Photograph of Spaho Bajric

Spaho Bajric

Born: 19th July 1944

Small town near Sarajevo, Bosnia

Date of interview: 23rd June 2006

Map showing where Spaho Bajric came from

I was original from Bosnia and I was born sixty three years ago and in a small town near Sarajevo.

Do you have any memories of your childhood, education?

I have to say in childhood I was happy child and I was growing in nice family and they give me a very good family education to respect other people, my neighbours, friends and to be honest and to work hard in my life, what I did.

How many of you in your family?

I was brought with a big family ... I had four sister ... two brothers ... but my family was quite wealthy family and they adopt one boy during the war and we call him brother and my father sent him at university at that time. He pay everything and ... he did something what I try to follow like it in my life.

What specifically did he do that you tried to follow later in life?

I try to help other people but I will talk and in my experience a little bit more later.

You spoke about the war ...

Yes ... and first I have to say where I used to work. I was Professor of History and Latin Language at Dobor College. It's Bosnian, small town about 60,000 people but about 20,000 student.

Lovely town on three rivers and I really enjoyed my life with my students, with my wife and two kids.

Everything was OK until ... May 1992 then war broke in Bosnia and Serbian people and Yugoslavian Army, they aggressive on my country and [pause] my ex-student who used to work in Bosnia police came one day and he told me, 'Professor, you must go. Your name is on list for arrest and killed?' And my son name was as well. And I had only ten minutes to take my personal things - passport, little bit money. I didn't go to the bank and I was without my, without anything but ... my ex-student help me to escape from the town. He took me on free territory to the other town where I became refugee in own country. And at that time my son was student in Sarajevo, and my daughter who was at medical college she was in other town. I didn't know anything about them. When I escaped to town Zepce, small town 20,000 people, but at the time they had about 10,000 refugees and I found accommodation in one primary school and they shared one room about sixty or seventy of us and ... local people they provide us with food and ... everybody was expecting the war would be finished for couple of days, but unfortunately it last more than three year.

My wife at that time was quite ill and when I took her to hospital they told me, 'Sorry, this is more. We can't help your wife. You have to go to the other country, Croatia or Slovenia. They will help you. They will accept you like refugee.'

But it was big problem to go out. Police, they did not allow me to go and when I took paper from doctor and show them, and they said, 'Yes, you can go.' They gave me ten days and after ten days I have to come back [pause] And all roads they are under control of Serbian soldier. It was very dangerous to go to them because they will arrest you or kill you. We had to go through one mountain and about ten of us we were travelling during the night and during the day we were hiding in the forest.

How were you travelling?

And ... they find somebody by car, they pay for that, and they were travelling by foot as well because it was mountain area and they had somebody who know area very well. And it took us about four days to reach Croatian border, and in Croatia I found my friend who helped me to go to Slovenia with my wife who was quite ill.

In Slovenia I went to refugee camp in town Kamnik and they offer us accommodation. It was one room for five people. I was very happy to pay something like that. Without money, without anything with you, you have to accept what they offer to you. My wife [pause] I took her to hospital in Ljubljana and after three weeks doctor told me she would die and ... at that time I didn't know anything about my family, about my children, where is my daughter, where my son was, and I went to Red Cross in Slovenia and ask to help with coffin for funeral. They promise me they will give everything. When I went to ... I was in Bosnian, Slovenian mosque where Bosnian people used to work and they said 'They can't help you. You have to pay for funeral service.' I was so upset that somebody can't offer you religious service and at that time I swear I will never go to mosque or church and, but after I change my mind anyway.

And I took my wife to Croatian and Bosnian border from Slovenia where she was alive and next day she died. [pause] Her relative who was ambulance driver took her body and me to small town they call Bosanski Brod and we went to [pause] grave with her body but fighting was around and bomb, shelling. We had only five minutes for funeral service. What I did I try to remember place where I put my wife and after that I had a big problem after three years when war was finished unable to find her grave.
Day when my wife died it was the worst and very unhappy day for me as well. I lost somebody that I loved but at that time I found my daughter. She was in Macedonia and in one refugee camp. She was travelling through Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia and she came to Slovenia. A friend of mine told her about me. [pause] When she asked me, 'What's happened with Mum?' I told her 'Your Mum ... has died.' She was crying and she said 'I will kill myself.' I tried to stop her, make her calm. I promise everything be OK, I will look after her [pause] and [pause] in Slovenia I try to do something to help myself and family and I join Red Cross to help other refugee and I join council and ask to work in Bosnian school to help Bosnian people. And it was on voluntary base.

Unfortunately one day police arrest me, Slovenian police. They told me, 'You can't go out from refugee camp, you have to stay in refugee camp' and they treat me like prisoner and I was so disappointed I was looking to go to any other country to be free to enjoy my freedom. Doesn't matter which country, is it Albania, is it France or Germany. At that time Red Cross they made list ... and country for people who would like to go to Germany, France, Italia, Switzerland. I prefer to go to France. At that time I speak French but both my children they ask 'dad, please let's go to England.' I didn't know anything about England and what I should do in country where I never visit before. I never speak English, and what I will do. They said 'Dad please, let's go to England.'

And five buses from Reading in Organisation of Reading Churches they come to collect about 100 something and 70 Bosnia refugee to bring to United Kingdom. And I do remember Joe Wise editor of Reading Chronicle was one of them and I met him. We became after that very good friends. And I was very quiet. [pause] For me I thought it will probably be couple of weeks war will be finished, I will go back to Bosnia. Unfortunately something was happening different. When I arrived in Reading after it took us about one day and night. When I arrived in Reading they accommodate us in St Saviour's Church. I spend three days laying on the floor with some other Bosnian people but ...

When roughly was it that you came here?

It was sixth of October 1992. I do remember exact date when it was. And after ... one week something like that they accommodate us with some families, Reading family houses. I was with one family near Cemetery Junction for three weeks and people who brought us here they offer me accommodation. It was in Newtown one old house and this just simple furniture but the most important I was free.

What's happened after that? I didn't know anything about England. I didn't know anything about system how it works here and I didn't know anything about Social Security service because in Bosnia we did not have it. Only if you worked you can get money. If you don't work nobody will help you. And we got free accommodation and other time income support for me and two my children. I was so embarrassed. It was so unpleasant situation that I would take something that I did not earn. It was first time that I feel 'Oh, I'm guilty, I taking money from somebody who earn is not my money.' Other people try to persuade me that other people claim as well, is not shame. It is situation that I can't change anything. And after the people help me with some clothes I had only one trouser and about fifty pound in my pocket, everything was my capital. All my money it stay in bank in Bosnia and I wasn't able to bring anything with me.

At that time I was going to speak English. What I should do? I was in country ... that I can't communicate with other people. My son and daughter they speak little bit English because they learn at their school and university and I had always to ask them to translate with something, to help with something. I feel that I was probably the most stupid man in world and it was funny but you can't communicate. I met one French man. I start to talk French and after that I said 'Oh I am all right. I can communicate with other people.' People who help us in church they care about us to find some English lessons and it was volunteer who start to teach me. My first lessons was in St Saviour's Church.

After ten days gentleman who was responsible for everything his name was John and he made me ... shock. He brought interpretator from BBC and ask me 'Can I change my religious to join the church?' They provide and support for me and my children, they offer scholarship. I was so so upset.

Which religion you [inaudible]?

I don't know which is some sort of Christianity [both talking together]

Which religion were you before?

I never follow it, I was free man you know. But I was born ... I was born like Bosnian Muslim and I was so proud of my parents' religion and I said 'Why are we change?' And I was so upset I ask for my passport to go back to Bosnia. He was so embarrassed he apologised me he will never do it again and I realised they respect me so much and they tried me to help in other way.

My children ... I was worried for them. They had to find school. They have to continue with their education. My son was in Bosnia student but my daughter she finished two years at medical college. And what's happened when we asked for place at school nobody accept them because their English was quite ... weak and first they had to improve English. My son spent one year for preparatory course at Reading University. He was doing maths, physics, chemistry and English and after one year he passed. My daughter they put her to GCSE and teacher told me she can get good result but she was so clever girl I know that the problem was English.

And I borrow money from friend of mine from Germany. I pay at private school for my children to go to learn English and after one year both of them they passed First Cambridge Certificate and after that Proficiency. My daughter start to do her A Level, and in chemistry, maths and physics. It was very rare that girl take maths and some her friends call her genius, but she took maths because you don't need much English but she was preparing herself to studying pharmacy or dentistry. For me I was learning just basic ... it was couple hours per week and and ... it wasn't be enough. If I need more lessons I had to pay. I didn't have any money for that but I found volunteer teacher who promised that will help and really she helped me and I start to learn more.

After six months we receive insurance number and we were able to work. What I should do I use my experience from my ... I said young day because we had family business in construction industry. My older brother was a businessman and when I was student I used to help him. I work with him but I was quite good with painting and decorating and one Indian man offered me job. It was small amount of money. I was working at that time probably thirty five to thirty pound per day but I was happy that I could earn money and I can help my children for their education. I know it wasn't money for living it was money for put in somebody in their future.

My son at that time applied to go to university North London University and they accept him but student fee was quite high about £5,000 we have to pay. It was impossible for us to pay because they treat us as foreign student not home student and we sent letter to the college department and they reduced fee on £2,500. It was very good news and we were work very hard to save money and pay for student fee.

And my daughter at that time used to work at Safeway food store in Reading. Headmaster of Maiden Erlegh School find job for her. She was working after when she finishes school after four o'clock and she was working for weekend. It was enough for us to save some money and prepare for university for student day when they go to university. And both of us we were helping for my son and her brother and he was working for weekend as well in restaurant and pubs to earn money to pay for accommodation and food. And after first year he applied for and ... George Soros Foundation in America and he receive help from him. But I was thinking how we can do something. We have some other Bosnian people here with student. What we can do? And we decide to organise Bosnian Youth Trust. With local people who join us we were so successful. We apply to National Lottery Charity Board and with explanation that we need money for student who are Bosnian student who are at university in Reading and they offer us at that time I can't remember probably about £10,000 what was enough to pay for fees. And when we received that we were able to support our children.

What's happen with me? I was working but after five o'clock when I finish my work as painter decorator I was attending English lessons at the Japanese College in Reading.

What work were you doing during the day?

I was doing painting decorating houses and all building work, my employer, ordered me to do. I have to do it but when I finish at five o'clock at six o'clock I was at college. And I was, I said I will not spend the rest of my whole life working in the construction industry. I have to do something else and without English I can't do anything. [pause] When I come home at nine o'clock I had to prepare my dinner. Sometimes I know I slept on sofa. My dinner was on the table I forget for that. I was so tired. And in morning I have to go again for work. But I know life is difficult. Everywhere if you to a foreign country without language without friends without family without money you have to do something.

And ... in Reading we try to improve our life for refugee and we establish Reading Refugee Support Group. And I get idea and I was supporting from ... gentleman who was mayor in my town in Bosnia and we start to do this job on voluntary base. After that we apply to National Lottery Charity Board and we employ somebody part-time and after that full time. We help all refugee and asylum seeker in Reading with interpretation, translation, to find accommodation and with education, with other needs for travelling to college, clothes, with immigration. And it just became very respectable organisation and Reading Borough Council help us on many occasion.

My son at that time he got very good result at university and ... in his second year he's got Soros grant and he was working. He told me 'Dad I don't need your help any more.' I was so relaxed that I can concentrate to save money for my daughter because she was ready next year to go to the university. She applied to study pharmacy at Portsmouth University. She got place but the biggest problem was my son was third year she was first year. I have to support two student at same times what was impossible for me. I ask her if she can leave, one year take off. She was crying and she said 'Dad, please, I will work very hard and I don't need much help' but I found very good friends from Germany. I borrow money from him and I gave money for my daughter to go to university. She was so happy and she promise she will got very good result. It's happen. Next year my son graduated at North University College in London in accountancy and he promised 'Dad, I will help my sister. You take rest. You don't have to help her any more.' At that time I was so proud to have somebody who will accept responsibility and help sister to get education. He was helping her for all three years and I told ... I was different man at that time. And I said 'My children they are incorporate in this society. I can now, they can contribute now in this society because they took something from society, they have to give it back.'
I was studying my English on a regular basis and improving every day and I was looking around for job. Unfortunately all my applications were turned down.

What job roughly were, what job were you looking for?

OK. I was looking usually for simple job, not much. I was looking to do to work in shops, I was looking for work in office some secretary but when I sent my CV and answer was, 'You are over-educated for this job. One day you will leave us. We can't accept you.' And ... I changed something in my CV. When I applied for job I did not put all my qualifications. I just put simple things. And I was lucky. At Ealing Family 1997 ... they advertised job to work with refugee and asylum seeker to help with education, training, employment. It was my job, I told myself. I applied, I had interview and I got the job. I was Development Officer and ... it was my chance to help other people who were in my situation. All my clients were all over the world. I had doctors, dentists ... pharmacist. I had ordinary worker and I was able to listen to them, I was able to give good advice. I was able to help them. The first things was if somebody have to learn English, to go and study English then after that we will apply for job.

And people they listen to me. I send hundreds and hundreds of clients to Reading College to learn ... or some tutor private tutor who were helping us at that time. We established team of volunteer about twenty people who were working with refugee and asylum seeker in our project. Ealing Family they offer us office free of charge, they help us. But we help ourselves. We establish translation, interpretation service for many people in Reading here and for any borough council, for hospital, for solicitor. They need service for different languages. But what we did, we charge them for that. All money what we earn we gave to our clients. We pay for fee, we pay for travelling, for childcare, for books, and we help each other. In this project about sixty-seven clients they found job. They change their life. Many of them they retrain, they sent to ... company for training because in this country and in your own country is always something different. You have to learn from this system, how the system works, what the people need and all the people who were on training particular in housing they found a job.

But I did not stop to think about my country in Bosnia. I had letter from town where I was refugee from a hospital ... doctor send me. They did not have ambulance. They did not have any equipment, not laboratory, not bandages, nothing. They asked me if I can do something and [pause] I found very close friend who was manager at that time, in Panasonic. He promise he will do something with his friend and after a couple of weeks we raised money, we bought ambulance and they ... is full of medical equipment. They sent it to Bosnian hospital and they were able to transport people from their house to hospital.

Other things what's happened was that they had many disabled children in Bosnia. My relative was had ... director of one house for disabled people and they asked me if we can do something to help with minibus who will take children from their house to we call it disability centre where they will spend all day. And I was lucky at that time 1997. One of my friends recommend me for my work in voluntary sector ... that I was nominate for Man of the Year in Reading Borough Council, Reading Chronicle, and I was surprised when journalists come to see me and they made interview with me and they vote me Man of the Year. I got some financial reward for that but I thought at that time I'm giving it for minibus for handicapped children project and I ask other people if they would like to join us. They publish it in the Reading Chronicle and the response was very good. People donate money and we bought minibus with wheelchair and we took it in March 1997 and take it to the Bosnia. For me it was sad. I came to the Bosnian border but ... and Croatian border. I wasn't be allowed to go to Bosnia. I had wrong sort of travel document.

Why were you not allowed to go?

I had travel document, blue one. They said you can visit any country except your country. And I was looking my house. It was only couple of miles from border but I wasn't be able to go and see my relatives and friends and see my house. They come to border and we met each other. We were crying at that time. I spend a whole day with them and I had to go back to the United Kingdom. Friend of mine he took minibus to town Tuzla for handicapped children.

I ask what's happened with my property ... in Bosnia. My three bedroom house which I use for weekend was absolutely destroyed. My flat in town Dobor was occupied by Serbian people and I wasn't be able to go to take it back. After ten years ... I got it. I got it. And it was impossible for me to live with people like before. When I went to college where I used to work ... it was 200 lecturer, professor, teacher ... different nationality as Bosnia is mixed country. We have Croatian Catholics, Bosnian Muslims, Serbian Orthodox and other people. I found 200 Orthodox Serbian and I ask for my document to give me back, and I was so frightened you know and somebody will attack me at that time. They hate me because I was different from them and I had to pay money to get it back. It was very sad. And I took my diploma, university diploma, and all my documentation where I used to work ... to have for my
... document.

When I come back from Bosnia I had to concentrate to see what's going with my daughter and she was passing all her exam and at the end she invite me for celebration at her college in Portsmouth and she's got degree in pharmacy, but my son at that time he was doing chartered accountancy. He told me 'Dad, I have to do a little bit more' and he's got a degree as well in chartered accountancy.

I was working in Ealing Family for full seven years helping with refugee and asylum seeker and when I was reached sixty, I thought it's time to be retired, early retirement. And why I decide like that [pause] I had to concentrate to do more charity work to help some Bosnian people here. I am chairman in Reading for Bosnian people. We establish Bosnian Emergency Fund. We have fifty disabled people and we have to provide service for them, interpretation, translation. We have to visit them every day. But I concentrate more to establish with other people Bosnian supplementary school. We establish here eleven Bosnian schools in different places - Birmingham, London, Manchester. We don't have in Reading here, we don't have many Bosnian people.

And now I am headmaster of the Bosnian School. And recently people elected me to be chairman for twenty-three Bosnian organisation in United Kingdom and Ireland. And I was so proud to do it but it's a lot of work. But when you start to do something like that, you will never stop. And I have now time to do it and I promise I will help other people because somebody was helping me.

I want to try and take you back a bit to before you left Bosnia. You say that your name was on the list of people who were supposed to be killed?

Yes.

Do you know any reason why you were targeted?

I know. Because it was policy of Serbian nationalist, and they would kill all educated people, doctor, professor, teacher, businessman. They will kill probably one of third ordinary people. They will take all your property, all your money from you. It was their policy. But other my reason, I used to work in military service, Yugoslavian military service before. I was captain of Yugoslavian Army and I left it. I know many things about it, but people who stay with them, who did not leave, it's happened to them. Many my friends they were killed and ... my colleague who used to work with me he was in charge with that. Now, in Hague they try to extradite him for war crime, what he did in town Dobor.

You also said that your children persuaded you to come to England. Before you came to England what was your impression about England?

I didn't know anything about England. I know about ... when I watch film. It was raining something, I said 'No, I don't like to go in this country, I would like to go sunny. And English people they look like not friendly' you know, but I was wrong. I was wrong. I have never had any problem in United Kingdom. And if I in the future have to choose any country to live I would say 'I will live in United Kingdom.' It is much better than in any other country where I travel.

You mentioned that while you were still in Bosnia you were a professor.

Yes.

Why was it difficult for you to get a job as a professor here, do you think?

In this country is not only for me, it's for all people. In this country they don't recognise your diploma from your own country, they don't recognise. If you are doctor, you can be taxi driver. If you are professor, you can't do your job and if you are pharmacist you can't work here and they are quite strict. You have to be retrained here to do something here, to pass some exam to do this job. It's not only for this for all other people who came in this country particularly from Eastern European country. And what ... I disagree. I know now here about 500, I did research what is here. 500 doctors are in the United Kingdom. If they retrained them they would save a lot of money and they would have very qualified people.

How did you feel working in the building industry when you were a professor before in Bosnia?

For me you know I thought it was my destiny, is something what happen from God and I thought 'You have to work' but again I know that I was earning money to put in the right way for education of my children. This is not money to make business or capital. This is something that you can keep for all your life. If you have money, if you have property you can lose it one day everything but if you put something in your brain you will never lose it. It was my philosophy and I accept it. But I know that I will do something different one day, but it's happened to me.

You spoke about the fact that you were in the Yugoslav Army?

Yes.

What experiences did you have?

I have to say Yugoslavian Army during the Tito time was very good, very friendly. They care all other people but then people died and Milosevic came in power. They became nationalist party [corrects himself] army and all army was from Serbian people. They try to make Great Serbia and they try to ... kill other people and this is what I did not accept, is why I left when I realise. But during the Tito time it was wonderful.

You mentioned about your childhood that you had a very good childhood ... are there any memories that you can relate, about your parents?

Yes, I know and ... my grandfather and my father they were very rich people, capitalist, and when Tito came in power they lost their property and new system, but all land what you have they give some other people but they give you only ten hectares per family, what was enough. My father hated he did not like it but I recognize something was different. I thought Tito was right. He was helping poor people, he was helping middle class. He was helping with education. Everything was free. When I was at university at school I did not have to pay anything. You have free accommodation, you have free house. You do not have to pay fee. You have a job. Everything was OK. And one day my father told me 'My son, I was wrong, Tito was right.' I was so pleased to hear from my dad who hate him in the beginning but at the end he change his mind.

What was your mother's profession?

My mother was ordinary woman and she had very good family and religious education. She tried to teach us to respect other people, to help other people, to share with them everything. If you have food, share with your next door. Doesn't matter who is, is he Christian, Muslim, Jewish, we have to share with him. I accept from my mother everything and particular I was pleased when my mother adopt one child ... what I was try to do in my life later. And they were helping poor people but what I am doing now similar.

I from Reading now running one project for orphans children and in past last year we start to support children who lost parents in Bosnian war, particular children from Srebrenica. I am supporting two of them. My daughter and son they accept two - it's four. All other friends altogether we are supporting seventeen. I was in Bosnia in April this year to see my child because she was finishing with her college graduation. I was so pleased to see somebody who with my help got education and can start his own life. But everything what I am doing now I think it was influenced from my mother.

And what are your memories of your late wife?

OK. My wife ... she was lecturer at same college where I used to work and she died and she was thirty-nine, very young and she had very bad experience during the war. She didn't know anything about children. She was crying every day and her situation was getting worse and worse and she died after that. And it was probably the most difficult situation for me and that I lost somebody I love so much. My daughter she never recover after that. I did not tell her all story how her mother died and ... ten years I was widow. I didn't like to go out. I didn't like to make any relations with any other women until my daughter persuade me 'Dad. You did a lot of things for us. Please find somebody who is right person for you, marry somebody,' and I mention lady who was friend of my, is my wife now. She was so happy she was calling her. She make a relationship with her and when I decide to marry my daughter was witness on my wedding day. It's very rare to find and now she call my wife Mum.

You mentioned during the earlier narration when you were told to leave your daughter was not there [SB - Yes] She was in a refugee camp. Were you not living together?

And everybody was escaping with different ... side. You had to find some town you say 'Oh, this town could be secure.' But I gave address of all my friends ... Serbian, Croatian, in all Yugoslavia. I said this is address and telephone number. If you phone them and tell that you are my daughter or son, they will help you. It's happened to me. I have to say that my son was helping from Serbian people in Serbia and I can't accuse all Serbian people they did genocide in Bosnia. I am accusing Serbian nationalists, Milosevic and Chetnik, Serbian nationalists but not Serbian people now. They help my daughter and my son as well and ... other experience ... was very bad in Croatia.

I had very good Croatian Catholics who was care about my son. One day police came to arrest my son to [inaudible] him for fighting in Bosnia against Serbs. He told them 'Sorry, you can't take this boy with you. He's son of my Bosnian [inaudible] friends. Only if you kill me you will take him with you. You have here drink and food, but don't touch this boy.' My son was shaking you know. At that time his mother was in Slovenia. She was dying and he was waiting to be transported to Slovenia to see mother before she die. [pause] I had quite good support from people that I know, doesn't matter which nationality.

You spoke about living in the refugee camp and that you were eventually taken from the refugee camp. What other experiences did you have in the refugee camp?

The refugee camp ... I used to live in two. One was in Bosnian town. I know it was over-crowded and only ordinary people if they help you you will have food. OK, I understand it was like that. Then I moved to Slovenia and it was like prison. I didn't like you know to live in camp and I had very bad experience from Slovenia. What's happened, you can't go out without permission. You have to, if you go to shop to buy something you have to ask for one or two hours for permit to go out. It was like prison. They treat us like we are people who came to steal something and like we are criminals.

And other bad experience it was with Slovenian ... teacher. My daughter was attending school in Slovenia. One day she come back, she was crying. One of teacher told her 'You must go from this school.' She was surprised. Why? 'You are refugee Bosnian. You can't stay and sit with Slovenian student in same class' and she was crying crying crying. And we decide that she will leave school and we will go in any other country that offer us something different.

What about the memories of your brothers and sisters?

My three brothers stayed in Bosnia. I was so scared for them. I didn't know about them ... and one of them [pause] was killed. I didn't know for them. I sent many letters to him but not answered. And ... when I sent other letter, again not answered. After six seven months I got letter from his son. He sent me letter said 'Uncle, sorry, your brother has died and he was killed in Croatian border.' And they tried to keep secret from me because I lost wife, I lost mother-in-law and I lost brother. And my older brother was in Croatia ... and he was in Croatian town, but what they did was then they force them to go and work on field ... all day for food. If you go and work you receive food, but if you don't go you don't have food. And he spent couple of months in Croatia later and after that he moved to Hungaria where it was much better and stay in Hungaria until the end of the war.

And what about your sisters?

My sisters they stay in Bosnia, both of them stay in Bosnia. One of them was in Sarajevo and they were in siege ... without anything, without food, without electricity, without central heating. They suffer so much. I didn't know for them for one year. And the first news what I got it was from one German doctor ... and ... who visit Bosnia and he was friend of mine but he visit my sister. He found her and I got news from him that my sister and her family stay alive in Sarajevo. They were OK at the end but you know Sarajevo was like Stalingrad - siege for one year, without food, without anything and ... About 15,000 people were killed in Sarajevo.

Do you still maintain contacts with Bosnia, now you have mentioned about the things you have done?

I'm always in contact with Bosnia people and with some project and now project is Bosnian orphans. And this is what I am so proud to do it. And I have my colleague who is professor at Tuzla University and some other teacher. They are distributing all help what we are sending from United Kingdom on a regular basis to war orphans. This is, be ... I know they don't have parents, they don't have family. They have some good people who can help them. Government does not have enough money to help all of them. In Bosnia you know all country was destroyed even in the war and now is time that people from outside will help more and more. What I doing now with my family.

You have mentioned that when you left Bosnia you thought the war was going to last for six months and it lasted for more than that [SB Yes] and you were hoping to go back as soon as the war ended. What persuaded you to stay?

It's good question because everybody expected the war to be finished in a couple of weeks because this is Europe. This is not Africa ... there you can try for many years. [pause] In Bosnia we expected a European country like the United Kingdom, France, Germany to stop war [coughs] sorry. To stop war. They did not do anything. They had embargo. Yugoslavian Army [corrects] Serbian Army I do not say Yugoslavian - [emphasises] Serbian Army. Serbian Army have everything. They have guns. They kill Bosnian people but we did not have anything and we just were like lamb who ... that you can kill any time and it was shame I would say shame for United Kingdom for France for Germany. [pause] President Clinton he did something. He strike ... he brought some guns for Bosnian people to protect themselves and war stop ... OK

What eventually decided you to stay here?

And I tried to go back but [pause] ten years I was waiting for my property I've left in town where I used to work and they sack me from college where I used to work. They employ only Serbian people and it was impossible to live in town like that. And my other house was absolutely destroyed. If you don't have accommodation, if you don't have regular income, how you will survive? It was main reason why I stay here. Because here I used to work. I was helping my fam ... my children to get a good education and I was able from this place to help my family who stay in Bosnia as well to provide basic food and accommodation some of them.

In conclusion I would like to find out from you what contribution you can continue to make because you have told me about all the work you have done for the people of Bosnia and the UK society.

I did a lot of things first. When I was working I tried to help people who were in a similar situation like me. Would advise to find a job to find fee for university to retrain them. And here I educated my children here. I was helping them. Now they are full members of this society. They are incorporate. They pay tax. They're earning good money but they pay tax they pay everything. They are supporting this society. And in my free time I now helping here with Bosnian Emergency Fund all Bosnian people with interpretation translation. We care about them. We organise Bosnia school and we are helping people who are behind in Bosnia. I thought it was enough for me because I can't do much more.

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