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Nina Musinovic: from Bosnia to Bearden

Shouldn’t Regal Entertainment Group be showing a movie on Bearden’s Musinovic family?

Born in Bosnia and separated from her father at age 4 due to the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, Nina Musinovic, a BHS 2007 graduate, and her family didn’t see dad for about three years.

“The war broke out, the civil war, and my mom [Vesna], my brother [Goran] and I were forced to leave because it was really bad,” Nina said after being honored as one of 24 Knox County Schools Regal Scholars for an essay inspired by her hardships. “But they wouldn’t let men leave, so my dad [Braco] had to stay. We moved to Serbia, which is part of the former Yugoslavia — and I didn’t get to talk to my dad or see my dad for three years due to the war. And it was just really hard on me.”

A joyful reunion came in Knoxville — March 2, 1995. A new life started in the Bearden community.

Inspired by the movie “Life is Beautiful” that also dealt with separation issues as Nina had faced, the 19-year-old’s essay about the movie’s impact was among those recognized during the annual Regal Foundation Awards May 8 in Club LeConte, First Tennessee Plaza.

A few months before the reunion, “My dad actually moved to the United States, and he started working, and he formed a life for us here” as an accountant, which Nina said happened in October 1994. “The war was calming down, and he got some papers and luckily he got through.”

The March reunion came at McGhee-Tyson Airport when Nina was 7. “That’s the first time I saw my dad … after three years,” she said. “My brother was thirteen, and we were running in the airport to see who could reach dad faster.

“My mom, she did everything possible to make me feel better about [missing her father], to get my mind off it,” Nina added. “It’s been a rough journey, but I love it in America now.”

Upon arriving in America, “I didn’t know any English — it was really hard — I didn’t know anyone here,” Nina said. “But I had my family, and that’s all that really mattered.”

Having earned scholarships adding up to a “full-tuition” ride at The University of Tennessee — including a $3,000 Regal scholarship grant — Nina plans follow a family tradition and eventually enroll into law school.

“My mom finished law school, my brother’s in law school,” she said.


Dean Mengaziol, 18, a BHS 2007 graduate, won for his essay, “My Life By X,” from the movie, “American History X.”

”It has a close sibling relationship between a brother, and it resembles my life,” Mengaziol said. “Just the way I’ve seen him go through some struggles and the way I have taken those into my own life.”

Dean will attend Vanderbilt University.

Rebecca Stone, 17, now a Farragut High School graduate, won for her essay based on the movie: “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

“Because it was a true story … I think it helped that Will Smith was playing with his actual son, and just seeing the connection between the two of them …,” she said. “It taught me that the best motivation in life can just be love for others, and living selflessly.”

Rebecca will attend Belmont University.

Dale Lawhorn, 18, also an FHS graduate, was inspired by “sister” films “Seeing Flags Of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

“One of them [“Flags”] shows the perspective of the Americans, and you tend to side with the Americans, you want them to win,” Lawhorn said. “By the second film [“Letters”], it shows the Japanese point of view.

“I just got out of it that ignorance can lead to misunderstandings with difficult situations, and you have to explore every point of view in perspective to fully get the idea.”

Dale will attend UT, where he’s planning to major in biology.


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