Lessons from Bosnia — Part 7
As I said in the first part, this is a big, huge, topic. I am wrecking my brain on how to keep it simple. I’ve decided to start with a number of my own experiences that show this topic, and then we’ll have to mention some very boring yet confusing details.
In October 1992 my mum, younger brother and I came to the UK. We came in a group of four mothers and 21 children. It was a bit of an ‘ad hock’ situation — some mothers didn’t make it out of Bosnia to Croatia in time, the flight was already scheduled, so it was we go now or we miss our chance. The decision had to be made there and then. I don’t think anyone regrets it, because we all stayed together in one house in Scotland until other mothers could join.
We were really well received. The house where we stayed was flooded with donations of food and clothing. We had more than we needed. In fact, I remember one night we organised a ‘worst dresser’ competition, which I won, by the way. However, when we started talking about Bosnia, that’s when things went weird. They asked us things like do we know what a fridge is, or a TV. It seemed like they thought we were some kind of ‘cave’ people. At this point, I want to make it 100% clear that I do not hold this against those kind people who helped us even though they thought we were very backward. In fact, I think that makes those people even nicer. I mean, they thought we were cave-people, yet they still donated really nice stuff, and took really good care of us. The fact that we were not cave people is something worth looking at. Why did they think this about us? I doubt they came to this conclusion all on their own.
In April 1993 we moved from Scotland to West Yorkshire where there was a much larger community of Bosnians. This was the first time I faced arguments about what was going on in Bosnia. Initially, the Bosnian center, where refugees first arrived, was a newish building, with large plain rooms on the ground floor acting like communal spaces, and bedrooms were upstairs. Another group of Bosnians arrived before the ones staying in this building were accommodated someplace more permanent, so another center was open, very close, but in an 18th-century house, with wooden beams, large windows, and the most beautiful staircase I had ever seen. Eventually, the…