| This is the 417th story of Our Life Logs |
I guess it all begins with my parents’ ice cream shop.
In the early 1990s, my father and his brother left their home in Macedonia to pursue their dream of opening a restaurant together. This was all exciting for them…until my father longed to go back to Macedonia. He was homesick for the beautiful city, the friendly people, and…for the girl he loved. So, he worked very hard to earn and save all he could until, finally, he moved back to Prilep, Macedonia, in 1998 to start an ice cream shop. He continued dating (and later marrying) the girl (my mother). A year later in 1999, they had me. It is a pretty cool love story if you see it that way.
Anyway, the profit was enormous, and the good thing was that he never collaborated with other companies, which means he never owed anyone money. All the businesses that were opened in this period have lived to see the glory, as did my father’s. Business boomed!
Throughout elementary school, I was that tiny kid who always got picked on but stood up for himself anyway. It was what my parents taught me. They said that we should always respect others, but realize too when I needed to defend whatever was mine. While I was little, I was confident, and that carried me through.
So, after I finished my primary school, I wanted to continue my classes in another city about 100 kilometers away. More specifically, Yahya Kemal College (like an American high school) in Ohrid. Looking back, it was a luxury. But while it was all truly expensive, my parents were more than able to afford it as their business had expanded and they had been delivering their ice cream products all over the country.
To be more honest, I had plans to move to Germany, wanting to attend school there, at the time. I just couldn’t bring it up. My parents wanted me to stay in Macedonia so that I could take over their business one day. While I never saw myself doing so, I still took my parents’ blessing and left for the boarding school in Ohrid. I knew I would receive a quality education regardless of what I did with it.
At Yahia Kemal, there is a strict policy about going home when classes are in session. Students are to stay in their rooms and on campus and are rarely given holidays or time to visit home. At first, I desperately missed my parents and my little sister. But…things changed over time.
At the time, my sister and I didn’t know much about the “fall” of our business, even if we sensed the tension. My parents were pretty good at hiding the pain and the burdens they were feeling, for the most part. They did not bring the negative energy from the office back home (which is one thing I will be eternally grateful for), but it lingered inside them somehow. Their eyes told the truth. Things were not okay.
With each visit home, the problem only amplified. Nothing was the same anymore. I could see some items missing from our apartment. The bills piled up on the tables, only to be covered by more bills with that big red you’re-way-past-due-and-now-the-interest-is higher. I did not know much about the way my parents were leading the business, but I know one thing for sure: They were never late when it comes to paying bills.
You see, I was kind of stuck. I was going to an expensive school while my parents lost 95 percent of their income. While I kept a strict budget for myself, living in Ohrid was not cheap. I winced each time I had to buy a new textbook or things like new shampoo and rent. All the while, I could not break it to my mother and father that I just did not want to continue their legacy. I always wanted to make my own legacy, I wanted to be Antonio because I was Antonio, not because I was the son of the guy who owned the company with Ice-Creams. Still, I kept quiet. Life was already hard enough for them, and I decided I would not make it any harder.
• • •
To this day, I am so grateful to my parents. Never ever did they tell me to quit or to transfer to a “cheaper” school. Much like when I was little, they encouraged me to defend and finish the path I was on. Because of them and for them, I managed to finish school, despite the struggle.
And then, my future was in front of me.
I knew I was at a turning point in my journey. I knew that if I started with my parents’ ice cream business, I might never be able to save it…and then what?
It was then that I decided to make the biggest step of my life, which was to move to Germany, 2,000 kilometers away from my homeland. Deep down, I knew that I always wanted this, but now, when the time had come, I felt weak. Scared. I felt a fear that I had not ever felt before. I didn’t sleep for weeks. What will happen to me? How could I leave everything and everyone I know? How would I live as a stranger in another country? What would happen to my parents?
Emotions aside, the fact was that I wouldn’t make much of a difference to my parents’ business. I did not have the proper qualifications nor the energy to make it better. If I wanted to build a better life, I could not stay.
Regardless of my doubt, I decided to move to Leverkusen, Germany. The most interesting part was that my parents did not question this when I told them. I had never really had any problems with self-confidence, so they trusted and respected my resolution.
So, in September of 2018, I packed my bags, parted with teary goodbyes, and left.
In my new city of Leverkusen, I started from scratch. I found a job as a paramedic in the local hospital to try to become financially stable before signing up for university classes. I had to unlearn many of my own habits to make way for all the cultural differences.
I remember my first day here. I arrived at my relatives, and they had some guests there. Normally in Macedonia, when somebody comes and visits, everyone will ask them tons of questions. But there, I was barely noticed.
While I kept my head above water at my workplace, its atmosphere was such a challenge to learn and adjust to. I was very excited and full of enthusiasm to start with my working, but the manager there did not share the same “positivity” with me. In about five short sentences, he told me what I should do, when my breaks were, and when I should come in.
For the first several weeks, I felt like a locked bird in a cage. It seemed like nobody would like to talk except for my patients. But then, it couldn’t really be much of a deep conversation. I remember slumping home every day after work, just wanting to talk about my day with my family and friends. In my isolation, I regretted moving.
After those first several weeks, I decided to make the most of my time in Germany. I told myself that I had to earn all I could to fund my schooling and that I would just have to make a bigger effort if I were to have Germany feel like home.
Luckily, Germans have truly enormous respect for hard-workers. I already mentioned that I have always fought for what was mine, so I treated this job as a paramedic like something I wanted, something I had to do to go to University. Slowly, my colleagues began lowering their walls and I eventually made a small group of friends who I could always call up for a conversation over drinks. Slowly, I began to see my dreams take shape. I let go of the regret of moving. I finally took the test to enter university.
It was when my results came back that I knew I was where I was meant to be. After getting the acceptance letter, I enrolled in classes at the University of Social Justice and made preparations to find a job at the school. I am used to working; I am used to studying; so, the next “burden on my back” will be to combine these two and to make my life complete. There is no going back.
This is the story of Antonio Jovanoski
Antonio was born and raised in Macedonia, but he has chosen to live his life in Germany. There are lots of young people who choose to do this, but their motives come for different reasons. He was kind of forced because of the inability to find the future in his Homeland, and the endurance he possesses will allow him to work and study at the same time. Not many students can do this, especially the ones who come from Balkan countries due to the differences, but we believe, and most importantly, Antonio believes that this is his life, this is his path, and this is his destiny! Antonio wants to use his degree to pursue a career in social work, a field that excites him and is something he looks forward to. Antonio plans to make Germany his home for the rest of his life, even taking the first step towards German citizenship by giving up citizenship in Macedonia.
This story first touched our hearts on September 9, 2019.
| Writers: Snezana Lazarova; Colleen Walker |