They (the Serbs) shot bullets at us’: Dancing With The Stars vet Tony Dovolani reveals he was almost killed while growing up in war-torn Kosovo

He may be one of the top pros on Dancing With The Stars, teaching such luminaries as NeNe Leakes, Audrina Patridge and, more recently, Suzanne Somers, how to dance. But not all has been easy for Tony Dovolani.

In New You magazine, the 41-year-old ABC vet recalls how he was almost killed in his homeland of Kosovo in the Nineties when the country was in the grip of war.

At the time, the father-of-three was only a young student. ‘They threw smoke bombs through the windows [of our school], so we went out and protested that we wanted freedom of speech and a republic,’ the Cha Cha expert said.
‘But they kept shooting bullets at us.’

At age 15, Tony’s father decided it was time to flee the country. And he was lucky to escape alive. ‘The guard recognized my dad [a political figure in Kosovo] and he kept looking in the back seat,’ the reality star said. ‘I think he just had a human moment to let us go, because he probably knew that we would die if he reported us.’  After crossing the border, the family traveled on tourist visas via Canada to Mexico.

Dolovani said his father told him to quit school after his first day in America in order to help the family earn a living. ‘That was the last time I ever felt sorry for myself,’ Tony admitted. ‘My dad instilled in me values about making the right choices, how our life meant more than the average person because of what we went through and our need to protect it.’ Those dark circumstances still motivate him to succeed today.  From washing dishes to cooking, Dovolani worked his way up in a restaurant.

‘Representing this country with pride is pretty awesome, especially since America saved our lives. What better way to repay them than by giving them a title?’ he added. And now he follows his dreams.

‘Every day, you should strive to be a better version of yourself. I always say life is like driving—the rear-view mirror is interesting, and you could glance at it but don’t stare at it. The windshield is far more exciting.’

Read the full interview with Dovolani inside the new issue of NEW YOU magazine, on newsstands nationwide May 5.