Micijevic: The child of war refugees who loves to smile
Today Camila Micijevic is a well-known face in Croatia. Her big smile keeps the national team going and she is the true team spirit at Metz Handball. She has defied all odds and plays handball on the top level — but her start was not easy.
Micijevic’s family comes from Mostar, a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina famously recognisable for its old bridge over the Neretva river. A beautiful city with a history that is not so beautiful.
During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s, many people escaped with their lives in danger, and Micijevic’s family was no different. Cana — Micijevic’s nickname — was born in Germany.
“Mostar is a beautiful, special city. It is divided in two parts, on each side of the river. People still don’t agree on a lot of things in the city. Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a very bad war and my family decided to go somewhere to save our lives — that’s why I was born in Germany,” says Micijevic.
Her story could have been different had they stayed in Germany, but her parents decided to return to their hometown right after the war finished. That was truly emotional for all of them.
“We were a typical refugee family in Germany. We didn’t speak the language. We didn’t have anything of our own. When the war stopped my family decided to go back to Mostar and start a new life from zero. It was a big change for me and my sisters. My parents were fighting hard to make a living, to build a new house,” says Micijevic. “I still remember some of those situations. But I have beautiful memories too. Living in Mostar was very different than living in Germany. I remember spending hours outside playing.”
This exclusive episode with Camila Micijevic is the first in the brand new Handball Diaries series, and plenty more are coming your way! English, French and Croatian subtitles are available for the episode, in 4K resolution, on EHF EURO 2020 bronze medallist Micijevic.
Micijevic had many friends during her childhood in Mostar and a number of them were playing handball. She was drawn to it and started playing handball at Lokomotiva Mostar as a little girl. As the girls team did not have a gym, they played handball outside on the concrete court.
After some time, Micijevic changed club, switching to the other side of Mostar where she joined Katarina Mostar. It was a crucial part of her life. Coaches saw her talent and knew that if she stayed in Mostar, she would not develop as a player. At the age of 15, Micijevic packed her bags, left her family and moved to Rijeka, Croatia.
“I realised we didn’t really have a good future in Bosnia and Herzegovina, regarding handball. Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t have a national team. It was easy for me to decide to help my neighbouring Croatia and to help myself,” says Micijevic.
Rijeka was her home for five years and playing in Zamet had a huge impact on her. In 2012, Micijevic donned the Croatian jersey as part of the women’s youth team at the U18 World Championship in Montenegro.
Micijevic become one of the top scorers in the Croatian league and, in 2016, she decided to move to DKKA. Hungary was supposed to be another big step in her professional career. She was playing on a high level, proving her talent and skills, but fate had different plans in 2018.
“I was so excited to play, and I felt so strong. But then it happened. My cruciate ligaments tore in a match. I was crying for two or three days. My family were very sad about me. After I saw that, it was not possible to cry anymore. I decided I have to work hard to come back as soon as possible,” says Micijevic.
With a smile on her face, full of positivity, Micijevic went through the operation and rehabilitation — working hard for seven straight months, waiting for the first match and waiting to feel the court again.
“You are not the first. You are not the last. Take it seriously and you will be back in six or seven months — that’s what I was repeating to myself. 2019 came and I was ready to play my first match again. My family came from Mostar to surprise me, to be there for me. Unfortunately my knee broke again. The only thought I had was not to cry because of them — they are afraid for you.”
Micijevic was a true hero during rough times. For 16 months she did not play handball, but she never thought of quitting. Her second rehabilitation took nine months.
“I thought to myself: OK Camila, you can do it. Do everything possible better than the first time — better rehabilitation, better exercises, everything better. And I did it. Learning to walk again, to run again, to jump again, to play handball again. I did it.”
The hard path made Micijevic even stronger. She never had a weary spirit and always had faith that good things come to those who believe, and that the best things come to those who do not give up. And so it was. In the summer of 2020, she received a call from one of the best teams in Europe — Metz Handball.
“I’m very thankful to Metz for giving me the opportunity after two hard injuries to play this kind of handball with these amazing people and also amazing players,” says Micijevic.
The French powerhouse was a base for Micijevic to regain her confidence, be strong in defence and develop a range of deadly shots — a base that was structured into the Croatia national team.
Micijevic missed two EHF EURO competitions and was eager to lead Croatia after all those years. The women’s team ranked last at the EHF EURO 2018 in France and no one had big expectations for the team at the EHF EURO 2020. There was no big media coverage and the team trained quietly.
The Croatia national team that travelled to the EHF EURO 2020 was a group who loved to play handball and were very good friends having fun with full trust in each other and their coaches. The main goal for the competition was to fight hard and not to be on the bottom of the final ranking. No one believed in them, but they pulled off a miracle.
“We prepared only not to finish last as usual. The first match came and we won. The second match, Netherlands, world champions, we won again. Again, we won against Serbia, against Romania, Germany. The semi-final for us — indescribable. In the end, we won the bronze medal!” reflects Micijevic.
Micijevic was Croatia’s top scorer at the EHF EURO 2020, with 35 goals in eight matches, placing her fourth on the list of top scorers. On and off the court, she led Croatia, the so-called ‘Queens of shock’, to the first ever medal in women’s handball. It was a miracle that will be remembered forever.
“We all know that men’s handball in Croatia is the most popular sport. They are the only ones who made our country happy after competitions. This year, it was us. When we came back to Croatia, when we realised that everybody was with us at this European championship, that was the best part for me. I really like to make people smile. That’s what makes me happy.”
Handball, friends, family — those are all the things putting a smile on Micijevic’s face. Her only wish for now, after being away for 11 years, is that she can one day return to Mostar to live with her family.