Radmila is a former Microsoft and Google engineer who fell in love with storytelling. Her writing experience ranges from computer code behind artificial intelligence algorithms, to presentations and demos for high-tech executives, to theatre plays produced on the London stage, to wedding speeches. Her favorite hobbies are surfing and pruning the vines in her parents’ vineyard near Belgrade, in exchange for pear brandy and barbeque ribs.
As a Story Terrace writer, Radmila interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.
Reaching for the Impossible
In his day job, my father was a fierce and outspoken officer in the Yugoslav National Army. At our family home in Belgrade, he was a quiet presence. He devoured books and tapes in English and filled notebooks with conjugated verbs. On Saturday nights, as we watched American movies, he would quietly repeat certain words after the actors. All of this seemed important somehow, so I started doing it too. The eight-year-old me didn’t realize that through writing words like “fascination” over and over again or impersonating Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, one could learn another language or nuances about American culture. I just wanted to be close to my father.
More than 30 years later, I realize it has made all the difference.
The 1990s were dark years for former Yugoslavia. As I fell in love with the IBM XT 286 computers during my early teenage years, my country violently disintegrated and ceased to exist. Loved ones died. Families and friendships fell apart. My father, whose ambition I later learned was to become a military attaché to the United States, was a vocal critic of the war and its proponents. He was forced to leave the army, which he served for 25 years. Despite the personal and professional crises which followed, he remained a relentless supporter of my dream: to study computer engineering in America.
This dream seemed impossible at the time. The sanctions and travel bans were engulfing us. The inflation went through the roof as we learned to survive on my mother’s salary alone. There were no cell phones or internet to speed up communication with American colleges. But somehow it all came together. Travel permits were approved and train tickets bought to take standardized tests in Hungary. Friends of friends translated school transcripts and letters of recommendations. Scholarship applications were approved, and one sunny August morning in 1996 I found myself at the Belgrade airport, waving goodbye to my family. A few weeks later I started classes at Washington State University.
I often think about the days when my father and I watched Rocky Balboa pursue his dreams against all odds. As for my own dreams, they wouldn’t have happened without the generosity of many people along the way, the generosity I’ve been trying to pay forward ever since. But more than anyone else, I thank my father for it.
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