(birds chirping) (shots firing) – It was early 90s, and
the wars were breaking out all over Eastern Europe and
everything was so tense that my parents weren’t sure what to do. So on my mom’s side, her
mom kept telling her like, no, you have to get out of here, things are not going to
be good in the future, like, go, go, go. – Her family pretty much left the country during the second World
War and they all immigrated to the United States, so she
tried also, for us to go. The conflict in the former
Yugoslavia started in 1991. By that time, we were that
generation of people who graduated from colleges and
had to start our careers, but that was almost
impossible at that time. For those two years, we were trying to see where we can go and try maybe
a new life somewhere else. – It was pretty, pretty bad time, economically more than anything else. We were struggling. So we wanted to leave. – They packed two suitcases, one each, had $600 in their pockets,
and bought a ticket and fled to, actually, England. – That didn’t work out. We applied for Canadian
immigration papers which did. – The situation back there
was so bad that I was always hoping that wherever you
go, it would be better starting point for you, you know, because, I think at that time,
we come to the bottom. – Now that my parents were in Canada and my mom was getting her
Master’s, my dad was working, they were trying to
raise me and my brother. Life was tough for them. They had school, they had
work, so my grandparents, they would grab a visa and
come over for six months, and help out, raise me and my brother, and then they’d move back. And a couple months later in the summer, they ship us to Serbia and we
spent a lot of time with them, so, a lot of our culture at
home and then certainly over the summer was Serbian. (speaking Serbian) – And that exposure to some other world, they will appreciate
this one much more, so, I think that was good balance. And um, grandparents just loved it, to be with grandkids, you know, it’s normal, they will do everything and that freedom that they could feel, they didn’t have to sit in
the car and go somewhere, they could walk, my kids could go by themselves to the store. They’re a different type
of lifestyle there, so, I think it was good that they
learned how things work there. – We spent like nine
months of the year together so often when I was
younger, and she was always such a positive influence, and, when she was around I
always had to be around her. When she was like talking,
I always had to be focused on her, especially when I was
getting a little bit older, like nine, 10, 11, 12, she was
more of a positive influence on me, I kind of understood
her view on life a little bit differently then. It’s that same thing, like, it might be tough now
but it will be all right, just keep sticking with
it, keep sticking with it, you’ll come out all right. And then being immersed in
that culture kind of like just meant a certain resilience,
because everyone was like so molded by the wars, so much
tension, that everyone had like a certain edge to them. Besides the food, besides the breads, and the family being over there, I think my brother and
I have adopted a certain type of resilience just growing up in a more Serbian culture. As tough as it was in the
beginning to like leave our friends and kind of be uprooted
for two or three months, it ended up being worth it in the end because we got to see so
many different experiences, got to become so much closer to family. And that sense is like,
always family first. (soft electronic music) I started playing tennis when I was four. I kind of hated it in the beginning. I wanted nothing to do with
it, I would rather stay home with my mom and watch cartoons. Something clicked and then I decided. Like Dad, I want to play
tennis, I love tennis, get me a racket and let’s go. Since then, I’ve been in love with it. My dad’s been my coach ever since. – I kind of always expected
him that he would be playing. It was just a matter
of him figuring it out, because I always dragged
him, a couple times a week, and he started hitting
balls when he was four. I just meddled him to become
more serious about it. – Hard to distinguish between
father and coach sometimes, and that’s kinda what
makes the dynamic tricky. Luckily I was patient
enough with it though, we were able to stick through
it, and we were able to work out the kinks and the last 10 years it’s been going really well. He’s been my number one role model and my number one motivator. All of the tennis success I’ve had, I owe a lot of it to him. It was kind of a, kind
of a chance happening. There’s actually a point even
when I wanted to quit tennis, like right before the summer
that I kind of broke out a little bit and um, I was
playing well last summer, everything was going pretty
well, and then Coach Orlando was luckily at a tournament that I was at. And then, I played well,
well enough for him to become interested, we kept talking,
and two months later I was able to commit. I knew that MSU was the place for me. And for me, I was like,
whatever anyone else said, that didn’t matter, because
MSU was the school I wanted to go to, so that’s the
school I will go to. We went over in May,
spent a week and a half, almost two weeks there with her. My brother and I, we took
her on all of our adventures. We walked around everywhere,
we had her like walking five, six, seven miles day,
but like, she wanted to come. She was always like, yes,
let’s go, let’s go, let’s go! I want to see, I want to show you guys. And then we did, we took her everywhere. (speaking Serbian) And then everything was
fine, we were getting, we were having plans for her to come over and like, for her to get
another six month visa, come in November and stay until May. Unfortunately, she had some
issues in early September, she was hospitalized,
and one day, one morning, she had a stroke and passed away. (speaking Serbian) I was beyond lucky to be
able to go back in May and that trip was my favorite
trip ever because I got to see her so much and I got
to see her at that time and still got to enjoy
her while she was happy and smiling and always
willing to do things. It was beyond important to
me that I was able to go and see her four months before she passed. – I’m thinking about it all the time. It was planned perfectly, you know? The way that things happened afterwards, that was great that they had time, money, to make that trip all together. And I mean, she loved four
them to spend every minute and it was really great. Priceless, that’s exactly expression. – It’s a very, I think,
immigrant mentality where the goal of the
parents, the main goal, is to set up your kids
as well as possible. She had this mentality of,
yes, I had to do whatever I can for my kids and then my kid’s kids, for them to have as best
of a chance as possible. That’s why my grandma was like, no, like this is not going to
be good here in Serbia, you have so much more opportunity
out there in the world, go explore, go find somewhere
else, it’ll be okay. And then that’s what my
parents did for me here. Like, they knew that I could’ve
gotten a good education anywhere, they knew that I
could’ve probably played tennis out of lower tier D1 school
or some top tier D3 school. They wanted to give me the
best opportunity to succeed in life so they pushed
me to play D1 tennis, they wanted me to get in as
good a school as possible and play as high level
of tennis as possible, and that’s kind of that
mentality trickling over from my grandma, just pushing
for a better chance in life. Just for having more
opportunity for success. I feel like my perspective
has changed in these last four years, like walking in to
those tennis facility doors as a freshman compared to now is a completely different feel to it. I feel like sometimes like I’m the one, like my grandma was, pushing
for the freshman and sophomores to have a better chance
of success in tennis. Doing what I can not only
to promote my tennis, but to promote the MSU
tennis program as well. The fight is there every game,
every point, every match, and I love seeing it out there, I’m beyond proud of you guys. MSU tennis is resilience. We work hard, we’re a
gritty team, we’re tough. And like, no matter what the
score is, no matter what the situation is, like I believe
that my guys will fight. The resilience that my parents
have had in their upbringing and their trip over to the
United States has molded me as a tennis player, as I am today. I have her name and the
date she passed on my shoes, and every time I slide, every
time I look down at my feet, I see her that she’s still there. Every time I look up in the sky, I know that she’s there watching me, too. – [Aleksandra] I think he’s
believing in his grandma that she’s looking at him and
giving him directions. (dramatic electronic music)

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Dennis Veasley

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