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Story of Tamara

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Gorana Ignjatovic
Oral History
When my sister, Tamara, came to America, she was only seven years old. She came with our mom, dad and I. Tamara came from a war torn country, which is now called ex-Yugoslavia. Her family came here September 9, 1997. They basically left their whole life in their mother land country.
?Who did you meet when you came here?
Our aunt was here so we met all the family friends that she made and that’s how where the base of our family started in America. So we started those friendships that she established living here for the year before we came
What did you bring?
We didn’t bring a lot. We literally just brought

This picture was taken two year after the

necessities and we brought lots of photos,
big move Tamara, the one in the far right and

thats’s it, we didn’t bring anything huge.
I in the left of the picture.
Why did you come?
We came for better opportunities since it was a war torn country so coming here would allow us to have better educational opportunities and a better life.
How did you keep in touch with people over there?
Letters and as technology progressed: email and Skype. We would visit our family regularly, well as often as we could whether that would be every summer or two years or every three years.
Who was the main person you missed?
Mostly our aunts and uncles and grandparents just because it seems like you live two separate lives; one in the summer when we would go visit and then our actual life when we come back home. It’s not like you could go pick up whenever you want and go visit them for Sunday brunch. You could only visit them once a year, if that. So they miss out on what’s going on in our lives and you miss out on what’s going on it their lives.

This is a picture that was taken summer or 2012. the house in the picture is that house that my family left behind. It was torn up and ruined during the war and hasn't been redone.
Why America?
Because our dads sister, our aunt, came her a year and a half before us, so we already had family here and there was also a huge Serbian community already established here.
When did you realize that you would stay in America forever?
I don’t think I just realized, I think it was just what had to happen. I never assumed that I was going to go back and live over there. When our parents made the decision to come here, I just knew that we were going to stay here. It wasn’t a temporary thing. Nobody ever mentioned that it would be temporary.
What was the experience like going to a school and not knowing the language?
Thankfully, I had two Serbian kids in my class, so I wasn’t that unaware. They were there to help me transition to the American culture, so I wasn’t that shocked. I think they made the transition much easier even though I didn’t know the language or culture or what was going on. They were there to help me out and to teach me whatever I needed to be taught when I came to school.
Was it easy to make friends?
Yeah, I have a very good personality. Nobody really talked to me since we didn’t understand each other because I didn’t know the language. But besides that, like I said before, those two Serbian girls were so beneficial to that transition.
How long did it take you to learn English?
Probably like that year. To fully know the language, it probably took all of second grade. What was hard was that I came here and I skipped 1st grade because over there you start school at age 8 and here you start at age 7. So I skipped a whole grade and I learned Cyrillic, not the alphabet over there. I basically had to learn everything here pretty much had to learn the language, the alphabet, and the mindset of just being inside of a classroom all at the same time, so that was a huge culture shock. I think moving here made me realize that you just have to adapt to your surroundings and just go with the flow. You don’t really have time to dwell and be like ‘oh my god, this sucks’, you just have to do it.
This picture was taken summer of 2011. it is a picture of part of Tamaras family. She is the blonde in the middle. This picture was taken in front of our abandoned house that we try to visit as much as we can.
Do you remember how you felt when you were coming to America?
We came with another family and they were family friends. They had two girls my age and I just remember running around the airplane and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world. And on the way to the airport, in Belgrade, we stayed at a hotel, so that was supper cool. I’ve never done that before. And just landing here, I was just so exhausted about everything; I couldn’t conceptualize what was actually happening. Because I think it just happened all so fast, us deciding to come here was so fast.
When did mom and dad decide to come here?
Maybe a couple months before coming here. Before your 1st birthday.
Why do you think they chose to come here?
They probably thought that there were so many more benefits in us living here that over there. Like with schooling.
What do you think was going to happen when you came here?
I don’t think I grasped how big of a decision it was. So I don’t think something like that crossed my mind since I was only seven. I didn’t realize what a big decision it was to move your entire family without anything, without knowing the language, not knowing the culture, not knowing where you’re going to live or what career you’re going to have. I didn’t realize that those were all the decisions that they were going to make. I just thought it was another move, since we moved a lot those past two years before coming to America.
Do you remember how mom and dad told you that we are moving to America?
I don’t think that they made a decision then and there. The first step was talk about openly when they were contemplating and when they were talking to our aunt that was already her in the states. Everything was done out in the open, we were all part of the process. Well you weren’t since you were just an infant. Even though my opinion didn’t necessarily didn’t matter, I knew what was going on and the truth wasn’t hidden away from me. I think I was excited because I just knew new opportunities would lie ahead of me and I knew nothing was coming about living where we were living. So anything was better than that.

Tamara had many ups and downs during the process of coming to this native country. Today, she is a graduate student at National Luis University studying counseling. She finished her under graduate at DePaul University. She currently works at our dads trucking company and is very thankful for that. Tamara is very thankful that her parents made the decision to come to America just her and I. Our life would be completely different from what it is now if we would have stayed in former Yugoslavia.


This picture was taken summer of 2011. It is a picture of a couple of Tamaras cousins that she left behind in Serbia. She stays with them every time she goes to her homeland.



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