Mississauga, both in Canada. John Bitove was also a strong believer in education, which caused him to initiate the teaching of the Macedonian language at the University of Toronto. Mr. Bitove has provided scholarships to exceptional students of Macedonian origin in North America.

Mr. Bitove married his American-Macedonian wife Dotsa in 1949.  They were together for 67 years until his death.  John and Dotsa Bitove founded the Canadian-Macedonian Place in 1978 - a retirement home for over 100 Canadians of Macedonian origin. Canadian-Macedonian Place organizes one of the oldest Macedonian gatherings in Canada – the Macedonian Open Golf Tournament, which started in 1942 and takes place annually to this day.

John and Dotsa were deeply impacted by the experience of the children-refugees of Macedonia from the conclusion of World War II, who are known as the Detsa Begaltci. Both of them had relatives among the 30,000 Macedonian children who were sent to the countries of the European Eastern Block to escape persecution and death in their native country. John and Dotsa organized and paid for the reunion that took place in Skopje, in 1984, to re-unite them with their families. This event became a landmark in the latter-day history of the Macedonian people and led to many more Macedonians to reunite with their brothers, sisters, relatives and friends. 

In 1991, he organized, fundraised, and led an international campaign to have the Republic of Macedonia recognized as an independent state by the major world powers.  He was very proud that the country gained its independence without a single bullet fired during the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia. 

Mr. Bitove initiated the idea that the Macedonian Diaspora should have an organization of professionals that is going to work on the economic development of Macedonia. This resulted in the founding of Macedonia2025 by his son John I. Bitove (Jr.), Mike Zafirovski and other notable members of the Diaspora. The organization grew to become the foremost entity of Macedonian professionals from all over the world who help Macedonia become a better and economically stronger country. John Bitove Sr. proudly served as an Honorary Member of Macedonia2025.

John Bitove's dream as a child – that one day there would again be a country called Macedonia – has become a reality.  His help in this achievement and his help for Macedonians is the legacy that he left behind, and he will be dearly missed.

John Bitove has received numerous awards and recognitions. He was invested with Canada's highest civilian award, The Order of Canada, as well as the "September 8th Medal of Honor," the highest merit from the President of The Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, for his life-long dedication to supporting Macedonia.

"John Bitove was a great Macedonian patriot and philanthropist, who loved Macedonia both with words and deeds. He set an example of how to promote the truth about Macedonia and how to cherish the Macedonian name, identity and values. He was guided by the conviction that no one can take away from us "our own independent country with the freedoms that have been earned and the name that has been chosen by the Macedonians". For almost a quarter of a century, John Bitove worked diligently to support the development and progress of the Republic of Macedonia as an independent, sovereign and democratic state, as well as for its international recognition, especially in the relations with friendly Canada. This is why, when we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our independence, I had the honor, on behalf of the grateful Macedonian citizens, to award Mr. Bitove with the Order "September 8th".  Many Macedonians are inspired by him and follow his footsteps for giving back to their homeland. The Republic of Macedonia is proud to have a person like John Bitove supporting the country and advocating on our wellbeing globally. He initiated the spark of Macedonian reunion- a noble and humane cause, and I am honored that I had personally known him" – stated the President of Republic of Macedonia, H.E. Dr. Gjorge Ivanov when expressing his sincere condolences to the Bitove family for their loss.                                                                

Mr. Bitove's deeds will be continued through the dedicated work of his five children; Vonna, Nick, Tom, John I. and Jordan and the sixteen grandchildren to whom he left his desire that the culture and tradition of the Macedonian people live on forever.  In one of his most famous sayings Mr. Bitove said: "My vision for Macedonia is for all Macedonians throughout the world to respect and cherish each other". He passed away far from Macedonia, but he carried the country deep in his heart.

SOURCE Macedonia 2025

For further information: Biljana Markovic, Managing Director, Macedonia 2025, Email:, Tel: (646) 491 6808

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