Embracing the future

Thousands of miles away from shrapnel and artillery attacks, Davor Mitrovic now spends his time at Marquette with friends, in class and on the soccer field.

The College of Arts & Sciences sophomore moved to the United States in December 1998, when he began school on the south side of Chicago.

But life before the transfer was spent in a country embroiled in conflict by internal factions.

Mitrovic was born in Bosnia and lived in Doboj, a north-central city nestled between several mountains. His childhood was shaped by the Balkan conflict.

The conflict exploded when Bosnian believers in Islam, now called Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs began arguing about issues of independence.

Mitrovic said his mother's ethnicity is Croatian while his father is Serbian. Mitrovic said he considers himself an American and a citizen of former Yugoslavia.

He remembers that before the conflict, people tended not to notice the ethnic differences. However, once the war started, about half the people moved out of his apartment building.

"It was just a shock," he said.

After the Serbs attacked several U.N. safe zones, the situation escalated and the United States got involved, Mitrovic said. Mortar fire and artillery attacks increased.

The criminology major said he remembers shrapnel explosions shaking his apartment building in Doboj.

One day, while he was in school, Mitrovic said a mortar shell landed outside of the window. It did not explode, but he and his classmates questioned whether they should go out into the hall.

Mitrovic's family did not move to Serbia-Montenegro until it was absolutely necessary.

He said they did not consider moving to America at that time.

"Why would you leave what's yours?" Mitrovic said.

But the situation worsened still.

"The future wasn't too bright," Mitrovic said.

Upon his arrival in America, Mitrovic started going to seventh grade at a predominantly Hispanic Chicago public school in a south side neighborhood dubbed "Slag Valley."

"At first it was pretty rough," he said. "The kids at the grammar school helped me out a lot, and I think they identified with me."

Mitrovic said he had one year of English class before coming to Chicago.

"My pronunciation was good but my grammar was horrible," he said.

The student learned most of what he knows from television shows and his surrounding environment.

"I'm pretty mad that I lost my accent because I heard that chicks dig accents," Mitrovic said.

Mitrovic graduated from Mt. Carmel High School, a private all-boys school, where he was the vice president of the National Honor Society and played soccer for three years and water polo for four years.

He said he traveled to the National Junior Olympics for water polo in 2001 and won two state championships in the game.

Seth Leasure, a College of Arts & Sciences sophomore, met Mitrovic last year when he lived in the room next to him in O'Donnell Hall. He describes Mitrovic as loyal, honest and enthusiastic.

"Davor's really big into soccer," Leasure said. "One of the most competitive players you'll ever meet. He goes crazy on the field."

Another friend of Mitrovic, College of Arts & Sciences sophomore Frank Edgeworth, also met him at O'Donnell and remains close friends with him.

"When he does something, he does it all the way," Edgeworth said. "He's one of the few people here that won't talk behind your back. He's really true to the things he believes in."

One year ago he and his family moved to a new house in Orland Park, a suburb of Chicago.

Mitrovic's 21-year-old brother Bojan is studying at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Their mother is a homemaker and their father works for General Motors in La Grange, Ill.

The Marquette sophomore is a permanent resident of America and awaits the final step in the application process for citizenship.

"I can't wait to be a citizen," he said. "I've been promised an 'American' party by my friends."

The soon-to-be junior and his family received their green cards when they entered the United States. These documents signify their status as permanent residents.

According to federal regulations, permanent residents have to wait a number of years before applying for citizenship, Mitrovic said.

Some of his maternal family members remained in Bosnia. Mitrovic said conditions there are slowly improving with new factories opening up, but economic strains still exist.

Mitrovic said he eventually wants to work for Interpol, an international police organization.

"It's a boyhood dream," he said. "And it sounds cool."

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on April 21 2005.