Vedina drums her fingers nervously on the table. She waits impatiently for the interpreter, who arrives for the interview two minutes late. Typical of Bosnia, says Vedina – another reason why she’s glad to be leaving the country soon.
She won’t be leaving for the first time. In 1991, as tensions between Bosnia’s ethnic communities mounted, Vedina – terrified at the prospect of war – fled to Croatia and then to Germany, taking her daughter with her. But in Germany, Vedina, who is divorced, and her daughter were only granted “tolerated” status. Her journey continued via Croatia to Sweden, which was to be her new home for nine years. Vedina and her daughter were granted a residence permit and her daughter was able to go to school. Vedina learned Swedish very quickly, in just six months. She enjoys learning languages. She felt at home in Sweden. She found a job, made friends, and was even engaged for a time.
Five years after the war ended, Vedina returned to Sarajevo – on her own; her daughter stayed in Sweden. Unlike her daughter, Vedina felt she had no choice. “That’s the crazy thing about our culture”, says Vedina. “We make a lot of decisions for our parents’ sake.” During the war, Vedina’s parents had fled to Croatia, returning to Bosnia in 1995. Now, they needed their daughter. Vedina had to start from zero – not an easy task in this chaotic country, scarred by war. But Vedina set to with vigour and threw herself into her work. She worked in many different industries – in tourism, as a recruitment consultant, sending Bosnian workers to Dubai, and finally as an estate agent. But she always kept her Swedish papers in the hope of going back to live in Sweden one day. But Vedina waited too long: her mother fell ill, and finally Vedina’s residence permit expired.
One of her jobs took Vedina further than she had expected, but in a different direction: she met her future husband via a business contact in Dubai. She noticed him immediately. Originally from Tuzla, Fuad runs his own business in Hamburg. Vedina is a good judge of character and can sum up people very quickly. She realised that Fuad was the warm-hearted partner she had always been looking for.
Today, after all the years of working hard seven days a week, Vedina feels she’s treading water. She gave up her job as an estate agent to attend the language course, but she misses the recognition that her job gave her, and earning a decent wage. She’s highly motivated: she can’t bear it when she can’t understand, and this spurs her on. Often, English words slip out accidently when she’s speaking German. On the other hand, many of the German words and structures are familiar to her from Swedish and English.
A businesswoman to the core, she’s irritated by Bosnian attitudes to work. She misses the discipline and a can-do approach. “Bosnia is stagnating. It’s not a business-oriented society” in Vedina’s judgement. But being a go-getting businesswoman is only one facet of her personality. This open and uncomplicated woman is also a devout Muslim. She is always amused by the astonished looks on people’s faces when she talks about her faith. Like many Bosnians, Vedina believes in a modern and tolerant Islam. For Vedina, studying the Bible is as important and enlightening as reading the Qur’an.
Until now, Vedina’s life was focused on success, and status symbols such as cars and clothes were priorities. Today, she says, she is coming to appreciate the little things in life. She’s realistic about her prospects of career success in Germany. She hopes that she will find a job which pays a decent wage. She doesn’t want to be financially dependent on her husband, that’s for sure.