Happy reunion

Every once in a while, a reporter gets the privilege of knowing that they have made a difference for someone. A story turns into another story. News takes on a life of its own and becomes another chapter in someone’s world.

  • Jan. 25, 2011 7:00 a.m.
Local news crosses oceans bringing family together Ilija Malesevic’s misfortune helps him reunite with his family living in Bosnia and Austria thanks to an article that ran in the Similkameen Spotlight in November of 2010 reporting on an attack on Malesevic by a deer that left him banged up and laying on the side of a busy highway.

Local news crosses oceans bringing family together Ilija Malesevic’s misfortune helps him reunite with his family living in Bosnia and Austria thanks to an article that ran in the Similkameen Spotlight in November of 2010 reporting on an attack on Malesevic by a deer that left him banged up and laying on the side of a busy highway.

Every once in a while, a reporter gets the privilege of knowing that they have made a difference for someone. A story turns into another story. News takes on a life of its own and becomes another chapter in someone’s world.

Such was the case for a Black Press reporter. The editor of the Similkameen Spotlight, Dierra Maynard, was in her office one day in early November of 2010 when a call came in from the Shoppers Drug Mart. “We have a fellow here who was attacked by a deer,” said the person at the other end. “I asked him if I could call the newspaper and he said yes, so you should come down and talk to him. He is really beat up.”

Maynard grabbed her camera, a notepad and pen and hustled the block and a half down the street like she has on many other days. “When I entered the drugstore, I had no problem identifying him. It was shocking,” said Maynard. “This poor man was a mess.”

Seventy-one year old Ilija Malesevic had been in a fight with a deer and nearly lost his life in the battle. An early morning walk became a morning of horror, when a doe protecting its two fawn ran at Malesevic and started bunting his head with her’s. Malesevic was shocked and put his arms up to defend himself, but before he knew it, the angry doe had shoved him down. “She kept hitting me over and over again with her hooves,” Malesevic exclaimed. “I was really scared…she charged me so fast…before I knew it she had me down.”

As luck would have it, Malesevic was not the only person out walking so early in the morning. Another man saw the attack and ran up to the deer with a stick and began hitting it to get it to leave. “She ran down the bank then,” said Malesevic, “with her young following.”

Malesevic is known to Princeton residents. He is often seen biking or walking. He wears a Panama hat and is very friendly. This unprovoked attack shocked many who saw him. The worst shock came to his family, however. Malesevic was born in Latvia, raised in Bosnia and moved to Canada in 1965 looking for a better life. He worked in England for a year and saved enough money to come to Montreal. “I lived in Montreal then Toronto and then Manitoba,” said Malesevic. “Manitoba was too cold. I couldn’t take the cold there…too cold. I moved back to Ontario and then to B.C..”

Malesevic said that once he moved to B.C. he knew it was the place for him. “B.C is the best…it’s my land.” After working for the Parks Board for many years, Malesevic eventually made his way to Princeton. He had not been home to see his family for 20 years said his nephew’s wife Tanja who speaks fluent English. “Nobody knew if he was dead or alive until he showed up last year in Bosnia and surprised everyone. We did not know he was coming…he just showed up and we all couldn’t believe it. His brother said Ilija is that you? We were all very happy and glad, after Ilija’s visit, to know he was well.”

This visit was a reconnection for Ilija’s large extended family that includes five brothers, four sisters and many cousins, nephews and nieces. After Ilija went home, the family tried to write, to no avail. The address he had left them with was written down wrong and the letters kept bouncing back to them. “We thought we had lost him again,” Tanja said. “It made us feel bad. We couldn’t believe we had lost contact with him again.”

After the disheartening return of letters, Malesevic’s family, tried searching online for Ilija.

An email from his nephew Nikola Cigoja came to Maynard through the Black Press editorial team – “I am a son from Ilija Malesevic`s sister, Mara (Malesevic) Cigoja. I am very sorry to hear what happened to my uncle. I wanted to ask you if it would be possible that you help us to get his address or a phone number, so that we could get in contact with him. He visited us last year in Bosnia, gave us his address, but this address is not correct and all letters that we send are coming back. He writes to us and asks why don`t we answer, but as I already said, all letters are coming back. We were looking for him in Internet and that is how we found this article, and now we are nothing but worried. I know that this “Brutal Attack” must be difficult for him, but I believe that with the help of this article we`ll be able to get in contact with him again. I am looking forward to hearing from you, Nikola Cigoja.”

Maynard picked up the phone and phoned Nikola and his wife Tanja at their Vienna, Austria phone number and was a little surprised to hear a clear English voice at the other end of the line. Maynard arranged for Ilija to phone his family through Tanja and Nikola at the Spotlight office and his family was extremely happy to hear his voice and find out he had recovered from his injuries caused by the deer.

Tanja Cigoja is originally from Bosnia, but moved to New York in her teens and lived with an uncle there. After graduating from school in New York, Cigoja went back to Bosnia and worked as a translator during the war. Her fluent English made it easy for her family to express their gratitude to Maynard for helping them find Ilija again. “I am so happy we were able to reconnect with Ilija. We thought we had lost him, but now thanks to her we know he is okay and doing well. It has been a great relief for our family and we are grateful.”