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9 July 2021

and the joy for those around you

At the end of 2017, Ivana went to audition for a TV show that had put out a casting call for child-actors. She was a seventh-grader and couldn’t go alone, so her older brother, Petar, agreed to come with. This story ends with Ivana, on a red carpet, crying tears of joy.

It’s just that there’s a tiny twist. Ivana doesn’t actually get the role. In fact, the casting director sees Petar -- at that point a bored ninth-grader just waiting for his sister to wrap up -- and decides that he’s perfect for the lead role in Familijata Markovski, a show that eventually ends up a household name. And that’s how we get to the red carpets and the tears of joy. 

Ivana, sitting on a bench in the Park, told me this story visibly exuding pride in her brother. You can spot Ivana’s connection with her loved ones immediately; she has this habit of redirecting my questions to include other people in her answer. Sure, she’s excited to go to UWC Maastricht, especially because Filip is already there. Of course she’s glad that she got a chance to go through the selection process, but also that Ana-Marija got the spot in Hong Kong. Yes, she did indeed participate in a debate tournament recently, but it was Marko who really killed it in his speech. 

This is, ostensibly, a profile of Ivana, so it might be a little weird that it mentions so many other names. But it’s impossible to tell Ivana’s story without retelling the stories of her loved ones; her life is interwoven with her community. As early as middle school, Ivana got involved in the Red Cross. She organized a number of humanitarian events for classmates who needed support, and she has fundraised for a new wheelchair, for physical therapy, and for a complicated surgery. With every example she recalls, Ivana sparks another burst of positive energy which I quickly realized was her signature move.

Even early on in her education, Ivana remembers running into trouble while reading. When the class was supposed to read out loud, she’d count the lines of text and practice her part so she doesn’t mess up in front of her peers. The difficulty was draining, and Ivana asked herself, is it really possible that I don’t know how to read? It’s only a few years later -- by the end of middle school -- that she found out the problem was dyslexia, which explained a lot of the issues she faced. Maybe that’s why she finds it so easy to empathize with peers who face their own challenges, and why she easily takes steps to help them out.

When her brother got the role, he couldn’t quite understand how Ivana could be so happy for him. But a few years later, when Ivana got the call from us, “he was the one jumping thrice as high” as her. The unending support Ivana offers encourages those around her to do the same. To borrow from her vocabulary, I just can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish in Maastricht. 

Bobo Stankovikj, June 2021