EPL 2016/17: Dejan Lovren talks about his difficult childhood as a refugee
Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren recently opened up about his difficult childhood and gave insight into the hardships faced by refugees across the world.
Flee at three
Lovren was born in the city of Zenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina (former Yugoslavia) and when he was three years old, the Bosnian war hit the country. Lovren’s parents, who were Croatian, had no option but to flee the country to rescue their family, which forced them to leave everything behind.
Lovren, who was just three, couldn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening around him but he does remember the tears that came from his mother’s eyes which is the last thing that any child would want to see.
"I was at home with my mother and we heard the sound of the air raid sirens,” Lovren recalls. “It was really scary. She took me in her arms to protect me and we went downstairs to the basement. My mum was crying and all we could do was hide. That is something I will never forget. How could I? After that, we went into a small car, a Yugo, and my uncle drove us to Germany. That is how I became a refugee.”
Lovren’s parents Sasa and Silva made the hard decision to move to Munich in Germany and start from scratch again as war robbed them of everything they had.
Went with nothing, says Lovren
“We went with practically nothing apart from the clothes that we were wearing,” he reflects. We had no bags. Nothing. My father stayed behind in Bosnia for a couple of weeks; I'm not sure exactly why but maybe he had some things to take care of before he could join us, like selling the house so at least we would have something.”
A year later, on 19 April 1993, the Croatia defence council bombed the Zenica marketplace, which killed 15 innocents. Lovren’s parents breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the news and the vague thought of what might have happened to them and their kids, if they had not left the city, sent cold shivers down their spine.
“If we had stayed in Bosnia maybe my parents would not be alive today, maybe I would have been killed,” he said. “At a time like that, you are fighting for your life and you have to survive. That is what it means to be a refugee. You are not thinking of going somewhere where you will get a wonderful job and earn lots of money, you are just hoping to find somewhere where you can be safe.”
Lovren and his family found it tough to adjust to their new environment as they were immigrants. He still remembers those times when there was neither money nor food in the family much to the agony of his parents.
Lovren spent three years at a kindergarten where there were kids from Bosnia and Turkey who were in a similar situation like the one he was in. He went to a local school for four years before his family was deported due to some issues with their paperwork. They moved to the Croatian city of Karlovac and had to start all over again for the second time in eight years. Lovren had a tough time in school because he wasn’t fluent in Croatian and the turning point in his life was Dinamo Zagreb’s interest in signing him in 2004.
Sympathises with refugees all over the world
The 27-year-old is grateful to Germany as the nation provided his family with a safe haven during their plight. He insists that people don’t understand how hard it is for refugees and they are in great need of help.
“It's impossible to understand unless you have been through it,” he insists. “Even today when I watch the news I see the refugees coming from Syria and other countries and my first instinct is always that we should give them a chance. They do not want to be part of a war, the war has been caused by someone else, and all they can do is try to escape from it.
One would feel Lovren learned from his difficult childhood and that catalysed his development into a successful professional footballer. He played for Dinamo Zagreb, Lyon and Southampton before moving to the red half of Merseyside. He is now the heart of the Liverpool defence having silenced all his critics and rejuvenated his Liverpool career under Jurgen Klopp.
(Video courtesy: EamonnMD YouTube channel)