To say that I’m proud of my husband would be a tremendous understatement. I’ve mentioned that he opened a fitness studio, and without knowing his past history, that’s impressive on it’s own. But when I share his story and what he’s been through to get here, it brings tears to my eyes because I know Amalia will look up to her dad in a very special way.
Anel grew up in Bosnia. When he was seven years old, a horrifying genocide and war broke out. I remember reading about the war in school, but he actually lived it. He heard the bombs going off at night. He had to watch people in his family sent away to concentration camps. He had to watch his father hide in the woods day in and day out so that he wouldn’t be taken away to dig trenches for the bad guys. He saw his country ripped apart, and he saw way more than any little boy should ever have to see.
His uncle lost both of his legs during the war so the American Red Cross sponsored him to come to the US. After the war was over, his uncle was able to sponsor Anel and his parents as refugees to come to the states as well. They were immigrants. They were Muslim. They were and are not dangerous people. They were scared and fleeing a broken country to make a better life for their only son.
Anel got on his first ever airplane ride with only the backpack on his back. He was understandably terrified. He and his parents landed in Queens where his uncle had been placed as a refugee. Queens isn’t the easiest place to grow up. There was crime and grime, but it was better than living in fear for his life. None of them spoke English, so Anel taught himself the language through TV shows and playing with other kids during that first summer.
By the time his first school year came around, he spoke the language pretty well. Over the next few years he played varsity basketball and graduated early from high school without any support from guidance counselors, teachers, or any of the people that most of us took for granted in our childhoods. And by the way, during this time he was one of the only white kids in his school which means he got picked on a lot. He learned how to stand up for himself and fight back, a skill that has come in handy as an entrepreneur.
Fast forward to 2009 when he was running live events for the nutrition school where we both worked. He was training to become an EMT so he could become a New York City fireman and save lives. After we got married, I remember the moment when he decided that if he was going to be a father one day, he couldn’t put his life at risk in that way. I sobbed when he told me, and I knew in that moment, years ago, that he would be the most amazing father. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t wrong.
He found a new dream that still involved helping people, but in a very different way… He became a personal trainer at one of Manhattan’s top fitness studios and excelled there, gaining a following with some of the city’s elite.
When we moved to Connecticut for a quieter life and for my job at the time, he dreamed of opening his own business out here. But we bought our house and had literally no money to spare, so instead he went part time at his job in NYC and started training out of a shared space in Greenwich on the other days. The week Amalia was due, he and his boss in the city decided it was best for him to move on and do his own thing full time. A week later, we had a baby and no guaranteed income from either of us.
It was terrifying. Because of that, I had to go back to work only two weeks postpartum and let me tell you, I don’t recommend that to anyone! But Anel worked his butt off. He went to every local event, networked with as many people as possible, and his training speaks for itself. Just look at the before and afters we’ve posted to his website! He cares about each and every one of his clients. He not only helps people look and feel their best, but helps with posture, confidence, back pain, and so much more.
Eventually, we saved up enough money to find a space that he could call his own. We knew that a chic and sleek design was important for his Greenwich-based clientele, so we hired Robert Passal, a big-time city designer who is expanding his business in Connecticut. We had no idea how amazing he would make the space! My vision was light and bright and minimal… He shut that down real quick and I’m so glad that he did.
The dark and sexy vibe he’s created feels like a private gym in a giant mansion. It’s homey, it’s aspirational, and it even smells amazing. It’s unlike any fitness studio I’ve ever seen. Yesterday we held a grand opening event for 20 influencers, and the whole group was floored by the space and by what Anel has created.
You mark my words, he’s going to be famous one day. He knows so much about the human body and knows how to make a huge difference with only 30 minutes, once a week. Whenever we tell people how his slow-burn workouts work, they think it’s bullshit. You barely sweat, you’re in and out, and it’s only once a week? I actually didn’t even buy it at first! But I’m sold and all of his clients are sold. What he’s doing is truly incredible.
My husband has overcome adversity and stereotypes and is literally living the American dream. He is an immigrant who is bettering the lives of others every day of his life. He is an incredible man, husband, and father. Anel Dzafic, I’m so beyond proud of you, you have no idea. Volim te puno!