I am from Croatia.

I moved to Cleveland when I was 10 years old because my parents wanted us to have a better life here.

My childhood life was honestly not that great. Because of the fact that I didn’t know a word in English, and because I “looked” different, most of the other children in my class had a tendency to make fun of me.

My first thoughts about coming to the U.S. were that I didn’t want to move there. I didn’t want to leave my friends and all of my other family. Those thoughts have changed over the years and I ended up loving Cleveland and it has now become my home.

I faced many challenges here like learning the language and making friends.

Some Clevelanders made me feel welcomed by being kind and helping me learn the language.

I am a published author and manager of Marie’s Restaurant.

My family practices many Croatian traditions and customs like playing the Croatian instruments, and learning their music, songs and dances. We are Roman Catholics and we follow many religious traditions like planting wheat before Christmas, and acknowledging and celebrating Saints and having “name days.”

I love everything about Cleveland. The people are great, it’s a beautiful city. We have a lot of ethnic people here and I love meeting them and learning about their heritage.

It is important to travel abroad because in doing so, you learn about other cultures and traditions. By learning about these people, and the way they live, teaches us understanding, humility, and respect for them. For the same reasons, it is important to welcome immigrants and refugees. I know what it is like to leave your home and move to a new country. It isn’t easy, and I have always been taught to respect everyone, regardless of race, color and religion. The more we learn about others, the more we learn to respect them and love them.