North Montgomery’s starting offensive tackle Andy Veselji lives two different cultural lives and he loves them both. The junior is the son of Albanian immigrants Bill and Fay Veselji. Each summer the family returns to their home country, Macedonia, to visit friends and relatives. For Andy, he is as proud to have Macedonian roots as much as he is proud of his country.
When talking about Macedonia, it is obvious Andy knows its history which actually goes back as far as late 600 Century B.C. when it was a part of the Persian Empire. He understands the country has gone through many regimes and changes. After W.W.II, the country became the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, which was one of the six constituent countries of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. When communism fell in Europe, Macedonia peacefully seceded from Yugoslavia and formed it’s own democratic country in 1991.
Andy said the Kosovo War was traumatic for his family. His father, who grew up in Kosovo, had relatives die in the war which many historians say was genocide brought on my Serbians against the Albanian ethnic group.
With Andy’s grandfather owning a restaurant in Rantoul, Illinois, Bill and Fay decided to join him to make a better living and to raise their family.
The Veselji family moved to Crawfordsville when Bill and Fay became owners of a local restaurant, The Forum.
Andy’s Albanian family resides in the North Macedonian city of Tetovos with a population of 63,000. It is Andy’s home in the summer. He leaves Crawfordsville as soon as school is out and stays until North Montgomery schools start the new school year. His mother joins him on the trip and his father leaves for Macedonia about one month later. Andy’s sister Leona, who was born in Macedonia, travels each year with the family as well.
When Andy returns to Tetovos he is excited to see his family and his friends. He appreciates the culture. The nearby mountain ranges give him plenty of recreational experiences.
“My friends and I get excited to see each other because we only see each other once a year,” Andy said. “They are the kids of my parent’s friends. We have a connection that binds us together.”
“The people are what drives me to go back each year,” Andy said. “When you have people with the same blood as you and speak the same language it is a different type of connection. I have grown up very patriotic and proud of being Albanian as well as being an American.”
Some of Andy’s friends have the same routine as he does. They live in other countries but always come back to their roots in Macedonia.
“People from my region are spread out all over the world,” Andy added. “Many were forced to leave the country due to the wars. I definitely believe we have a connection.”
Being a 17-year-old, food is important. The Albanian cuisine gets high marks from Andy. He particularly likes the Macedonian dishes fela and grosh.
Andy said one difference between his life in quiet Crawfordsville and Tetovo is the nightlife. He said the city comes alive at night. He said there are many restaurants including one Burger King as the lone fast food establishment in the entire city.
When asked what a North Montgomery student would experience if her, or she, visited Macedonia he went back to the traits of the people.
“A student from here would find very nice people who are caring and welcoming,” Andy said. “Albanians are caring people and no matter where you are from they treat you with respect as long as you treat them with the same respect.”
Andy said when the time to return home come near , he gets anxious. When he comes back to Indiana it takes him awhile to get back into his “Crawfordsville” mode. He does use Snapchat to stay in contact with friends in both Macedonia and Indiana.
Andy said football helps him get back into his American routine. North Montgomery Football Coach Josh Thompson said he appreciates Andy and that he finds time to work out in Tetovo at a local gym to help prepare him for football.
“Andy is a special guy and he works hard to get caught up when he joins the team,” Thompson said. “We understand getting to live overseas is a unique situation that not many get to enjoy in their lives. He gets to experience two different cultures and it is going to make him a better person overall.”
As far as Andy’s future, the likeable teen said he wants to go to college. He plans on staying in the Crawfordsville area after he earns his degree and he knows he will continue his trips back to Macedonia.
“I thank God every day for the opportunities I have,” Andy said. “My dad was discriminated against when he lived in Kosovo. Racism stopped him from going to college. He wanted to be a doctor. I am blessed to live here with many opportunities and at the same time I get to live in Macedonia for part of the year.”
Back on the field Veselji has helped the Chargers to a 3-2 record and the team is coming off their most impressive win of the season last week against Western Boone. The Chargers will look to accomplish one of their team goals on Friday when they travel to Crawfordsville in search of a county title.