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Daniella Suvak

From Serbia to America


What to do, what to do? The thought that constantly ran through my
head. My life back at home was hard, but I was not sure if it would be any
better in a foreign country all by myself. From a terrorist group starting to
take control of my country to going somewhere completely unknown to me, I
constantly weighed the options of coming here to the United States. After
much thought and consideration, I decided that leaving my family back in
Serbia and coming to Chicago would be the best thing for my family and me.
The Black Hand really pushed me away from my homeland and the
opportunity for me to have a job that would earn me money to bring my
family to America, where we could live a better life with more economic
freedom and possibly religious freedom, pulled me here to the United States.
Although leaving my family behind was the hardest thing I ever had to do, I
knew it was going to be the most beneficial thing for us. Let me rewind a bit
and start from what happened in my homeland and why I ever had to
consider coming to America and how it ultimately changed my life.
I had never considered leaving Serbia until I had no other choice.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have to leave my
homeland because a terrorist group was taking over. The Black Hand, the
terrorist group that forced me to leave my beloved home. This was a group
of men, who were both military and political officials, that worked together to
eventually assassin major political figures. (MacKenzie, David The Black
Hand and Its Statutes, 1-2) The worst part about this group is that many of

Daniella Suvak
them were not true, Serbian born people, but that rather just associated
themselves as Serbians. As a result, this gave all Serbian people a bad
reputation. Everyone thought that the Serbian people were trying to start a
war and were just killing people, when in reality it was a very small group of
Serbian people who were doing this. That was it. After all of that, I decided I
needed to make a decision quick and it needed to be one that would be the
best for my entire family. At this time, many of my friends had begun to go to
America. Whether it was to get away from all this nonsense going on in this
country or solely the fact that they could find a job in America that was not
just a farming job and it provided an income that was more reliable than the
one we were getting here, many of my Serbian people were immigrating to
America. (Stevanovi, Bosiljka, Serbian Americans, 6) I started to realize
that although leaving my family behind would be the hardest thing of my life,
it might be more bearable than watching us all suffer here in our village. The
future of our country was really uncertain and it really seemed like the
opportunities in America were a bit more reliable. After much talk and
consideration with my wife, we decided that it would be best for me to go
America and leave her behind with Luka and Milena, my son and daughter. I
talked to a few of my friends and found that Chicago was where I should go
because it offered more industrial-like jobs and the Serbian community there
was expanding, so it would feel a little bit less foreign to me. (Stevanovi,
Bosiljka, Serbian Americans, 6)

Daniella Suvak
Right from the beginning, I knew that this journey was going to be a
difficult one. I had to wait multiple days to find a ship that had to room from
me to join. Once I finally got on the ships, it just got worse. There was an
abundance of people on the ship, a scarce amount of food, and a whole
variety of emotions. On top of that, people were beginning to get sea-sick,
resulting in the ship being a place nobody wanted to be. (Frowne, Sadie, The
Story of a Sweatshop Girl: Sadie Frowne, 1) All we wanted was to see and be
on land. Through these hardships, I started to question if coming to America
was going to be worth it. We were already facing many struggles and we had
not even made it to Chicago yet. I just kept telling myself it will all be
beneficial in the end. Arriving to Chicago was such a relief, but a whole new
obstacle started. Luckily for me, I found my friend Milan from back home,
who had already been here for about a year so he said he would help me find
a job and said I could live with him, since often times multiple Serbian
families lived in one house. (Alter, Thomas, The Serbian Great Migration:
Serbs in the Chicago Region, 54-56) After a few weeks of searching, I finally
got myself a job in a steel-mill, fortunately working with Milan and mostly
other immigrants from Europe. (Stevanovi, Bosiljka, Serbian Americans, 6)
I was grateful that I found him because he helped me find this new job and
helped me transition into this new culture. A suggestion Milan had for me
was to alter my Serbian name to make it more of an American name so I
would not initially stand out as an immigrant. (Stevanovi, Bosiljka, Serbian

Daniella Suvak
Americans, 7) Taking this advice, I took my Serbian name, Ljubomir, and
decided I would now go by Lou.
Although many of the people already in Chicago looked down on us
Serbian people as uneducated and uncivilized people, we did not let it bother
us. We just stuck together and formed a Serbian community and we tried our
best to assimilate into the culture of this city. From families living in close
corridors to attending a Serbian Orthodox church, all us Serbian people in
Chicago tried to keep our Serbian pride close to our hearts. Whether we were
playing basketball together, going to church, or simply just reminiscing on
traditions we used to celebrate back at home, one could always find me with
Milan and many of other Serbian friends from back home together. Having
other people that understood the struggles I was going through made living
in Chicago a little bit more enjoyable. Many of my friends also left their
families back in Serbia, so they too were on an emotional rollercoaster. As if
this was not enough, we were also looked down on by the other people in the
community. Practicing our Serbian Orthodox faith was not very accepted. In
addition, we were considered uneducated to them and unskilled to the native
people. (Alter, Thomas, The Serbian Great Migration: Serbs in the Chicago
Region, 47-51) As a result, they gave us the more dangerous jobs and did
not trust us. Even through all this prejudice, I was still grateful for the
opportunities I was given. (Petrovich, Michael, Pupin in Serbian-American
Life Before the First World War, 10) I was given a job that allowed me to
earn money that would hopefully be enough down the road to bring my

Daniella Suvak
family here to America and just given a place with more opportunities for me
to create a life I want to live.
Overall, coming here to Chicago was worth the risk. The countless
struggles I faced through getting here and starting a life in foreign territory
paid off. Leaving my village was the right thing to do as the Black Hand had
done multiple things that I do not want to associate myself with. Being in
America, allowed me to escape that and let me keep my Serbian pride alive
with the other fellow Serbians that also wanted to leave the mess back
home.

WORKS CITED

Stevanovi, Bosiljka. "Serbian Americans." Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural


America. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2014. 133-149.
Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.

Daniella Suvak

Petrovich, Michael. "Pupin in Serbian-American Life Before the First World


War." Serbian Studies 4.1/2 (1986): 5-27. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.

MacKenzie, David. "The "Black Hand" and Its Statutes." East European
Quarterly 25.2 (1991): n. pag. Web.

Frowne, Sadie. "The Story of a Sweatshop Girl: Sadie Frowne." Digital History.
N.p., 25 Sept. 1902. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.

Alter, Peter Thomas. "The Serbian Great Migration: Serbs in the Chicago
Region, 1880s to 1930s." Order No. 9992131 The University of Arizona, 2000.
Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.