West Remembers Hanna Djencic

Melina Spahija
Hanna and her brother Emil pictured walking out together at their uncle’s wedding.

By Gloria Kosir, Features Editor

On Dec. 3, 2020, Niles West lost a beautiful soul. Junior Hanna Djencic lost her battle with a rare form of cancer, but the memory and legacy she left lives on in the D219 community.

Hanna immersed herself in activities both in middle and high school. She attended McCracken Middle School, where she was extremely active and played basketball, volleyball and soccer. After graduating from eighth grade, she enrolled at Niles North where she played volleyball. She also played for MOD Volleyball Club, formerly known as D1. Hanna brought a certain light and joy to the court and to her teammates that will always stay with them.

“I honestly cannot remember any dull moment with her, only happiness and laughter. I’m grateful for meeting her freshman year, and I’ll cherish our friendship forever,” Niles North junior Marija Planinic said.

Hanna attended Niles West for her sophomore and junior years of high school, and she loved it just as much. While she couldn’t physically participate as much in school activities, she remained eager and driven to improve herself.

For four years of her life, she constantly got things taken away from her, but she always had something positive to focus on… She never let cancer stop her. She will forever be someone I look up to.”

— Gianna Pehar

Hanna was one of the most resilient students to walk the halls of Niles West. Her passion for learning surpassed anyone else’s, and she looked forward to every lesson, yearning to take in new ideas and content. To call her intelligent would be an understatement. She pushed herself in AP and honors classes, not to impress anyone, but to challenge herself and broaden her boundaries. While she carried the heavy burden of cancer and chemotherapy, she maintained a high GPA of a 4.3, even when she could no longer attend classes in person.

Niles West English teacher Sally Graham was Hanna’s homebound tutor, and the two have a special history. Graham and Hanna used to be neighbors before she moved to the Niles West district, and one of her sons even had a crush on her in grade school.

“Always positive, with that broad smile of hers, Hanna was a light in our local community. Intelligent, articulate, athletic and talented…everyone knew and loved Hanna,” Graham said.

Graham also wrote about how Hanna was always ready to participate in her Honors ALC English class this year, camera on and smiling widely. “Hanna made an indelible impact on my life and my family’s life–we will always remember her, and we will always be reminded of the way she held hope so high,” Graham added.

In addition to her affinity for academics, Hanna was a skilled artist. She loved to paint and draw, emulating works like Bob Ross’ and making realistic sketches of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid. Even with this aptitude, she remained humble and modest.

Above all, Hanna was an exemplary friend and sister. Nothing brought her more happiness than making others smile.

“She is the best advice giver there ever was. Even if she hasn’t gone through a certain situation that you encountered, she somehow knew how to help you through it… On top of being athletic, artistic, and smart, she was the nicest person I have ever met,” junior Gianna Pehar, one of Hanna’s best friends, said.

It was common for Hanna to put her health concerns to the side and check in on everyone around her, offering a helping hand and wanting to be there for her friends and family. Her spirit was genuinely altruistic.

“Hanna was full of light and potential. She was an amazing friend. Many of us would feel guilty to even mention our problems to her because they didn’t even compare to what she was going through, but she begged us to talk to her because she believed everyone has different problems, and she loved to do everything she could to help with ours,” Niles West graduate and close friend Aila Durakovic said.

“For four years of her life, she constantly got things taken away from her, but she always had something positive to focus on. She lost her hair, smell, slowly her eyesight, and later her hearing. She even got sports taken away from her but still pursued everything else to keep herself busy. She never let cancer stop her,” Pehar said. “She will forever be someone I look up to.”

Family was among the top priorities and joys in her life, and she never failed to value them. She was able to joke around with her two younger brothers and have fun with them, even though her battle was always there in the background.

Her humor–elite. This girl was the funniest person I’ve met in my life. Until her last moments, she was throwing jokes around like nothing was happening. She never failed to put a smile on anyone’s face”

— Aila Durakovic

“Her humor–elite. This girl was the funniest person I’ve met in my life. Until her last moments, she was throwing jokes around like nothing was happening. She never failed to put a smile on anyone’s face,” Durakovic said.

There are not enough words to describe Hanna. There is no definition that can encompass her vibrant and loving personality or the joy that she brought to everyone around her in her 17 years with us. Our heart goes out to Hanna’s friends, family, and the rest of the community. For those who wish to leave a memory with her family, please visit this website.