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Sacrifices can be found in many forms and they all come at a cost, but without it many would suffer. For Miro Ponjavic, the sacrifice came in the form of leaving the home and people he loved to travel halfway across the world into a world he knew nothing about. He uprooted from his native home full of traditions and culture he would not find anywhere else, but why? The answer is simple, he did that for the love of his children. Miro wanted to give his children an opportunity to live a better life. A life they could not have in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country still recovering from a long and damaging civil war. He knew his children had a future, but they needed a chance to make a life for themselves. He worked tirelessly to ensure their safe and secure passage to the land of opportunities, to the United States of America! That was in 1998, but when Miro was 40, there was much to be said about the life he left behind before the move.
Miro was born on 2 January 1958 to Ilija and Andja Ponjavic in a small village of Donja Komusina (Lower Komusina), a municipality of northern city of Teslic. He was the oldest of four children and naturally his dad would often depend on him for help in the welding shop or wood cutting. When he got tired of helping, he would hide the plug to the electric saw, so his dad would have to take a break as well. His dad would frequently pull him from school to help with chores, which was one of the big reasons Miro valued education so much for his children. Miro grew up in a Donja Komusina, which has been known by many Catholics throughout the Europe as one of the holy places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thousands of people would come yearly in August to Kondjilo (holy grounds) to pray and celebrate. As a young man, Miro was optimistic, charismatic and charming. During one of the celebration events, he meet his future wife, Nevenka Bosnjak. It was evident that their hearts belonged as one; after three months of dating, they joined in holy matrimony on 26 December 1977. Together they have five wonderful children and nine grandchildren. Miro was very talented and athletic. He would often join others in the village to play soccer or head to the local Usora River for a swim. He wasnt afraid of heights; he loved to climb trees and he often felt invincible. Hed pick some of the most delicious cherries and plums anywhere. He was great at making Rakija (vodka), which is so strong, it could be lit on fire. Life was simple then and farming was enough to sustain the familys lifestyle. He knew the value of hard labor. Every summer grass in the fields would grow tall and he would organize manual grass cutting, drying, and collection for livestock to feed over the winter. He had a pet cow and when he called her, she came running! In the fall he would mobilize his family and friends to work together chopping wood, working the fields to dig up crops and picking ripe apples and pears. The things he could not grow, he knew how to negotiate and always ensured his family would have everything they needed to live in comfort. He was a great mason! He started to build his family home and several others in the village. When he needed extra money, he would travel throughout Bosnia and other parts of Europe to build homes, schools, and hospitals. Those were the simple times it seems, but the civil war that ensued changed everything.
War in former Yugoslavia in 1992 turned closest friends against each other and tore families apart. Miro and his family were forced to leave their native land and the home he started to build. He had to leave his family to go the front lines in order to protect his homeland. He spent months digging and living in trenches, not knowing if he would come home or if his family was OK. One day he stood up out of the trench to check on a friend when he got shot through his thigh. Not long before, his wife Nevenka was shot in the leg as well while working the fields. They fought long and hard to recover, just for him to be taken back to the front lines again. He vowed he wouldnt let his children experience the tragedy and pain they endured. Shortly after the peace treaty was signed, his one and only daughter got married. That was the only time he could be seen crying. Life after the war not the same. The struggle to make ends meet made it difficult on Miro and his family. He needed hope and the future he envisioned for his children, so he applied for immigration. After many months and interviews, his family was approved to immigrate to the United States.
Moving to the United States in 1998 was an amazing triumph, yet the most difficult decision Miro had to make. He found himself in a different land with tall buildings, busy streets, different food, new customs, but also new opportunities. He made the best of it! He worked harder than any employee in his company. Supervisors praised him constantly for his work and dedication. He was never late and always got the job done before heading home. He always helped others, but also demanded the best from them! He worked hard in hopes to one day return home and make a new home and life for himself, his wife, his children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack in 2013 and could no longer work. He did the best he could to stay busy at home playing games and watching sports. Oh did he love sports! It didnt matter what was on, he was tuned in. His favorite of course was soccer and some would say skiing. He also liked water polo and handball which are very common in Europe. He was torn because his heart was aching to go home, but he had children and now grandchildren to build relationships with. He loved his grandchildren! He would smother them with the biggest hugs! He hoped to temporarily return to Bosnia for fresh air, renewed spirit and hope of returning in near future. Unfortunately one stroke, followed by another made that hope less imaginable. After months of struggle and pain hoping to recover, he gathered enough strength to endure a long and draining flight to the states to spend his final days with his children and grandchildren. His family stayed by his side until his final days.
Miro is survived by his wife Nevenka, his children Mario, Marianna, Josip, Ilija, and Marko. His mom Andja, his sister Mirjana, his brothers Jozo and Anto, his grandchildren Dejan, Daniel, Toni, Tyanna, Brendan, Juliana, Savannah, Chloe, and Matej.
Mass of Christian Burial St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
Friday, November 13, 2020
708 N 4TH StKansas City, Kansas 66101
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