My Name Is ... Hamza Pecenkovic

'Life began' when boy from Bosnia arrived in America at age 9

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/20/20

Working on myself Fatherhood kind of takes over your life. It has to, and that's not a bad thing. I'm learning more about myself, and it's forced me to focus on self-improvement. My son's not even 2, …

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My Name Is ... Hamza Pecenkovic

'Life began' when boy from Bosnia arrived in America at age 9

Posted

Working on myself

Fatherhood kind of takes over your life. It has to, and that's not a bad thing. I'm learning more about myself, and it's forced me to focus on self-improvement. My son's not even 2, but I'm trying to give him an example of what a man should be. I'm focusing on my career as a graphic artist. I want him to travel, so he knows the world is bigger than Colorado.

I was born in Bosnia, and grew up during the war there. We were hit with artillery fire, but we were farther from the worst of the fighting. We were lucky — we didn't have soldiers on the ground, and we weren't near most of the genocide. I don't have a lot of memories of that time. I think I've blocked a lot out.

Waking up from the nightmare

My family was granted refugee status, and we arrived in America in 1997, when I was 9. In some ways that's really when my life began. It was like I was in a nightmare, and then I woke up.

We were resettled in Los Angeles, where I had an aunt and uncle. My family and their family all lived together in a two-bedroom house. I remembering being blown away by dishwashers and washing machines. I was amazed — everyone in America had a TV. I'd only ever seen one computer, and my school had dozens.

I started learning English in Bosnia from a bootleg VHS of "Terminator II" — the only movie I had. In LA, I started spotting places where they'd filmed the movie. It's hard to describe what that felt like.

Shaped by America

It's hard to imagine where I'd be without where I came from. It's easy for me to empathize with others. I have a very positive outlook, because I know things can be so much worse.

My identity is complicated. I don't have a Bosnian accent, but when I speak Bosnian, I'm told I have an American accent. As far as what shaped me, I'm very American. My wife's family has been in America for many generations. My son's relatives will all be Americans. I love it here. It's amazing and beautiful and should be celebrated. But it's also an imperfect place, and I want it to be better, and I think that's a very American value.

If you have suggestions for My Name Is, please contact David Gilbert at dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com.

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