Sladjana came to the East Side of Chicago 35 years ago. “I felt like I had to become a different person, with a different personality,” she told me.
I remember my sister and I getting picked on in school. It was hard, being a kid and not speaking the language. I remember some girl picking on us when we were walking home and calling us Commies. Or, you know, Go back to your own country. In second grade, I drew a picture of the American Flag and I wrote, “I do not like this flag.” And one of my teachers saw it and really demonized me. She called me out: go back to your own country. It was just horrible.
I just remember, growing up in Yugoslavia, I was very independent, I was very free. I really had the Rousseaian childhood, where I had nature, and I got to play all by myself or with friends, it didn’t matter. I was just very content, very happy, in a very loving environment, and totally free. I had a very strong personality, and coming here, that just didn’t mesh with what a girl at that age was supposed to be like.
My name was Sladjana, but there was a girl in our apartment building, and her name was Sladjana too. And she had Anglicized her name to Sue. Sue! So I went by Sue for a long time.