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7 /

From War Child to Adult Dreamer

“We came from five years of

starvation, with no electricity or

running water. I was constantly

running from gunshots on my

way to school.”

When we arrived in the United States, we suffered

a huge culture shock. We came from five years of

starvation, with no electricity or running water. I

was constantly running from gunshots on my way

to school. It was normal for men to be tortured and

killed, while their wives and daughters were raped,

and sometimes killed in the process.

Concentration camps were set up for the Muslims

who were occupying land that Serbia believed was

theirs. The United Nations sent Dutch soldiers who

failed to protect innocent refugees in a safe zone,

and in one day, 8,000 boys and men were killed

and dumped in mass graves. School was my outlet

to some normalcy because I was able to escape

through reading different stories. We mainly ate

bread and milk because my grandparents’ farm

had cows and plenty of flour. Our shelter, their

farm, was located between the Bosnian and Serbian

front lines. We were stuck in the no man’s land.

Eventually some Bosnian soldiers came to stay

in my grandpa’s garage. Through them, my little

brother and I were able to eat other things besides

the regular bread and milk.

I was in fourth grade when I left Bosnia, but was

placed into fifth grade when I arrived in the United

States. The first year of school was extremely hard

on me. I cried almost every day and was shy. I did

not know any English and could not communicate

with anyone in my class. Students and teachers

would ask me questions, but all I could do was

smile as a response. Once I entered middle school,

things got better. I was enrolled into an ESL,

English as a Second Language, class. By the end of

seventh grade, I tested out of ESL and was taking

regular classes. My ESL teacher, Miss Burkholder,

was such a great role model that I continued to stay

friends with her until she got married and moved

away, long after I graduated high school.

Though by high school I was speaking fluent

English, teens in my school were not very receptive

to me. My parents decided to buy a house in Bullitt

County, Kentucky, that led to my transfer to North

Bullitt High School from Atherton High School. It

was a hard environment to adapt to. Granted that

Bullitt County is not far from Louisville, but it was

a completely different world. I was one of the only

foreign students in the entire school. Other students

did not care and told me to go back to where I came

from. As my high school years went on, I tried less

and less to speak about my childhood experiences

and fit in more with the high school crowds.