Written and Created by: Kevin Durso
Imagine living in a world where people became violent over differences in ethnicity and religion. This is reality in Bosnia, where a war from 1992 to 1995 has separated ethnicities for generations.
“We were fighting among each other because we were different nationality and religion,” Lejla Hasandedic said. “But basically there was not much different between one side or the other. We have the same history, the same culture, but the war started because of these small differences.”
A child of war, Hasandedic decided to make a change for herself and her country with the inspiration of her parents and family. She has been involved with several different projects throughout Europe and within Bosnia, but the most significant of her contributions is as a youth ambassador for the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.
“We had one project where we tried to show the culture of Bosnia and Sarajevo because Serbs were attacking Sarajevo during the war,” Hasandedic said. “So we tried to share our culture, our concepts and tried to help people to meet each other to build some better memories now.”
Hasandedic is also involved with a group called Bosnian Pot. Named after a Bosnian dish that features a medley of foods, the group communicates within ethnicities, united groups of people that would traditionally not meet.
“I decided to put youth together from different sides of the country who didn’t have an opportunity to meet each other before,” Hasandedic said. “I show them diversity and things that make a difference between us make our life richer and to appreciate those difference.”
In a similar way, Senita Slipac is also serving the Bosnian youth by uniting them with other ethnicities. The Bosana Foundation serves the purpose of educating all of Bosnia’s youth equally and empowering them to act within the community.
“I saw post-conflict development being directly impoverished because of the lack of focus on education after the war,” Slipac said.
“Bosnia is still divided. Education is completely segregated.”
-Senita Slipac, Bosana Foundation
Slipac discussed several success stories involving the future plans of a state park and a young artist empowering people through her work.
“People told me I was wasting my time,” Slipac said. “He submitted a grant in his town where he wants to build a state park and he doesn’t want to wait for the government, he wants to be that change.
“She’s an amazing artist. She’s a Muslim who is studying in Serbia. She’s really amazing, she really wants to travel the world and portray the gypsy culture and the Bosnian culture in the world. To me, that’s exactly what this scholarship is about.”