Many of my friends ask me what life is like here in Bosnia. I have tried to explain it to them to the best of my ability – the openess and willingness of Bosnians to invite new people into their homes, the coffee breaks and the entire culture surrounding them, the young people strutting along the Corso and the daily reminders still evident from the war.
But writing about my life here at Bosfam and in Bosnia would not be complete without writing about the people I have grown very of fond of and with whom I interact on a daily basis – the staff and weavers of Bosfam.
Beba – As the Founder and Director of Bosfam, Beba carries a tremendous responsibility. Having worked for Oxfam during the war, she saw the need for further local support once Oxfam decided to leave the country. Hence she founded Bosfam. She has been running it since with an iron fist.
She has definite opinions and is very stubborn in her ways, character traits that have gotten her into trouble more than once. But that isn’t why she is so revered here at Bosfam – she cares for the women like a den mother, listens to their sorrows and uses her contacts and influence to help them where she can. She is an amazing woman, her strength and determination make her a role model not just for the women of Bosfam, but also for myself.
Hatema – With Beba’s sister having moved to Sarajevo, Hatema has assumed the responsibility of the daily running of the office. She is who I work with the most and whom I turn to with every little question. She is also the one that is teaching me Bosnian. She is a young married mother of one son and works here even during the times that there is no money available to pay her a salary. Her constant upbeat manner is an inspiration for some of us that are more moody. 😉 I am confident that with Hatema backing up Beba, Bosfam has the necessary administrative support to become the self-sustaining and transparent organization it strives to become.
Adnama – Adnama can best be described as one big smile. When she comes to Bosfam, there is laughter everywhere. I call her luda Adnama as a joke – crazy Adnama. Her joy is infectious and very much needed on certain days. She works at Bosfam part time, the rest of the time she works for the Swiss Red Cross. She is the resident computer whiz and can do things with the Corel Draw Program that I can only dream of. She’s 2 years older than me, married and has a twin sister living in Germany.
Bula – Bula is one of the more traumatized members of Bosfam. She cleans here in the mornings and some other offices most afternoons. She also makes sure we have our obligatory coffee breaks during the day. She has lost almost her entire family to the war and has been divorced twice.
She can’t often finish a sentence without crying. Yet she has taken a special liking to me – she makes a special effort to talk to me and has the skill to use simple words so we can actually communicate. I think her biggest dream is to emigrate to America.
Zifa – Zifa lived in Peæ near Srebrencia until it fell. She then had to flee to Tuzla; her husband and son managed to avoid the massacre and fled through the woods. Her husband made it but her son never did. He is still missing to this day. She always has a smile for me and asks me daily if I slept alright. A few weeks ago I saw her crying for the first time – when I inquired why I was told that her brother and nephew had just been identified and will be among those buried on July 11, 2004, the ninth anniversary of the massacre.
Sadeta – Also from Srebrenica, Sadeta lost both her husband and her son. Her husband was killed during the war in 1993 and her son, who tried to escape through the woods, is still missing. She is a lively woman and never seems to understand why I just drink one cup of coffee. Often in the morning she tells me she has already drunk four cups as I am quietly sipping my first. She seems a very strong woman, I have never seen her break down. I guess being both the mother and father to her remaining daughters gives her no choice.
Nura – Traumatized by the war, Nura hardly finds the strength for daily life. She has phases: one day she will barely speak, on other days she can’t stop. She is angry and it shows. She lost her father, brother, husband and brother-in-law after the fall of Srebrenica, or rather they are still missing. She still lives in a collective center with her daughters and cannot understand how there are so many people in the world who have forgotten about her as she seeks the help she needs to rebuild her life.
Tima – Tima escaped from Srebrenica while her son and husband fled through the woods. Her husband didn’t make it. She can be considered one of the luckier ones as she has a private house to live in. However, last week her world fell apart. Her husband was identified and with that, all her hopes were destroyed – I suspect that although these women have known that their family members are dead, hearing it directly from the ICMP (Institute for the Commission of Missing Persons) makes it a reality and almost unbearable.
These are the women I work with. Their stories are amazing and sometimes I wonder how they find the strength to go on. But that is what Bosfam is all about – the mutual support enables them to voice their frustrations, express their fears and helps them deal with their daily problems. They are the reason that we are all involved – it’s for them that we want Bosfam to become a success.
Posted By Pia Schneider (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Posted Jun 30th, 2004