Realizing the dream of living in the United States
Ryan Summerlin March 24, 2014
Trupac: It was always my dream to live in the United States. I am Hungarian, but I was born in northern Serbia. I grew up watching American movies, and that’s when I fell in love with this country.
Gallacher: What was it about the United States that so intrigued you?
Trupac: Many things, the people and the way of living. The diversity of the land, the mountains and the oceans, there is so much variety. The lifestyle is much easier than back home. Everywhere you go you speak the same language. In Europe, there are so many completely different languages, it makes it difficult to move around and live in different places, but here everything is the same.
Gallacher: Contrast life here with life growing up in Serbia.
Trupac: It is much harder to raise a family in my country. We are still recovering from the Bosnian War. There are people in Serbia who don’t like to hear Hungarian spoken. Growing up we were treated like a minority and disrespected for being Hungarian. That is one of the things I like in this country, I can speak any language I want, and no one will say anything to me.
Gallacher: How old were you during the war?
Trupac: I think I was 8 or 9. But I was fortunate to live in the north, three miles from the border with Hungary. We never really had the war in our region. The war was in the western part, in Croatia and Bosnia. So we didn’t have to experience it.
Gallacher: It wasn’t in your region, but you must have heard stories. Was there impact on the life in your community because of the war?
Trupac: Oh yeah, they came for the men in my town. They went house to house looking for men to serve in the army. I can still remember the night they came to our house looking for my father. He hid because if they took him he would go directly to the front lines. Soon after they left, my father contacted a military friend in the city who helped him get papers so he wouldn’t have to go. But many of my friends’ fathers weren’t so lucky. Most of the men who were taken that night never returned and those that came back were completely different.
Gallacher: What did you notice about them?
Trupac: They were all very quiet and hard to talk to. They never said anything about the war. I remember asking one of them about it, and he got really angry with me and said, “You don’t want to know what I saw. We experienced many terrible things that can’t be spoken.”
Gallacher: So the war was in your town in a way. You must have been aware as a child that your father was in danger. How did that affect you?
Trupac: I can remember always being afraid during those years. I was never certain that my father wouldn’t be taken. The military came to our town many times knocking on doors and taking people. During those years many of our neighbors fled to Hungary or Germany and Austria.
Gallacher: Did the war influence you to leave?
Trupac: Absolutely, that’s when I realized that there wasn’t a future for me in Serbia. Even now, there are still issues left from the war. It is hard to make a living and a nice future in that country. I started to really think about leaving when I was in middle-school, and when I went to college I applied for a student, travel and work visa and came to the United States for the first time in 2004. I worked for a summer in a kid’s camp in upstate New York. I decided during that visit, when I met the people and saw the country, that this was the place for me. I came back two other times and worked as a waiter in New Jersey and Las Vegas. Later I got an H-2B work visa and began entering the Green Card lottery. That is when I began working in the Roaring Fork Valley. Basically you can apply for the lottery online anywhere in the world. I did that every year for nine years and was finally lucky enough to be chosen this last year.
Gallacher: Did you learn English in the United States?
Trupac: My English got better here, but I studied English starting in elementary school and through college. The English that was taught there was really formal, so when I was 16 I decided to stop watching Hungarian TV and start watching American movies all the time. That is where I learned the most English. When I came the first time I could understand 80 to 90 percent, but I had trouble speaking the language because I had spent all my time just watching and listening. But I had to speak English every day, and so I began to get better in a couple of months.
Gallacher: What were your favorite movies?
Trupac: “Forrest Gump,” “Contact” with Jody Foster and “Braveheart” with Mel Gibson.
Gallacher: Did you find life here in the U.S. like the life depicted in the movies?
Trupac: Yes, I thought there were a lot of things that were the same as in the movies.
Gallacher: What was your homelife like?
Trupac: My brother and I had a good life. My mother was a teacher in the elementary school. She was very good to us, always helping us with homework and cooking for us. Unfortunately she passed away in 2011 when my brother and I were both working here in the United States.
Gallacher: There is a sense of guilt that comes with not being there.
Trupac: Yes, there is. I think sometimes that if I had been at home it may not have happened. Maybe we would have seen something or acted faster and taken her to the hospital.
Gallacher: How is your father doing?
Trupac: It has been very difficult for him. He is a very quiet person who keeps a lot inside. He and my mother started their life together with nothing and worked hard to make a life for my brother and me. They built a whole house without any help. My father owns his own driver’s education business and didn’t know anything about construction, but he taught himself, and he and my mother finished the house together without hiring anyone. I still don’t know how they did it.
Gallacher: Do you have a family?
Trupac: This last September I got married when I went home. Now I am working on the paperwork to get my wife, Agota, to come here.
Gallacher: How did you find time to fall in love with all your traveling back and forth between countries?
Trupac: I met her two years ago and fell in love when I was home for a visit. We have kept in touch almost every day using Skype, email or Facebook. During this time we really realized that we are for each other. In the winter of last year, Agota came to visit me for five weeks, and she really liked this valley. That’s when I proposed to her.
Gallacher: How did you propose?
Trupac: I took her out to dinner one night in Glenwood Springs. I told her that I wanted to show her something at the Hotel Denver before we went to the restaurant. Earlier that day, I had prepared a hotel room with flowers and roses all over the place. I had a trail of rose petals on the floor, and when she opened the door she was shocked. That’s when I got the ring out and asked her to marry me. That was a very joyous time for both of us.
Gallacher: How do you deal with the loneliness that comes with being in love but living in different countries?
Trupac: I keep myself busy working a lot, but it is really hard to be away from her and my family and friends. I try not to think about it because it makes me sad and the time away is much harder. I try to motivate myself to learn new things and work a lot, and that helps. I am going home in April at the end of the ski season here. I am excited to see Agota and my family again.
Gallacher: Can you see yourself raising a family in the mountains of Colorado?
Trupac: It has been my dream since I was a little kid to live in the mountains where there is snow. That is why I chose Colorado. I want to have kids and be happy. I hope that someday I can become a teacher, like my parents.