The climb up a mountain that would change the life of one Bosnian immigrant.
By Thomas Langin
(ST. LOUIS, Mo) On April 6th, 1992, Hasima Hajdini promised her four year old son, Dino, that she would go out and get some milk from the local store. It seems like a easy task to accomplish. The first difficulty that got in the way was which store was she to go to.
The district of Zvornik, Bosnia had been under Serbian Paramilitary control for the past two weeks. Blockades had been set up everywhere to contain the population and tanks had been pointed towards Serbia on the border.
Hasima quickly found out that there wasn’t milk available at the stores she was going to. She was determined to find some milk for Dino so she strolled over to the border. Because of the blockades, they had soldiers posted up at the border where she wanted to cross.
Hasima, being seven months pregnant, did not want to hear any excuses from the soldier. “I’m pregnant and i’m going to find food so, just go,” she remarked at the soldier. After a brisk two mile walk to the store, Hasima was able to acquire milk and also got some bread and chicken for dinner.
After putting the chicken in the oven for dinner, Hasima heard an unfamiliar sound. A destructive “boom” was heard all across the sky. The tanks that had spun their turrets around and had started firing on Zvornik. Hasima quickly got her son dressed, woke her husband and mother-in-law up, and started running up the mountain for safety. Her husband wanted her to get the family to safety so she was responsible for her mother and son.
What would usually be a two hour trek up the mountain, turned into a horrifying six hour climb. Hasima had to run her son up part of the mountain, put him behind a bush, and then run down and grab her mother-in-law to assist her.
Another unfamiliar sound kept whizzing by her ears. “You remember the sound of the sniper; its like a bumble bee. That is such a distinct sound that you never forget.”
When they finally reached the top, they found themselves in the village of Kula Grad. This would be a short stay because the bombing escalated up the mountain to the village.
They continued running from village to village until they ended up in Tuzla. There, Hasima had to utilize her nursing skills to help a man who had been shot. The man said he would be alright because he thought the bullet went straight through. He would not make it to the next morning.
Refugees were being allowed to escape into Slovenia as long as a family member had a passport. Hasima, reunited with her family, was able to cross over the border. They were still worried about their safety so they were able to acquire passports to seek haven in Germany. They arrived in Germany on a Sunday, two weeks after the bombing started. Germany closed its border on Monday to all refugees.
Hasima had to find work in Germany, but that meant going back to school so she could be a nurse again. She worked her way through school and was able to get her degree. Astonishingly enough, this would not be the last time she would have to prove herself as a nurse in a new country.
Germany had started the process of requiring all Bosnian refugees to settle their affairs and leave the country within 30 days after the war. Hasima and her family did not want to go back to war-torn Bosnia. There was nothing to go back to. This was the realistic situation for most refugees. Their homes and towns were decimated. Their land had either been seized or taken by Serbia. They may have even lost family members.
St. Louis was deemed a good fit for the Bosnian refugees. A medium-sized metropolitan area with an abundance of available housing and entry-level jobs made the neighborhood of Bevo Mill a good spot. Now Hasima is one of approximately 70,000 Bosnian immigrants living in St. Louis.
With no one in the family speaking English, Hasima still moved her family to the USA and once again pursued her degree in Nursing. She quickly learned English, settled her family in St. Louis, and currently is a nurse at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She is doing the thing she was put on this earth to do: save lives.