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Serbian family embracing new culture in a whole different world

Serbia will always hold a special place in their heart, but making a new life as a complete package in Corner Brook is what the Mitrovic family plans to do for the immediate future.

Robert (Rocky) Mitrovic, his wife Nada and daughters Ivana, 14, and Jovana, 18, are seen at the Wellington Street Sports Complex.
Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star

Robert (Rocky) Mitrovic, a former professional soccer keeper from Hegotih, Serbia, has been coaching minor soccer in Corner Brook for the past six years. His first stint six years ago was only a three-month job, but he eventually became a permanent fixture on the local soccer fields for seven months of the year.

He came to the city to share his passion and expertise in a game that he played in a number of countries in pursuit of playing the game at the highest level. It was what defined him as a person and it provided him with a sense of peace and contentment.

The most difficult part about chasing his passion was leaving his family behind. His wife Nada and daughters Ivana, 14, and Jovana, 18, were left behind to fend for themselves while dad was gone away.

After a number of years of talking about bringing the family to Canada for a permanent move, the Mitrovics made it happen 11 months ago.

They have been settling into a new world with a different culture facing a language barrier.

It’s been a pleasant journey for the family.

Ivana is the youngest, but she quickly took on the role of family spokesperson when The Western Star caught up with the family earlier this week to talk to them about how they are adjusting to their new world.

Ivana’s English is pretty impressive for somebody who has been only here for 11 months, but she’s fluent in Serbian and Germany so it’s safe to say she will master another language soon enough.

Having the family together in one place is obviously a relief for them. Dad is the most important person in the family, according to Ivana, the other soccer player in the family. They were all smiles as they talked about not having to worry about dad being around all the time.

“We decided to come here because we didn’t want to be separated anymore,” Ivana said. “We’re finally together again so that’s the most important thing and for me probably soccer because I have a lot of friends in soccer and I really enjoy playing.”

Ivana had a big chuckle when she revealed she is a big Justin Bieber fan. She used to listen to his videos on YouTube and try to translate his songs or any interview he did in an effort to learn a third language.

No doubt, she sees many differences in the two worlds, from the food to the weather, but she has already discovered a love for moose meat so it may not take her long to settle into the ways and traditions of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The cold temperatures and heavy snowfall, well that’s something neither one of them is ready to embrace just yet.

“Winter is really cold here and we’re not used to this much snow and stuff, but I really like it,” Ivana said.

Jovana isn’t into sports at all. It’s not her cup of tea. Supporting her dad and sister is the extent of her sports interest, but she has visions of a bright future when she graduates from Corner Brook Regional High later this month.

She wants to attend university and is looking at a career as a lawyer. She’s working hard on her English and has a job at Coleman’s that she figures will help her save money and also get a better grasp on her English through conversations with the customers.

Jovana heaped praise on her teachers for making her life more comfortable. The teachers have been patient with her as she struggles and offers her help after school.

“My English is much better and my teachers are very proud of me, and that’s a big thing for me,” Jovana said. “I mean you need time to learn English and it’s only been 11 months.”

While they miss friends back home, they are excited about learning new things about the rich culture of their new home and meeting new friends to spend time with outside of their family life.

“We want to learn a lot of new things because it’s really a pleasure to see other cultures,” she said. “But we will never forget Serbia because that’s just the place where you, for me, spend my best days so that’s not a place I want to forget ever.”

Mom stood quietly by as the girls spoke. She smiled and listened. She could understand some of the exchange, but wasn’t comfortable with responding.

That’s pretty frustrating for her and that’s what precipitated a hearty laugh from her family.

“For my mom it’s harder because she loves to speak. I don’t know how to explain it,” Jovana said.

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