Darko Simunivic: An Obligation to Give Back

Darko is a high school principal living in Uptown. He came to Chicago in 1996 with his two sisters as Bosnian refugees. He loves helping kids succeed and the fact that there is a place for everyone in the city of Chicago.

This story was produced by One Chicago, a campaign that facilitates access to resources and support for Chicago’s residents, including its immigrant and refugee communities. Since its founding, people from around the country and throughout the world have made Chicago their home.

“My father was from Croatia and my mother was from Serbia, both of which had different religions. The conflict in Bosnia at the time was ethnic conflict: you had folks from Serbia, Croatia and then Bosnia, all on different sides, engaged in a war. They [ my parents] were sick and tired of crouching in a hallways and listening to shells, and in a matter of seconds, they decided “ You know what? We’re gonna go ahead and go.”

We were granted refugee status through World Relief, one of the organizations that works with refugees. My parents however were not. They had to stay back and make a pretty much split decision on whether they were gonna let us come to the States, being they’d stay behind. We came to Chicago in 1996. I came with two of my sisters; they were both older. Going over Michigan and just seeing the buildings was by far the greatest thing we’ve seen. We moved to West Town within the first week when I was out by myself, when one of the boys that lived in the neighborhood came up to me and just invited me over to play baseball with him. We very quickly learned that I did not know what baseball was or how to play it. His friends at the time, who soon became my friends, were phenomenal at just making me feel comfortable and making me a part of the neighborhood little clique, and I loved it. Because of that neighborhood, because of his family and the rest of the families on that block, it was very very comfortable; because of how that neighborhood was set up.

I think it’s important for people to understand that Chicago is made up of so many different people. Not once did I feel like an outsider, not once did I feel like I had to work extremely hard to please people and to get to know people. As cliche as it sounds, I was given a lot, and at the same time, I have to have some obligation to give back.”