From Bosnia with Love

by Kathi Daniela

For about two years, I have been having many conversations that go like this:

»Your husband is not German, I see. Where is he from?«
»From Bosnia and Herzegovina.«
»Oh, really. My cleaning lady is from Montenegro too!«

People don't always bring up their cleaning ladies. It can be cooks, lavatory attendants, gardeners, or construction workers too, who come from Serbia, Montenegro, or Albania. It all seems to be the same for people anyway.

OOkay, I'll be honest: I didn't know much about Bosnia either before I met my husband. There was something about World War I, wasn't there? And quite a few people from the neighborhood come from that part of Europe – former Yugoslavia. Wasn't Bosnia part of that?

We are still being educated about the German past at school, and I am one of the last people who would say that this is not right and important. But the more I learn about Bosnia and Herzegovina, the more shocked I am that this country and its history has never been addressed during my education.

My father-in-law is one of the friendliest, most humorous, and warmest people I have ever met. He is a person who invites complete strangers to a barbecue and will try to speak to you in his rusty German or English to make you feel comfortable. And he is a former soldier who fought and got wounded in the Bosnian war during the 1990s.

Or my friend Adi, whose family did not have enough money to leave the country during the war and who was almost torn to pieces by a grenade one afternoon while playing outside. He owes his life solely to his dog – who has proven a sixth sense for the coming danger. And yet Adi never complains that he didn't have a carefree childhood. He's a kind and hard-working person who makes his own luck and career by just not giving up.

I am in the privileged situation of merely being German.

I did not to ave grow up in a country torn apart by war. And after finishing my studies, there was no reason for me to leave my hometown because it offers me no perspective or job. Ever since I have been to Bosnia and met so many Bosnian people, I am angry that they are reduced to being gardeners or cleaners. Or worse: economic refugees with criminal intentions.

To be honest, so many Bosnians (and Serbs and Montenegrins) have been living in Germany for decades, have decent jobs, and speak better German than some Germans. They have integrated so well that the only thing that stands out is perhaps the unusual names with the Slavic sound.

And even if they work as cooks or gardeners: What is so wrong about this? Is it not still better than earning 250 Euros per month and paying rent, living expenses, and your children's university fees from this small salary?

Is it not better than being confronted with hate and corruption in your home country ever day? Than being reminded every day that your relatives have been killed by their own neighbors and no one is held accountable? Is it not understandable that young people leave this country where the youth unemployment rate is 55.5 percent?

I don't want to point fingers and blame anyone here for never having dealt with the history of former Yugoslavia. It's just not interesting for most Germans, and that's fine.

But I would love to bring Bosnia and my experiences there a little bit closer t you. I made a new category on the blog for it: From Bosnia with LoveI'm looking forward to telling you more about Bosnia and Herzegovina!

Und wenn ihr Fragen habt oder euch etwas interessiert, schreibt es gerne in die Kommentare oder schreibt mir eine Nachricht – ich werde das Thema dann in die Kolumne mit aufnehmen!

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