BASS HARBOR — Citizenship in the U.S. is a sought-after privilege and is a goal that many who come to this country set out to achieve. This goal was realized for a local family from Macedonia, who received their citizenship last week.
Zoran and Dejana Manev of Bass Harbor, who have been living and working in the U.S. since 2016, became citizens in a ceremony in Portland last week. The couple shared what it was like to come to a new country and what it takes to adjust.
The couple was excited to come to the U.S. but a bit nervous about such a big change.
“At first we were like a little bit, you know, scared, maybe terrified,” said Zoran Manev. “You’re leaving your own country, you’re leaving all your family, friends, everything that you have there.”
The Manevs moved to Maine because Dejana Manev had spent some time on Mount Desert Island before the couple decided to move here permanently.
“She met some people here,” said Zoran. “When we got the green cards, she contacted them.”
Moving to the U.S. was a big adjustment for the Manevs, who had to get used to certain things that they were not familiar with in Europe, such as the American style of cooking and food.
“Food was a big adjustment,” said Zoran. “At first we didn’t like it. When I came here, I lost like 20 pounds.”
Dejana also noticed that local slang was hard to understand at first. The couple speaks English but were not familiar with some casual words and phrases used by locals.
The couple speaks Macedonian at home with their young son Kristian, who is bilingual and learns and speaks English as a first language at school.
In addition to keeping their native language in the home, the family also tries to stick to some other traditions from their home country. Holidays such as Christmas and Easter, for instance, are adjusted for the Eastern Orthodox calendar.
“We celebrate the same holidays two weeks after,” said Dejana. “So we have to do that twice, but we still want to keep tradition.”
There were also some more difficult adjustments other than food and conversation. Things like finding employment and housing proved challenging at first.
“It’s difficult to find a job in your position,” said Zoran, who now works for Bar Harbor Savings and Loan. “We worked housekeeping.”
The couple has bachelor’s degrees from attending university in Macedonia but lacking work experience in the U.S. made it difficult to find a job that matched their qualifications.
While the couple now are employed and own a home, it was not easy when they first arrived in the U.S., and finding a permanent home proved challenging.
“In three years, we moved seven times,” said Dejana.
The couple said that the welcoming community made it easier for them to adjust and make friends.
“I think the most important thing is that we met like very, very nice people here, like I don’t have words to describe it,” said Zoran.
The couple said that friends they met early on made them feel welcome and helped them immensely to make their journey a little smoother.
“Susan Diaz and her family, and through her we met Alice MacDonald Long,” said Zoran. “Alice helped us a lot when we didn’t have a place to stay.”
The couple met Long while they were at Diaz’s home for Easter dinner and were talking about the difficulties of renting on MDI during the summer months.
“She said, ‘you guys are so nice, you can come and stay with me,’” said Zoran.
The sense of community in the area, and new friends that the Manevs could turn to for help, made their transition to life in the U.S. a smoother one than it could have been.
“It’s different here in New England, and we like that, especially here on the island,” said Zoran. “The community is one of the best things that we ever experienced.”