Stefan Obreht by Téa Obreht

'My grandfather was a man of incredible valour and integrity, well respected throughout his life. He was a giant of a man with a thundering voice'

My grandfather Stefan Obreht was a man of incredible valour and integrity, well respected throughout his life. He was a giant of a man with a thundering voice, and lots of people were a little bit afraid of him, but I was never frightened of him as he was the father figure in my life. He was an aerospace engineer in the former Yugolsavia; his roots were in poverty, but he managed to build a great life for himself through education and devotion to hard work. He instilled in me and everyone around him an overwhelming desire to do the absolute best we could.

I lived with my mother and my grandparents first in Belgrade and then in Cyprus and Egypt to where we moved after the war. My mother worked and my grandfather worked; everybody took turns to take care of me. We were very close. A lot of my childhood weekends were spent with him, playing sport or just taking a walk, which was something that we seemed to do often. Some of my fondest memories are of taking my little brother to the Belgrade zoo with my grandpa. I was in awe of the stories he told about his life: incredible tales about his escapades as a young man, sometimes in the army, sometimes as part of his job, for which he often travelled to far-flung places.

My grandparents came with us to the States, until around 1997 when they went back to Serbia. It was difficult for them to leave their home, but they always looked forward to coming to visit us in America and they would stay for several months at a time. My grandfather didn't have any artistic inclinations himself, but he was very excited that my mother and I did; he very much encouraged the pursuit of one's dreams. He died in 2006. He would be very proud and very happy right now.

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