Word "home" in my language, Serbian, also means house, kuća. So to use, you use one word to, to represent what this home idea is, as well as the physical location or where you reside. So that is very much of that's how my language or my culture sees it, very much tied to this physical, physical place.
So for me, initially, those were very inseparable. And on top of that, I grew up in the, on the Balkan peninsula geographic region that was, uh, torn by wars for centuries. So a huge part of this ethnic literature speaks to this pride of taking home, of refuge, or being home, and this need to return home, uh, when the, when people were displaced by war. So this imagination or image, or, and pride in coming back was very much present in literature and kind of me realizing who I am as a being, as an individual, but also ethnically who I am, uh, with my people. Uh, so going from there and growing up during the first year of the formative, of imagining home became this thing that I was returning to after school, after trips, home became this physical place.
However, when I was 14 years old, I left home, I moved away. I was recruited by a sports Academy that was about 12 hours away. So I moved and that is the very first time that now home became a remote thing. For me, that was something that didn't exist for me in present, but rather it was something I was thinking about and returning to, and just because of the schedule or where I lived, we got to go home about twice a year for the holidays and the summertime. Uh, so at that time it was the first time in my life that it concretely became distinct, to which I was returning to. And then at that time, home was still very much identified as this place that go to, but it's also expanded to include my family. So returning home was also synonymous to returning to see my parents and my brother and my friends, because at that time that's, uh, that's all I had there.
Uh, I lived there for about five years and then, next transition in my life and change for how I conceptualized home became at 18 when I moved and decided to come to United States to study. And at that time, the notion of home changed again, it came from being just displaced. So my hometown friends and family to home now becomes a whole country. So in all these transitions of how I was relating first to a place, an object, into my city, into my country was changing.
Uh, but it really, didn't set in with me until this notion of a foreigner in United States came to mind. Then I was also losing, uh, losing a lot. And that became very prominent for me one times, maybe two or three years in, uh, when I was returning back home. And, uh, people back home learned that I'm called Ned in the United States and they started adopting the nickname for me. So it transitioned from being the nickname I grew up with to being Ned. And then I started being referred to as the American, uh, when I go home. And so that is the, the time I was starting to realize when I go back home, I become an American, when I'm in America, I'm Serbian or Montenegrin.
So I was having in some sense, multiple homes, in other, no home at all. And I think for me, that was also highlighted or maybe intensified by what I mentioned earlier, is that I also changed many homes without ever moving. I grew up in Yugoslavia. Then I lived in, uh, Federation of States of Yugoslavia. Then I lived in Serbia and Montenegro, then I lived in Montenegro and my physical address have never changed. So I lived within four countries without ever moving. Um, so in many of those transitions, I was losing a lot of pieces of what I was and who I was to be. And for many points in time, I did not like, uh, the political, um, the main political narrative, as very much in, in the United States today. And in many points I willingly gave up parts of my identity, parts of calling myself a Montenegrin, I gave that up because I didn't like what the political narrative stood for in the country at the time. And it took me years to realize that I gave it up to someone who doesn't have the right to claim it and that it's mine as much as they have the right for it, uh, as well.
So in kind of a summary, I know that my time is coming to an end. Um, first I apologize for, for fragmentation in my story. I think it's probably parallel to my experience of the notion of home as well, but in kind of looking back, I realize that over the years, I have lost many things that have represented home for me, but I have also gained, um, many, and that there are some things that I will never get back, but I think there are also things that will never be taken away from me as well.