Subjects: Serbian, family, freedom, Communism, President Tito, Muslims, Christians, Croatia, 1992, divorce, child custody rights
Hyperlink: Josip Broz Tito
Subjects: daughter, maternity leave, Zenica
Segment Synopsis: singing, soccer, neighbors, World War Two, lack of grocery goods, democrats, Communists, Muslims, job loss, Banja Luka
Hyperlink: Banja Luka
Subjects: cities, Banja Luka, religion, Serbs, Catholics
Hyperlink: Ethnic conflict in Bosnia
Subjects: 1991, losing work, Bosnian independence, flea market, Catholics, Muslims, Serbs
Hyperlink: Beginning of Bosnian Conflict
Subjects: Sana River, soldiers, Red Cross, United Nations, family, Denmark, Serbs, Muslims, Catholics
Hyperlink: Sana River
Subjects: Refugee camp, Sibenik, fear, son going to America
Subjects: December 1995, Sibenik, Trogir, airplane, smoking, Rome Italy, New York, American coffee, Bosnian coffee
SLOAN: This is Stephen Sloan. The date is September 15, 2015. We're in the homeof Mrs. Baisa Heldic, and this is an interview with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission's Survivor of Genocide Project. We're at her home in Burleson, Texas. Thank you, Baisa, for sitting down with us today and visiting with us. We've already been welcomed well with traditional coffee, and we're feeling very much at home. I'd like to start out as we--there's a lot of ground, of course, we're going to cover, but I'd like to start out with some of your earliest memories and some of your family experiences there in Bosnia, if you can give us some of that.
HELDIC: It's hard to--I mean, it's not hard to remember, and I don't know how tostart. When the war started, I stayed in the city of Banja Luka, which is most 1:00of the people is Serbian. They're starting war and we have--
SLOAN: Can I stop you just a second?
SLOAN: I want to go back before the war started.
HELDIC: Ah, before?
SLOAN: Tell me a little bit about your family, some of your early experiencesgrowing up. You told me a little bit before we started recording about where you lived and then moving to live with a family member. If you could tell me a little bit more about that, that would be great. Let's begin there.
HELDIC: Before war?
HELDIC: I mean, about--I don't know. You confuse me now. (laughs)
SLOAN: Well, I just want to know a little bit more about your family, yourfather, your mother, what they did, what life was like, where you lived, that sort of thing. 2:00
HELDIC: My mother and my father, they have five kids. I'm the youngest one, sodon't think about how old. (laughs) Then we have such a good life. My father used to work with a construction company. My mother stayed home, take care of us. We wasn't rich, but we have a very good life. We have food every day and whatever we need for school or toys, but my father, after work, he will work another job to make sure we have everything. In other words, I have a good life. Especially, my aunt and uncle, both of them working. They make very good money; 3:00they take care of me. I have everything, whatever I ask them for, so life was great. But the biggest thing that we have, we have a freedom. I was born and raised with Communists. These days, when you think about that, especially this country (laughs)--I don't want to talk much about that, but we have a good life.
We have President Tito [Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito] at that time. Iwas born when he was a president; he was in life. He gave us freedom. You want to go to church? You want to go to mosque? Most popular religion in Bosnia is Muslim, Catholic, and Serb. You can go to mosque; you can go to Catholic church, Serbian church, whatever you want to go. You want to go to be a Communist, you 4:00can be a Communist, but you cannot go to church; you have to keep that separate. Of course, at that time I don't understand. If you want a nice college and good job, you must be Communist, but we have a freedom. We liked to go in Croatia to beach. You can sleep all night outside. Just dogs will come around you and look at you, nobody else. You can sleep. It doesn't matter. My door open, my grandma never locked door, my mother she never locked door. Barely you can hear somebody kill somebody or something happen. That's before war.
SLOAN: Yeah, I know the war, of course, is going to change everything.
HELDIC: Yes, and after I finished my school, I got married. Then, I have my son,and I have Dzenana. We have jobs, both of us. 5:00
SLOAN: What sort of work were you doing then?
HELDIC: I worked with the company where we make--I don't know how to translate,but we make the toilet papers, Kleenex, and tissues, and stuff like that. That's a huge company. Then beginning of the war, they [laid off] everybody who is not Serb. Plus, my life that time, in the nineties, I have Dzenana, and in 1992 I got divorced. Beginning of the war, 1991, I already left from my house, separate with my husband, so my problems start there. I don't need a war to make worse. I 6:00have custody of Dzenana, she was a little baby, and my ex-husband, her father, have custody of our son. I have right visitation from our court to see him every second weekend. Then, when war start, I have a problem. [My ex-husband] don't want to give me [visitation rights], but somehow he did--to see him on the time. When war start, I can't [see my son] because he left from Bosnia. I help him [to leave], you know.
SLOAN: So your daughter, Dzenana, who is with us by the way, was born in 1990, right?
HELDIC: Nineteen ninety, yes.
SLOAN: Okay. You were still working during that period when you got a divorce,so you're supporting the family on just your income?
SLOAN: Okay, just your income.7:00
HELDIC: (both talking at once) Then I take--I'm sorry. Then, I take Dzenanabecause in our country, which is what is good even now, the pregnant woman they're going [on maternity leave] before they have a baby. They go on one year maternity leave with full pay. I have Dzenana, then I got divorced. She was, I think, nine months old, and I have [been on] paid [maternity leave], and I have to [go] back to work. I barely back to work after one year, and I take Dzenana to my mother and father in Zenica, which is a city like four hours drive away from Banja Luka, because I don't have a babysitter--my aunt and my uncle working. War starts and I cannot go there. I don't see Dzenana for three years and a half.
SLOAN: Yeah, we're going to talk about that. That's really hard.8:00
HELDIC: That's, how she left to different city, is [because of] my work.
SLOAN: Yeah, the situation in Bosnia, I know, in the 1980s, it started. Did youexperience it getting a little harder after Tito--
HELDIC: Oh yeah, yeah.
SLOAN: Can you talk a little bit about that?
HELDIC: Oh yeah, sure. After Tito die, I even remember the day. Me and my sistersitting outside. We have a bench, and me and my sister always sing. We [were singing] outside and my mother came and said, "Shhh, come on in the house! Come in the house." We were like, What's wrong? Then the neighbor says, "Oh, Tito died! Tito died!" We have a game going on, soccer, and they stopped the game and say Tito died. My mother, she was in World War II, and she's always active about that stuff and politics, and she's like, "It's going to be very bad." Everybody 9:00is scared to death what's going to happen tomorrow, and we have reason to scared. Maybe after seven days, ten days, we cannot find to buy coffee nowhere, detergent, oil--the oil--
HELDIC: No, no, no.
MELISSA SLOAN: Olive oil?
HELDIC: Yeah, the regular oil for cooking.
SLOAN: Cooking oil?
HELDIC: Cooking oil, sugar--what we really need for life, the basics, soap andstuff like that. Then come one store and the hundreds and hundreds of people come and start to go in the store. They sell you like only one kilogram sugar per person, but it's many people came. That's the first problem starting. Then, step by step, we want to be Democrats; we don't want to be Communist anymore. 10:00They try to be like here--different countries. Then, you can hear here and there, "Oh, you're a Muslim; you cannot do that." [People] start losing jobs. I was in Banja Luka, and they say, "Oh, just go, we don't have enough workers." [It was like I was] laid off, but never come back.
SLOAN: Yeah, so you started to feel a difference that you didn't feel as much as before.
HELDIC: Already, yes. After Tito die starting slowly, slowly to have many, manydifferent problems.
SLOAN: Yeah, that move toward independence, along with that, was this growingfeeling of difference. You said it happened in work; you wouldn't get work if 11:00you're a Muslim. Were there other ways in which you began to experience or see it?
HELDIC: I don't understand.
SLOAN: The difference, maybe things that you could get as a Serb that youcouldn't get [as a Muslim].
HELDIC: Oh yeah, a lot of things because I live in Banja Luka. In Zenica, it's adifferent story, where [my parents are]. In Banja Luka, starting slowly, you cannot even say your name, because in Bosnia if I say my name, you already know what religion I am. You're afraid to say your name if you're going to store, you going to buy coffee, you want to buy the sugar, that oil, whatever we're short for. If you go to store, they don't know you, but if you go to a little store in your neighborhood, they know it's you, and [they say,] "Oh, we don't have any." 12:00The little things starting, especially with the job. I mean, if you lose the job, what else? You cannot find one nowhere else. It doesn't matter what you try to apply for. If you go to apply for any help or if you go to doctor, make sure your doctor is a Catholic or a Muslim, not Serb, because it's going to make worse, even the doctors sometimes.
SLOAN: What is the effect that that has on the Muslim community? How does itdraw you together, or coming together to try to fight it, or how did that affect the community, the Muslim community?
HELDIC: You mean, before [the] war?
SLOAN: Before the war.
HELDIC: How much I remember, because it's very different if you live at that13:00time--it's a big deal what city you live in. I live in Banja Luka, which is the big city, and we don't know each other. In the little city, everybody knows everybody. I was busy all the time. I was raised like it doesn't matter what religion you are, that everybody is same. To the last day, I treat the people like that. I have many, many friends, Serbs, and I treat them [like that] to the last day. I don't know much. Even barely war starting and I tell the people at 14:00the flea market, [where] I work to make some money. I didn't know everybody is Serbs. The Catholic and Serbs have the same names; it's not [hard for] every[body], but it's hard for me to tell by your names who you are because I wasn't raised that way. I have a friend from different city. She called me and she's like, "Oh, Serbs is every night attacking us." I can't tell that [to] people, like, "Serbs attacked them! Oh, my goodness." Then I [thought] about how Muslim's [are saying] that. I'm like, "Why are they saying that?" You know, because I wasn't raised [that way], so I don't know much about that. I never go to the mosque or to these groups about just Muslim people, or just Catholic, or just Serbs.
SLOAN: Yeah, so you can move in amongst a lot of different people. When did you15:00lose your job? When did you get laid off at your job? Was it '91?
HELDIC: Yeah, I think 1991.
SLOAN: Nineteen ninety-one? This is around the same time. As you said, youdidn't need everything else that's coming. Independence comes that year, the war starts immediately after that. I'd like to hear your perspective on that period, if you would--just independence coming, the war starting, and that sort of thing.
HELDIC: Yeah, like I say, I was there with my aunt and uncle. I take Dzenana tomy parents, and I'm back to work. Then they say [I'm] laid off, [I] don't have work. Then, in our country, the males go into [the] army. It's not paid like here. Just, they must go, and after, they're finished. A long time ago, they go 16:00three years, then two years, then my brothers go for, I think, fifteen months, then they cut [that] to [a] year. When they go home, they [allow] them to be in the reserve. I remember, they called everybody to the reserve. They have to practice on the field for days, and [all] the men [left].
SLOAN: So your older brothers are in that group too?
HELDIC: No, they're in Zenica. I'm the only one in Banja Luka. My sister livesin Banja Luka and my aunt and uncle. My father, my two brothers they--but Dzenana's father and all men went to the practice, to the reserve. I have no job, and I have to feed the kids, and I have to travel every weekend to my 17:00parents' to see Dzenana, but, like I said earlier, I'm always strong woman. I'm always like, "Oh, I can do." I don't care what I'm doing. I don't want to steal, but I do some jobs; I will do something to make money. I start to work in the flea market selling the vegetables. The friend, he's a Catholic, used to work with me and Dzenana's father. He's the one who's selling with [his] mother. He asked me to work for him. I work with Lavre, and I'm like, "Oh, I can do for myself."
Then, I start doing that, and I made pretty good money. I loved that job. Iwould love to do that job now. (laughs) Trust me. I love it, always with the people. I started work there. This is a little flea market [in] a little field and my aunt's building where she have apartment is so close. I worked there. You 18:00can see the men coming always in and out from the reserve, but when Serbs come, they're always rude to us, asking for free, just take stuff for free, and stuff like that.
I went to see Dzenana all the time. Whenever I have a chance, I go, like I say,four hours a drive. I went to Zenica [by] train all the time. Saw her and my aunt. Also, in Bosnia, if you're sick and your doctor tells you you have to stay at home seven, ten days whatever but with full pay. [My aunt] got sick, and she don't have to go work. She's like, "I'm going to see Dzenana." I say, "Okay, kiss her for me and tell her I'm coming Sunday." She was a baby. Then she went, 19:00and me and my uncle stayed, I work. She go like today and [on the] next day, you cannot go anymore. She cannot come back; I cannot go see Dzenana. Day by day, day by day, three years and a half.
I worked there [at the little flea market]. Then, slowly, they tell them to gohome [from] the reserves, pretty much Muslim. The Serbs stayed. They have guns. The--what do they call the big guns? The big guns you know what the military wear. That started to be a very hard life in that city.
SLOAN: We come from a very different place, and we don't necessarily understand,but I'd like for you to share what life was like in that sort of circumstance. I 20:00know this goes on for three years as you're living in Banja Luka.
HELDIC: Yeah. You don't want to. I wish nobody ever have that experience, thekind of life we have. Like I said, I stayed there and working, but my problem is I [wasn't] raised like that. I don't know who is who and all the people knows me. They knows I'm Muslim When the guys come with the guns, they come to me so often I see I have to go from there, so I go out to another flea market to work. My sister, her husband they live three kilometers, maybe two miles, away. That's 21:00where Dzenana's father is from, the same place where me and my sister was neighbors.
All the men, they cannot [leave]. They hide. I don't even know where her fatherwas hiding. I never saw him during the war. Everybody hide because [the Serbs] come. They kill with no reason because you're Muslim, you're Catholic, [especially] in one place called Verbanja, [which is mostly] Muslim people. You're going from the Banja Luka city and you're coming out just from the city. This way is Verbanja, which is Muslim. This way is Debeljací, which is Catholic. They go always there and kill you or just beat you with no reason. You know, [they ask] "What's your name?" and call the bad names we have. They call us balija--I cannot translate like maybe you hear about the Serbs, the Chetniks, 22:00or Catholics, ustase. So that's a bad name, like here, if you call black people--you know what I mean.
My sister is scared. I went to work, and I make money, and I bring the food formy sister and her family--her husband, her daughter, mother and father-in-law, the sister-in-law, for Dzenana's father, for her grandma and grandpa, everybody. I take for everybody food, because I'm the only who's not afraid. I'm going, thinking, "They kill me, who cares?" What I going to do? Somebody needs to go to make money. Nobody's working already, and the guys have to hide because [of] 23:00what [the Serbs] do. They did that to my uncle. He's going to the elevator, and they grab him and take him. Many, many, many Catholic and Muslim people they take to the front--I need Dzenana's help.
SLOAN: Front line of the war?
HELDIC: Front line of the war, yes. To dig the--on the road with the holes--
HELDIC: Yeah. That's where they take them, because the Muslim or Catholicpeople, whoever are [on the front lines], they're going to kill them. They say, Go do that for us; we can't, and they take. That's why every man hides. I never forget when they come one night and they have like ten, fifteen [men] with the big beards and the guns. I was with my sister. They come just looking for men. 24:00If they catch the men, they just take or beat to death. What I really remember, they beat to death my sister's father-in-law. It's an older man. What they going to do with him? They beat him so bad. They're doing stuff very, very--or if they see the young nice-looking girls, they raped. Dzenana's father's uncle, his wife, their fifteen-year-old daughter, and the grandma, [the Serbs came to their house]. Grandma come to the door--her father's grandma, and she's like, "You cannot go in." They push her and after that she died a few days [later]. They 25:00beat to death uncle, and they raped the fifteen-year-old and the mother, but making him watch what they're doing. Every morning, they said, Oh, they kill this one, they kill this one, and [they kill those people.
SLOAN: For you, [with] some of these Serbs, you had relationships. You had beenfriends. You had known them in the city. So I mean, what--
HELDIC: I have. Like I say, I move to another flea market. Then one day, thepolice officer come to me and say in taking the eggs--one I don't know how to say like--
MELISSA SLOAN: Crate?
HELDIC: Yeah, eggs and say, "Can you buy from me these eggs very cheap?" and26:00that I can sell them for more money. He told me, "I am from Omarska," which is [the] worst what can be during the war, where they put the people from different cities, from
Prijedor. They make like a--(speaks in Bosnian) Što je logor? [What is"camp"?]--camp. He say he came from Zagreb, from Croatia. He used to work over there. He came here, and he's got a wife and seven-month-old baby, but they don't have a salary for many months. He must buy milk for his baby. He's a Serb. I say, "No, I'm not going to buy from you. I'm going to sell for you, for the real price, and you can have more money." [He says,] "Are you really going to do that?" [I say,] "Of course. Why not?" Then I say, "Bring me more." He go to that village where he from and his parents, and [his] mother-in-law and father-in-law 27:00have eggs. Then, he come to me, and I give him money. Then again, and we start to be friends. He bring wife and son and we meet. Then we start to be very good friends. I tell her, "Why you don't work with me? You don't have to work for me. You can be next to me, and I will tell you how you're going to sell, where you're going to buy, everything about this job, and she start." They help me a lot. If I don't have them, I will never be able to go out from Banja Luka. When times come, they take me.
SLOAN: I see. Yeah. That relationship becomes very important.
HELDIC: Oh yeah very, very, which is very sad. That boy, when he was fifteen, hesit with a friend who just have a driver's license. They hit the tree, and he got killed. They have only one son now. That friend, I came to my sister, to 28:00Verbanja, because he work in that area. My sister tell me, "Oh, can you do anything? They took my husband." I find him and say, "Oh, do something. They take him." I'm crying and he's like, "Don't worry." He find them. They take him behind the building. They're going to do whatever they want to do, and he take him back home. Many times he did help. Then, one time, I'm with him. I coming to my sister's. Her husband [is] crying and I say, "What's wrong?" He say, "My sister have tonsils very bad sometimes. She must have penicillin." She got very sick.
She went to the clinic and the doctor was a Muslim and she tell her, because we29:00can't come to the clinic, "I will give it to you. Don't go to [the emergency room]." She's supposed to go to emergency room, which is, who knows, probably Serbs, for sure. She came, and when she giving her penicillin she's like, "Oh, something is wrong." That organization bring a lot of medicine and stuff, probably old or something. My sister got septic shock off that penicillin. They take her to emergency room, and I find that friend, Sveto. I say, "Please, my sister is going to die." We sit in the car and he drive like a maniac. I think we're going to die that day. We go over there [to the emergency room] and he asking and they say they just got her. They asking, "Who is she?" He's like, "She's my wife." He bring the wife's ID for insurance you know, and they help 30:00her. If not, God knows what's going to happen with her. They help me a lot. I mean, I don't say every Serb is same, but they did a lot of good stuff.
SLOAN: To see and experience the kindness of people who are persecuting you, Imean, yeah.
HELDIC: Because I have in my family nobody killed--very close family. It's manyneighbors, but not like brother, or sister, or something. I lost many friends and like Srebrenica, seven thousand people in one day. With that [family] we 31:00went to Sarajevo, where I was born. They have a big sales day on every Saturday. We went to sell vegetables and stuff, and I saw my first neighbor.
I'm like, "Hey, Lavre!" I'm so happy to [see] him. He's like, "What are youdoing here? You're not afraid to come here?" I'm like, "Oh, my goodness." You know, he's Serb, but he was raised and he eat more bread in my house than myself. My mother call him son, like my brothers. That friend, he's in the uniform. So the police, [Sveto,] said, "Do you have any problem?" He's like, "No, but why she's here?" [Sveto] is like, "That's not your problem. You can have a problem." I'm like, "Oh, please go, please go, please go." You know, 32:00like, [in case] he brings more people. That's what I say, [Lavre, my first neighbor] from my childhood, the best friend of my brothers, and raised with us, wants to kill me. You don't know who is good, who is not. Even these days, today we have many Serbs come here. We have here, time to time, like a Bosnian music concert. They will never come. They have a Orthodox Church here. They bring their music, and only Serbs go.
HELDIC: Still they don't want to come. Even here, and Starbucks on Trail Lakeover there, they call Serbian community--our guys, the young people. They came 33:00[when they were] little [like] Dzenana, the young people. They call them Serbian community because they don't want to be very close friends with another kids.
SLOAN: Sid you continue to work in the market throughout the war?
HELDIC: Yeah, thanks to these friends. Yeah, I did, but at the end [only]because I have to feed my family. Then, one day the soldier came. and he's got the gun pulled on me, and he used the bad words. [He asks,] "What are you doing here?" I say, "No." The girl who worked next to me say, "Hey, I'm so and so, 34:00here you go, my ID." [He says,] "No, I need from that girl." He wants to kill me. Thanks God. I mean, maybe I'm bad, but some old guy come to him and he take him behind the building. What he did, I don't know. I run and I never go back. After that, they help me to go out. I take out my sister and her family [from Bosnia], five thousand deutsche marks in that time. I put together the cost for my sister and her family. Then, five thousand deutsche marks for my ex-husband and my son. I give them because I sold some furniture from our house and stuff like that. By the time I have to go, I have no money. I cannot work. I cannot go. What I going to do? I don't have no business to do in that city because everybody left. [There is] no way to go, so they help me. 35:00
SLOAN: Well, before we get to that, because I want to ask that question. You'rein the middle of a war and you're working, selling fruits and vegetables, but it's in the middle of a war. Getting food to eat, surviving--I mean the conditions had to be getting worse and worse, just wartime conditions.
HELDIC: It's hard to explain. I always tell my son it's hard to explain. Evenwhen we talk between me and my husband, it's hard to explain. It's different city, different situation. In Banja Luka, we don't have technically war. It's not like, you know, war. Just hard for Muslim people and Catholic people because all Serbs, but it's not a war.
SLOAN: Not open fighting.
HELDIC: No open fighting, but they kill--middle of the street, they will kill36:00you. They don't care. But from Serbia, they bring to Banja Luka with big trucks food like vegetables, bananas, everything. We have everything. When I [was] selling, I didn't go by my name. I wasn't Baisa, I was Bosa, you know. That's why that guy came and wanted to kill me because he knows who I am. Somebody told him, but because I have this couple helping me, especially this police [officer, Sveto]. That's how its going in my country [if] you have somebody who'll help you. Then, in the city where is my father, where Dzenana was, they have no food at all. They're so hungry. They cannot survive. Then the Serbs say we can send 37:00360 package food for 360 Serbs to--what is it called?
SLOAN: To exchange?
HELDIC: Exchange. I pack ten packets like margarine, oil, flour, sugar, andstuff like that, some candy for Dzenana, and some clothes for her. It was so hard to get in to give them, but thanks to my friend again, I got to give the ten. Off that ten come four, but wow, it's celebration when my family have that because they have nothing to eat. The people dying [from] how hungry they are because the city is closed. From nowhere cannot come food. 38:00
SLOAN: But in Banja Luka, you have Serbs coming in.
HELDIC: Oh, from Serbia.
SLOAN: Yeah and so more food can come in.
HELDIC: Oh yeah. We have a lot of food, of course, if you have money, if you'reSerb. The Muslim people and Catholic don't have because only the females going to sell the milk from village, eggs and stuff like that. But the soldiers come and just like, "Oh, balija," and throw all your milk or just use the gun, so you lucky one if you sell something.
SLOAN: It's amazing to me that you kept going out and working.
HELDIC: I have to to help my family. If I don't do that, who's going to do it?My sister's scared to death, plus she got sick, and the men cannot go outside; they hide. Like I say, I'm not thinking at that time. I'm like, "If they kill 39:00me, so?" I mean it's going to be one time and that's it. I have to.
SLOAN: Most people don't view death that way.
HELDIC: Now I tell Melissa already how I scared for airplane. For many, manythings I scared now.
SLOAN: Was it also a way for you to cope or to deal with the situation? You're ahard worker. You could go, and you could work. That was something you could do to kind of deal with the situation.
HELDIC: I'm afraid I don't understand the question.
SLOAN: Well, some hid, some stayed in their home, but one of the ways you dealtwith what was going on is you went and worked because you know how to work and you're a hard worker. It seems like to me, that's the impression I get.
SLOAN: Well, take me through. You told me about the soldiers coming and40:00confronting you. Take me through what happened then as far as getting you out. You said your friends helped you get out. Can you tell me that story?
HELDIC: Sure. Like I said, that soldier come. He wants to kill me, then I run tomy friend's house and I tell her, "Hey, I'm afraid. I've got to go. Time to go." On the TV, the coverage at that time say Muslim people have to be gone from this world, and everybody must be killed, and blah, blah, blah. Then Sveto, that police officer, he come from work and I tell him what happened. He say--he always say, "Don't worry, I'm here." That time, he say, "You have to leave," because he's afraid it's going to kill me and my son. I know I have to leave and 41:00I have to go.
But before that from our house. I already live with them because they took myuncle to that front line, and the five soldiers came and they kick me out. I'm the lucky one again because they don't kill me. I have to leave from my apartment, my uncle and aunt. I leave and I stayed with my friends. We see the time for me to go. Really, they cannot because they kill him, they kill his wife, his son. I have to leave. They find [a way out of Bosnia] for Muslim and Catholic people through Croatia. You have to sign, and I go over there and I put my name. I think [it was] three or four days before I go, because I have no 42:00clothes. I have nothing anymore--no money, nothing. My friend is like, "Here you go, take whatever you want." We are fairly same size and I grab some shirts because it's August. Three or four days [before that], my sister-in-law told me, "Can you come have some coffee with me?" I say okay because we don't have electricity for three years in Banja Luka, no electricity at all. We have a picture, last year, right? We made coffee with the snow, here. Two years ago?
RUZNIC: Oh yeah. Yes, two years ago.
HELDIC: We have electricity off here in Crowley. I asked my husband, I say,"Okay, how are we going to make coffee now?" First off, [he says,] "Oh you know, 43:00on the barbecue grill." [I say,] "Stuff you don't have if you were in the war." He was like, "Hmm." I'm like, "Okay." Because his family in the Germany for all their life; he was six years old when they left, so he's the lucky one. He's like, "Oh well." I say, "Okay, let me show you." We went to the front door and I grab some piece of cloth, a little oil, put that--from the oven--the thing, you know.
SLOAN: Yeah, the grates.
HELDIC: Yeah and put in a fry pan. Start the fire, put my stuff on, and we'remaking coffee. I put it on Facebook and everybody come to my house! I'm like, no, this is not--
RUZNIC: You used to have that picture sitting over there.
HELDIC: Yeah. That's how we made coffee. [My sister] called me and I come. I'malways a person who doesn't matter how much problem I have, I'm always smiling and talking, and try to pretend everything is fine with me. She's like, "Do you 44:00know anything?" I'm like, "What do you mean?" [She said,] "Oh, well, do you know anything?" I say, "No." She's like, "Baisa, your mother passed away four days ago." I'm like, "No, she's not." [She says,] "Yeah, she is." My sister is in Denmark already, and I didn't see my mother for two years and a half.
Anyway, it was--oh my goodness, because when I left last time from my city, shehold Dzenana on the balcony. I crying and kissing my mother and Dzenana and crying, crying. She's like, "What's wrong? Why are you crying? You're coming back next week." I never saw her again. Yeah and my mother did pass away. She just have a heart attack. She wasn't sick and she just-- 45:00
HELDIC: Stress, because she don't know where I am. She don't know where's mysister, my two brothers in the military in the war, of course. My oldest brother passed away when he twenty-seven, one year before Tito died.
SLOAN: How were they were able--Dzenana and your grandmother, how were they ableto get out of Bosnia?
HELDIC: They didn't. They never did. They stayed in the city.
SLOAN: They stayed in the city.
HELDIC: I will tell you a story.
SLOAN: Okay. (laughs)
HELDIC: They stayed in the city. Zenica also [had] no war, but it's all Muslimpeople and Catholic. It's only 16 percentage of Serbs, and even that 16 percentage start at the beginning to go into Zenica. They kick them out [and say] this is 16 percentage only.
ROBERTS: Baisa, your daughter says you might want a break. Would now be a goodtime? Do you want a break real quick?
SLOAN: We'll take a break? Sounds good.46:00
ROBERTS: Yeah, let's do that.
pause in recording
SLOAN: Okay, we're back recording again. I'd like to go back and ask a couple ofquestions because Dzenana was giving me some information while we took a little break. I understood that you went to school to be a teacher or you had interest. Can you tell me about that?
HELDIC: Not much to tell. That's a long time ago. (laughs) I don't want to bethat anymore.
SLOAN: I'm a historian! That's what I do is a long time ago.
SLOAN: Why a teacher? What got you interested in being a teacher?
HELDIC: It's just--I want to make [my parents happy]. I want to be doctor--for47:00the animals?
MELISSA SLOAN: Veterinarian.
HELDIC: But, at that time, in Sarajevo city, they have only that college, andthey accept seventeen students. In our country, if you have a lot of money, and you know people, and give him like $10,000--now I give it to you and you put me in the Baylor University. That's not happen [for me]. Then, I was so upset. I don't want to go. So my parents say to do whatever you like. They want me to go to college, so I pick because I love the language and I was so good. That's why I say I want to write a book because this is what I go to school for, but I never worked a job. I have no chance because I finished, I got married, I find whatever job, and the war start, and here you go.
SLOAN: Yeah, the other thing she was sharing with us is just memories you have48:00of other instances where neighbors were turning on neighbors, or during the war, stories of Muslims being pointed out or being oppressed by friends that they used to have before the war, how things got worse in those areas. Were there other memories that you have of that? Do you understand what I mean?
RUZNIC: I do. The question is, do you know--
HELDIC: (speaks in Bosnian) Pricaj Bosanski. [Speak Bosnian.]
RUZNIC: (speaks in Bosnian) Pitanje njegovo je da kazes nesto prije rata kako toda su prijatelji okrenuli jedni protiv drugih. [The question is, how did friends betray each other during the war?]
HELDIC: (speaks in Bosnian) Da su prijatelji bili jedni protiv drugih? [So you49:00mean how did friends betray each other?] You think you know English better than me?
HELDIC: No. (laughs) Yes. It is a lot of--the people [were] scared [of] the waranyway, you know. I know that happened in our neighborhood. I'm Muslim, you're Muslim, and to save my life, I will tell them you did wrong something. They come to you, and I will be good. Also, between friends, like I say, when I went to my city and my brother's best friend, raised in our house, he wants to kill me. The people is scared.
HELDIC: Changed also. To save their life, they will do anything to anotherpeople because it's confused. You don't know what you're doing just to survive. 50:00
RUZNIC: (speaks in Bosnian) Oni sto su bilo niko I nista prije rata za vrijemerata postali neko I Nesto. [Those who were nothing and nobody before war, became somebody and something during the war.]
HELDIC: Then yeah that's what he say. Like somebody who is nothing, who isreally--how I explain? [Those who are] bad people before war, they stealing, they was in the jail or during the jail let them go out, they are worse. I have neighbors down the street, they were so bad.
HELDIC: And they--wild. They know exactly who is who, what do you have in thehouse because they've been. They visit. We visit each other, not like here. I met only one neighbor here and that's it, outside. If we're in Bosnia, all these neighborhoods will be already in my house. We will drink coffee together, talking and everything. We will know everybody already. [Those] people who [are] 51:00bad come at night and put something on their heads, or [they] sent somebody you don't know to come to kill you or take all your stuff. It's a lot of stealing. All they know is you have a good TV, you have a good couch, and they come and take it. If you say anything, if you try to do anything, they kill.
SLOAN: Yes. Well, we talked a lot about the violence, but there is the stealing--
HELDIC: Oh, a lot of stealing. I mean even money and gold, if you have any goldon you. I mean, they have a power. They can do whatever they want. You don't have [any power]. You cannot go to police. They say you are lying. They will put you in the jail, and kill you, and nobody knows. You know it's not--our country 52:00always have a--like a--
HELDIC: Yeah, but even these days.
SLOAN: As you were sharing your story and you talked about when it became timethat you knew it was time to leave. What convinced you? What made you know that now was the time to get out, I better get out now?
HELDIC: Number one, because I have to go. Like I say, my sister, my ex-husband,my son leave. What I have to waiting for? I have to find the way to find Dzenana, so the first thing, I go to Red Cross and I asked them can they help me. I tell them the situation, how Dzenana's in Zenica, how I can get there, and my son go to Croatia. They say they cannot help me. I hear that Serbs let 53:00[people leave Bosnia on] buses. You have to sign, and I went to sign my name, and that's where we stopped. She told me about my mom, so I went when time to go. My friend gave me some of her clothes and bag and I take.
We went over there when bus was leaving. It's one like they sell the cars at theweekend sometimes--flea market for cars, the big field. That's where they put everybody in buses. It's a thousand people in there. Somebody have a notebook and [is] calling the names, and all buses is full. They never call my name. My friend asked the soldier, "Do you call her name?" He's like, no. [She asks,] "Do you call her name?" He's like, no. And she's like, "Do you call her name?" And 54:00she, (clears throat) you know, use the bad voice and give it to his pocket two hundred deutsche marks. "Do you call her name?" He's like, "Yes, go in." He never asked what is my name. They put me in a bus, the last one. [The bus is so full] they cannot close door. We leaving from Banja Luka, it is--I don't know, maybe twenty-five to thirty miles, Banja Luka to Gradiška?
RUZNIC: Yeah, around.
HELDIC: Yeah, twenty-five, thirty miles. It's like forty minutes, forty-five?Fifty? They took us all day. I don't know how bus can have [so many] people, but it's a hundred people in one bus. People dying in the bus. Everybody take the bag and kids and we are like this. The good thing, that time-- 55:00
RUZNIC: Compressed like sardines.
HELDIC: Yeah like sardines. The good thing--bad thing and good thing, because wehave to stop every mile. There's some soldiers [who] stop us.
HELDIC: Patrol--they come. "Everybody give me money. Give me gold. Give me whatyou have." I don't have nothing to hide because I don't have any money, but [other passengers on the bus] put like here and fix here or somewhere the money. They find that and the gold, if you have any gold on you and valuable stuff. Like I say, every mile or two--that's the worst time in my life. They take us to one field where they sell on the weekends animals like cows, horses. 56:00
HELDIC: Yeah, something. It's a big field and almost dark, maybe seven, eight inthe summer time. It's August. We think it's the end; they're going to kill us, because they kill when the buses go--three, four, five buses, when they go from Banja Luka to Zenica. That's why my brothers always told me [not to go to Zenica by bus]. Somehow, with radio, we have communications because we don't have phones, no electricity, nothing. He told me to not go because they kill the people, all four or five buses, they killed the people, so we think that's end. They take us there for three or four hours, and we [are] here because we need to go to Croatia. They say that the ustase, which they call Croatian people, says 57:00they will take ustase, that means Catholic people, but they said they don't want the balija. [They say,] "We need to kill all balija here." We hear what they talk about, so everybody is scared to death.
I remember one house, and they're like, "Do you want a water or do you want acoffee?" Of course, we do. We're hungry, we're thirsty. They're selling the cup of water from the sink. I don't even know how much money they asking for. If somebody have any money, they would buy. They don't [just] give [it to] you because [it's a] Serb's house. We was there for three, four hours. Finally, we leave and again stopped and again. They took the pretty girls--thanks God I wasn't pretty--and rape. It's women, kids, and old people. If anybody say 58:00anything, they will kill you, and they killed the people during that convoy. Then, finally, we got there, but we got to--gosh, Dzenana is right; I'm old. What is it called that river?
RUZNIC: (speaks in Bosnian) Koja' gdje, Vrbas? [Which one? Where? Vrbas? Is it Sava?]
HELDIC: No, no, no, where I go to Croatia through river?
RUZNIC: (speaks in Bosnian) Da nije Sava? [Is it Sava?]
HELDIC: Yeah, we come to Sava--(speaks in Bosnian) Jeste! Sava na Srbac smoisli. [Yes, it is Sava. We went to Srbac.] Yeah, Sava River. They bring us to that river.
SLOAN: The border to Croatia?
HELDIC: The border, but the river is--from Croatia, people come with the RedCross. They come with the little boats and take like five, six people at a time. The soldiers pretend to be so nice like, "Have a nice time!" and you know, "See 59:00you!" because UN [the United Nations] was there. I remember everybody come with the mother or kids or, you know, together. I'm the only one by myself. Eight months before, my ex-husband left with my son, and my sister is in Denmark already. My ex-husband's sister is in Denmark, and [she told me] they coming for a few days, my ex-husband and my son, to Denmark. I'm like, "That's good." I'm by myself and like five, six people sit in that boat, and we finally got to Croatia.
SLOAN: That had to take forever, you waiting to get across.
RUZNIC: The lucky ones.
HELDIC: I will never forget that in my life, the people kissing the land and60:00stuff. Young people from Red Cross come and take your bag, [saying,] "Don't worry." They put us in a car and taking us one place. Then we come there [to the Red Cross]. Oh my goodness, it's a lot of food and drink--banana, beer, cigarettes, coffee. The people who live there, if they see the little kids and babies, they take them to take a shower, diapers, everything, everything, everything they provide for us. Of course, (laughs) I mean that's the politic anyway. We were so happy, we don't even think about anything, and they say everybody needs to go to check in. At that time I [could have] changed my last name, but I didn't. I divorced already. Heldic, is Dzenana's father's last name. 61:00I never go back to my maiden last name [which] is Muratagic. I never go back to that last name because I'm going somewhere, and I don't want to confuse me and Dzenana with different last names. I stayed forever, but I don't care.
We come there and they're checking especially men if you in the military,because at that time, already start the Catholic fight with Muslim. Muslim fight with Serbs, Serbs fight with Muslim, then Muslim fight with Muslim. At the end, you don't know who fight with who, but they checking especially on the men and some women, of course, [to see if] they went to war to be a soldier. They tell us Muslim people need to go in that and that numbers of bus, and the Croatian people [that and that number of bus], because they don't let them go out of 62:00Croatia. They're going to stay, but Muslim people going to refugee camps. I said to one, like I say, that I'm by myself. That whole time, I never stop crying. I just crying because I hear my mother passed away. Everybody asked me what's wrong. I mean, with everybody [something is] wrong [because] we're leaving, but what's especially wrong with you. I say, "My mother passed away." I sit and I hear the voice, "Trust me." [It] tells me, "Get out, go." I walk out from that bus. Then I walk to another one. Guess what? The first one was going to different city. The second one I [got on was] going to Sibenik. It's an island--
RUZNIC: Refugee camp.
HELDIC: Refugee camp, but it's on an island in Sibenik. They're going where ismy son. We drive twenty-four hours, maybe more. I don't even know because the war is going on and we have to go around. Then, I remember, very late at night, we are on the one mountain and the people say, "Now, Croatians are going to kill us here." It's--you're always scared.
HELDIC: Yeah. They didn't, so we come to that place where is boats. He lookslike you. His name is Nikola, tall--really you remind me of him. He say, "My name is Nikola. Can I have the names of passengers?" He told us we're going to 64:00that island which is four thousand people already over there. That day come four hundred from Banja Luka. We go in that boat, and I have my bag. Like I say, I'm crying--all the time I was crying. I hear somebody say, "Hey, Baisa! Oh you come, too? Your son is here. He's going tonight to America." Where? I lost the bag. I don't know. I don't care. I'm just looking to see him. I cannot see. I know that guy, he say he's director of that island. I say, "Do you know Heldic Enver (which is Dzenana's father) and Heldic Elmir?" They say, "Yes, who are you?" I say, "I'm his mother." Later, they told me he told them I was killed in the war. That's why they [say], "Huh? Mother? Are you a ghost?" (laughs) 65:00
SLOAN: Why did he do that? Why did he tell them--
HELDIC: Because they don't--if you're leaving from the country to America, they[won't] let him go without my signature.
SLOAN: I see. Yeah.
HELDIC: He gave me, all the time hard, time to see my son. I come [to where myex-husband and son are] and somebody take me to door. He opened, and I say, "I'm here to see my son." He don't let me see. I say, "Okay, I'm going to police." His sister ran after me and say, "Hey, don't go to police. I will bring your son." He was eight and that night he's going to America. I think I will die because he told me what I need to do for the process I had to go [through] to come to America to see him. (crying) Sorry.
SLOAN: Oh, that's a wonderful moment.66:00
HELDIC: He got the sweater my mother made for him. At twelve o'clock at night,they leaving in little boats to Sibenik. From Sibenik they're going to Split. Split they call city where is airport. I go to tell him bye, but I remember he's in that boat, and he's doing like that, and I pass. I never forget that picture. That's why I say technically I lost my son in a war. He told me everything what I need to do--the process, you know. Like I say, I always crying in that camp.
And the Red Cross coming, and they talk with every refugee to see what they're67:00going to do with us. [They asked,] Do you want to go somewhere else?
SLOAN: Doing interviews.
HELDIC: Yeah, yeah. I see my name. I'm four hundred-something. That's going tobe for days. I was between Zenica and Phoenix, Arizona. My heart is [saying] go over there to see my son, never see Dzenana, or go back to see Dzenana. I was maybe ninety pounds. We have a restaurant and go to eat at the little building where stayed the Red Cross. I was sitting and crying, and the guy come to me. He's locking the door and he's like, "Why are you crying?" I couldn't talk. And he's like, "Okay, can you stop crying and tell me why you're crying?" [He was] talking with me like [I was] a kid. I say, "My son left to America." He's like, 68:00"So? You can go soon." I say, "Well, it's long story." He's like, "You know what? Why you didn't go eat?" Because we have lunch before then. I say, "I couldn't eat. I never eat. I can't." He's like, "Okay, can you wash your face and go to restaurant, and come to the door and ask for me? Because they lock already. It's done and I go. After that, you eat, and after you eat, me and you will have interview. We will talk."
His name is Ico, I remember. It really happened like that. He got me, and I eat,and he talk to me, and I tell him. I say, "I have daughter in Zenica." He's like, "Don't worry, you will go to America, and we will send the Red Cross to bring your daughter." I was so happy. Oh my goodness. I stopped crying. I forgot 69:00Mother's death. I forgot everything, you know, but they sent me the letter. They cannot find my father's address in Zenica. I'm like, no, no, no, that cannot happen. I have to do something. I am already strong.
At that restaurant, you can work. With five thousand people, good luck, butsomehow that's me. I got the job. The salary weekly is three and a half cartons of cigarettes and one kilogram coffee. (laughs) They send [that] for us, you know. They sent [the cigarettes and the coffee] for refugee, but they never really give us anything. That island, it's just only that restaurant for some hiking people, whatever. They built two big hotels in nice place, the refugees 70:00did, for five years with the refugee money. They sold to German people. Now, it's a so nice island go to visit. I start to work, then we go to sell that cigarettes. We go to Sibenik, ask them, if it's worth like twenty dollars, give me ten, you know. I work, then I go to the phone, because we go to Sibenik, the city with the boat. The director give us permission and give us a ticket for boat--not to everybody. He rotate the people. He give it to me, and I go over there and call my aunt, and my sister-in-law, and my brother. They're here [in the United States]. I bring them later after I can.
They told me Dzenana was in the hospital. My aunt told me, "If you want your71:00daughter alive, you have to come. She will die." She had very bad asthma. She was in the hospital. She has lice, and sick, and no food, and--oh no. I come. I again cry. If you ask that five thousand people, who is Baisa, nobody knows. If you ask them, do you remember that girl crying, they know who is it. They're like, "What's wrong now? They told you." I said, "Oh no." They're so good friends, everybody, with me. They say, "Hey, Bosnian people they know how to work, how to make money, how to find the places, everything together." They told me from Split, Croatian people, going to Zenica, that time, blah, blah, blah. Explain to me, of course, I need money. Everybody, we have that day our payday, 72:00they give me cigarettes, they give me coffee. Everybody says, Here you go, go sell. I have like five, six hundred deutsche mark, which is enough. So, I need to go to Split, find that bus, go with them to Zenica.
I decide I will try to bring Dzenana. If somebody kill me, kill me. I cannotdecide to go to America with no Dzenana. And I'm thinking Elmir is good with father. He's in America already. He's got good life already, but she's in dangerous place and she's sick. Two o'clock in the morning, the boat leaving to Sibenik city. They going to Norway and I go with them, so when we come two o'clock in the morning in Sibenik, they leave in the bus. They going to Norway. 73:00I have to go to bus station, to find the bus, to go to Split, and from Split, I will find the people who are going to take me to Zenica.
How I walk--and they give me from that restaurant we have some food, and thelittle Barbie doll, and a little purse, so I take that. It's so heavy. Then the car stop, and I looking, and I see the license plate is from that city, and they asking me do I know that and that street. This is so drunk people. I got scared. I was twenty-nine years old, and like, "No, I don't know." Then, I see taxi and I run to taxi. You know, if you're thinking now in that situation, you don't 74:00think whenever you try to save your life, but you may be doing something more dangerous. Only the gods save your life.
This is also a little funny and sad. I come to taxi, and he's like, "Oh, how Ican help you?" I said, "Oh no, I don't need to go nowhere. I'm refugee from Bosnia. I'm Muslim." I tell the truth, but at that time, it's very bad Croatia and Bosnia the fighting. I say, "These guys is drunk." He's like, "Oh yeah. You're a woman." I tell him what bus I'm looking for. It's supposed to be coming six o'clock in the morning. He's like, "You know what? I'm going to Split to find some customers. You can go with me." [I tell him,] "Oh, I don't have money to pay you." I have some money that my friends give me, cigarettes I sell, you 75:00know. I tell him. [He said,] "Oh no, no, no, you don't need to give me money." And I said--(shrugs). He stop at the gas station, and he buy peanuts and Coca-Cola. And I'm eating and drinking. Oh, I'm good! I'm not thinking. I'm safe, you know. Then I need to go to pee, but from Sibenik to Split--Jordan [Jordan Hodzic, Heldic's youngest son] knows. How I explain that rocks and the big--
HELDIC: Cliffs, and oh my goodness. It's nothing [but a drop] and the sea [is]down [at the bottom]. I try to ask him to stop because it's night, I can just go. I'm like, Huh, thinking, I'm so stupid. If I tell him to stop to go--excuse me--to pee, he will think, Come on, let's go have sex. I'm asking him, then I'm like, Oh my goodness, who's guarantee for taxi? I'm like, Oh my goodness, I'm so 76:00stupid! He talk about something, I don't even know. I don't listen I was so scared, but I'm like, Ah, ah, ah. Then, he's like, "Hey, here is the bus." He blink, and blink, and blink, and the bus stop. He's like, "Hey, I have this girl. She needs you guys and go to Zenica." They say yeah.
Before that, I went to Split and find the bus drivers and ask them to go withthem. They say, Whenever you're ready, you can go with us. They say, Oh yeah, we know about that girl. He take my bag nicely and put in the bus, and give me his card and said, "Anything, if you ever need. When you're back, let me know." I'm like--I'm just--he's so nice guy, you know. Then, I sit, and the driver asks me--whatever he asked me, I don't remember. I'm like, "You know what? Can you please stop?" He's like, "What?" I say, "If you don't stop, I will pee right 77:00here, right now. I will tell you everything." He's like, "Okay." Then, he stop, and I go on the side. I don't care. I mean, that time you even don't worry about your life, you know. When I went back, I went, "Oh, thank you so much. I feel much better." He's like, "Okay." They're laughing, the people. It's a full bus. They're laughing, you know. I'm like, Do whatever. I don't care. I feel now good. (laughs)
So, we come to Split, and at that city we have to wait for, like, two hours. Isee some neighbors, next-door neighbors from my father and mother, and they Catholic. I'm like, "Oh gosh, no." They don't see me for years, but I know they 78:00know me. I mean, I [hadn't] changed much. I'm hiding behind bus. Wherever I go, they go. Oh my goodness. The guy is selling the newspaper and talk about our President Alija, how bad, blah, blah, blah--because that time the Catholic and Muslims going like I say, Muslim with Muslim. Then, they come in the same bus. All the time I was like this. I was scared to death they're going to kill me here. When I come to my father's house, [my family] say, "No, they're nice." If not [for] them, Dzenana will never survive, because the Croatia closed Zenica [off from the rest of Bosnia]. They have some food, and they always give it to Dzenana. I don't know what's going on for three years and a half in our city, in our neighborhood. I don't know anything.
SLOAN: So what was the moment like when they recognized you or when they figuredout who you were? 79:00
HELDIC: Oh, they didn't see me. I hide all the time, just when I come home--butthere--father--and next day I tell them. They're like, "Oh, Baisa!" I'm like, "You know what? We come in the same bus. I hide from you all the time." They [said], "No!" I say, "Hey, I don't believe nobody. Unh-uh, nobody." Even if it's my brother there, I don't believe it.
I come to Zenica and same thing, no buses in the city, nothing. I ask the guysto stop before that bus station because my brother lives there. They stop for me and that [bag] is heavy because I have flour and some food in a can. Because [there is] no electricity, everybody used the [logs] in the stove. [Myy 80:00sister-in-law] is outside trying to have a wood like this to try [to] take home. I'm like, "Marta, Marta!" We are so mixed in the family. Her father is Serb, mother is Catholic, and she married with Muslim. They are here [in the United States]. My brother, right now, is in Bosnia. She's like--(makes thudding sound)--and she passed[out] because she, just like, the day before, talked with me. She thinks she's crazy. When she comes to be normal, I say, "You didn't tell me about Dzenana." She's like, "I don't want to make you worry." I say, "No, you're supposed to tell me." I'm like, "Where's Ismet?" [She tells me] he's in the war and my other brother [is, too]. I'm like, "Let's go to that--" what's that called place where's the military?
SLOAN: The base?
HELDIC: The base, yeah. "Let's go to the base." I go over there. I say, "Please,81:00please, I'm begging you. I don't see my brothers for three years and a half, and I'm leaving. My son is in America. I'm leaving, too. Can you send me my brother? I will be here a few days." They say, "Yeah. We can send you Ismet, but not Jusuf." Only one and the other one they cannot reach him. I say, "At least." I saw only the brother who is here now [in the United States], because you don't know where you're going, what's going to happen, nothing.
I come to my father's house. My aunt open door. She's always nice dressing andhave nice hair. She is, oh my goodness, a hundred years old. Some dress on her, and so poor, and so skinny. I walked in, and Dzenana run under the table, 82:00because they tell her, "Your mother coming." I'm looking for my mother. There's only forty days passed [since] she passed away. I'm looking and from everywhere, she's coming out because whatever you see is hers. Dzenana don't want to come to me. She's shy. She don't know me. My aunt, that aunt, she's really very sick right now. I think she's waiting for Dzenana. She's begging me. Even Jordan says when he was there, she's just crying and wants to see Dzenana. I tell Dzenana to just go for two weeks. We will take care of kids, but she's scared to go. I think she have that like--city to city, I cannot come to her. What about continent to continent? I think Dzenana have also problems in her life from when 83:00she was little. Somehow, I got Dzenana, and then we have to go back. When we go back, I can go in Croatia because I have a refugee ID.
SLOAN: Now, Dzenana told me a story she remembers, when you left the house andyou had to run somewhere to do something. Can you tell me about that?
HELDIC: Yeah, yeah. I try to make you short but you know. She don't want to bewith me. Then, somehow my aunt make her to spend first night with me on the bed because I bring her some stuff. Even today, she's mad at me because that Barbie doll I bring for Dzenana I give it to my niece. I'm thinking, Dzenana going with 84:00me. I will find her another one, and this one poor girl. I tell her a long time ago, she's jealous. She's still mad at me about that. (laughs)
Another aunt came, and we want to visit her daughter. I tell Dzenana to staywith my aunt, I'll be right back. She started crying and holding me, "No, no, no," because she's afraid I will leave again. She always tell my aunt, "Everybody have a young mom. I have you. You're so old." My aunt, at that time, [was] maybe fifty years old, fifty-five, something like that. On the way back to Croatia I can go in because I have a refugee ID, but Dzenana cannot go in. She's 85:00like here, [when people cross the border illegally from Mexico.]
SLOAN: Illegal immigrant.
HELDIC: Illegal immigrant, that's what she is. That driver told me, "What we'regoing to do, we're going to find a lady who is a Catholic, who's from Croatia, and ask the lady to pretend that's her child. Nobody ask questions." If Dzenana sit with me, they will ask for her ID. She's like her [child] now. I'm like, "Dzenana, sit with this lady." That lady [was] so nice. She give her apple, she give her makeup, and she loved that time. She give her makeup and stuff. When they came, they just do to Dzenana like this. I go, "Oh, thanks God." That minute, [when] we tried to go again, the regular police stop [the bus]. I just push Dzenana back to that lady. (laughs) 86:00
Before I go to Zenica, I [schedule an interview appointment] with the Americanofficer in Split. I put Dzenana in the [application forms], but I cannot tell them I will go [back to Zenica to pick up Dzenana]. If I tell them I will go to Bosnia, they won't let me come to America, because they would ask, "How you left from your country and you go [back] to your country?" I do that stuff [regardless of the consequences]. I tell them, the International Red Cross will bring Dzenana, but they didn't and they never [would]. Then, I went and he's got everything about Dzenana he must [have], he told me. Then, when I went to that interview, he asked me, "Why [did] you [leave] from Banja Luka?" I said, "Because I'm Muslim." He's like, "That's it?" [I say,] "That's it. That's the only reason." I was crying and I tell about my son. He's like, "Oh, don't worry. 87:00Don't cry. Arizona is beautiful. You're going to Arizona, and very soon you will see your son." I always think I'm going to Arizona. When we come to Croatia, we stop in Split again. We have a thirty-minutes break and we're going to the Sibenik, like one-hour drive. Then, from Sibenik, we're going with that boat to island. I'm like, "Let's go, Dzenana and see very quickly when the American officer will be leaving." They come every three, four, five months but already [it is] September, October. Already [it's] cold. We are in tent. She got asthma. She is sick. [It is] raining. When we sleep, if it's raining, we have like a foil and put on the foil in the morning the first thing, you know. That's what 88:00you have to do.
When I go there, they said, "Today is last day. He is leaving. He is here tillfour o'clock. You can see him now." I have to go back to that bus station to get my bag because Dzenana's clothes. I run. She wants ice cream, and I don't have a dime in my pocket. I just grab her because I don't have time to explain, I cannot. Then, we go there. My aunt ask me to take picture of me and Dzenana and leave to her because she thinks she's never going to see us again. We think the same thing. I mean, what are you going to think at that time? I have that picture and he asked me. They want me to take a picture, like for a passport or 89:00something, but that place is closed and he's leaving four o'clock. That's it. Maybe [it will be] three, four, five months [before] some officer will come back. That means I'm going to stay maybe five, six more months in Croatia, in that cold, in a tent. He's so nice guy and he don't even have a translator. He's like, "Do you know any English?" I say, "Yes, I know little." [He says], "That's good. That's good." He's like, "Do you have any picture [of] you and Dzenana, [so] I know she's your daughter?" [I say,] "Yes! I take one because I want to send to my sister in Denmark" That's it. And he say, "Go have a physical because you must have a physical." He give us money to spend the night in Split, to have a dinner. I'm always, even now, if somebody tries [to give me money] if I don't 90:00have--when I was here, like I say, my first year worse than war. I am able to work and you give me money for food? I just start crying. I feel so bad, you know?
I buy her ice cream first. (laughs) She wants the ice cream. We have thatphysical, and I know they check us. I say, "She just come from hospital. She's got asthma." He's like, "No, she's fine. You have so bad bronchitis." [I say,] "Me? Okay, whatever." I don't even think about myself. I have ninety pounds. I have that picture somewhere. My sister passed out when she saw that picture of how skinny I was and how bad I was looking at that time. Anyway, we spent the 91:00night and [the next day], because he knows that I will never ask for money, even if I have to stay in the park that night, but he knows. He'd always give to people because we will stay in the park or outside all night waiting [for] another bus or to go to that boat, because [the] boat [is] going only one time [a day] to that island and back. That's it.
We're back, and I bring Dzenana and everybody, my friends, is happy. "Yay! Youbring her," you know. They make her ID because that director and everybody knows why I left. Everybody [was] on my side because I always try to make friends everywhere, to be friendly, helping people when I can help. Then, I bring Dzenana, and then I cannot work. Nobody wants to watch her. She is like her son. 92:00(laughs) Yeah. She's like, "I'm hungry," but we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I mean, the food is ugh but that time, oh yeah, we was eating. They give us bread, the one French bread. That is supposed to be only for four people. They give for six people. I always save mine and little things like jelly and butter, something for breakfast. I always saved that, I never eat, to have when Dzenana is hungry between [meals], you know. Then, I have a paper. December fifth I'm leaving to America.
SLOAN: Now, Dzenana told me a story about at one point you were sharing a tentwith a Serbian in the refugee camp? Can you tell me that story?
HELDIC: Yeah. When we come there, they told you what tent you're going to. They93:00sent me to that [tent] because I'm by myself, and here you go, I have Serbs again. I'm like, "Oh no. Why?" (laughs) You couldn't sleep. You're scared. Like I say, the [Serbian] people is nice and good, but you don't believe anybody. Brother to brother don't believe because, at the end, between Muslim and Muslim, the one brother here, one brother here, they're killing each other. That's Croatia. I see the boat come--big boat. From everywhere, from the [whole] world, 94:00people sent us help with the clothes and everything, food and a lot of stuff. We never see anything. You just see the little boats come, same night, taking. Only the used stuff they bring to us and like, "Oh, if you need the clothes, here you go." I remember my clothes what I bring to America, but I don't care. At least I'm not cold. I lost all my teeth over there. It was cold, tent, and I have infection, and I just pulling out. I come with only one tooth here, twenty-nine years old.
SLOAN: So you get on a plane in December 1995, right?
HELDIC: December 5, 1995, but I will smoke one cigarette before telling you thatstory, if you don't mind.
SLOAN: (laughs) All right.
pause in recording95:00
SLOAN: Okay, when we left off, you were going tell me about the trip in Decemberof '95.
HELDIC: Yeah. Before I go to that, I forgot to finish the story about the taxidriver. When we back to Croatia and I went to that refugee camp in the island, everybody was around me. We have coffee, of course, cigarettes, and everything. They say, "How was your trip?" I telling them story and I tell them the story about the taxi driver. At that time, this girl from Bosnia start dating with the police officer who work in that island. He's from Sibenik. He's like, "What's his name?" I'm like, "Oh, I have a card." He's like, "Oh. Ha, ha, ha." He start laughing. "You are so lucky, girl. You have no idea how lucky you are. You tell them everything like you're a refugee, you're the young girl, you're that." I'm 96:00like, "Then why am I lucky?" [He says,] "Because he's gay." (laughs) I'm like, "Thanks God!" He's like, "Somebody will take you, take the taxi on a one hour drive just because you're a refugee? Come on." Oh my God, that's good. (laughs)
Yeah. Then, I see my name and Dzenana's name on that restaurant. They always putit on, you know. They say December fifth we have airplane. We're going to America. Wow. We were so happy, but the bad weather start. We supposed to leave December fourth, twelve o'clock at night. We supposed to leave with a little boat from that island to Sibenik, from Sibenik to Split, but pretty much Trogir 97:00is the city where is the airport. They come to us and say we're leaving 10 o'clock p.m. because of bad weather. Then they come 5:00 p.m. They say let's go now--ten o'clock in the morning. We have to leave. It's a sea, so it can be so bad weather.
I have two baggage, one for me, one for Dzenana. What I have in the Red Crossclothes for us, that's only what I'm taking--no money. I don't even know how a dollar looks like. They come and pick us up and the waves start coming. Oh, my goodness, and that's a little, little boat, you know. How the waves come, they come to us because [the boat] is open. We come to Sibenik, finally we make it 98:00with God's help. We go to bus station, waiting for bus, but we have a bus ten o'clock at night. We, like, ten thirty in the morning in that bus station and the snow starting to fall. All clothes what we have on is wet. All clothes in the baggage is wet. We stayed there all day so hungry, so thirsty, no money, nothing, and Dzenana asking [me for food]. I have a friend. He's from city where is my parents. He say, "I have some money. What do you want?" She buy pretzels and some candy. That's good because at least [it's] something, you know. All day we stayed there. Then, we sit in a bus, only one hour drive from Sibenik to 99:00Trogir. It's snow falling. Oh, my goodness! Then we come to airport. It's eleven o'clock at night and tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m., we have airplane going to Rome, Italy--all night, so people laid down, whatever. We so cold. It's wet--everything is wet on us. Dzenana laid down on me, and I have to sit, you know. I don't have--like I said, everybody with somebody, and I'm now with a little girl. I have to take care of her, so all night I couldn't sleep.
Then, the police over there [were] working. They say, "Hey, do you want somecoffee?" Of course, we do. [They say,] "Oh, give us the money how much somebody have. You don't need Croatian money anymore." People find some money and give it 100:00to them, and they make us some coffee. We finally sit in the airplane. We're asking, "Can we smoke?" Yeah. So, everybody smoking. (laughs) Everybody--only no little kids like Jordan, yes.
Very quick, we got to Rome, Italy. It's not even 7:00 a.m., but at 11:30--Iremember that--we have a flight from Rome to New York. I was so tired already because it's the second day I don't sleep. I smell the coffee and I'm hungry, but I don't even think about food. I think about the coffee. I told you that 101:00story the other night. That's the first time in my life I come to a situation, I'm thinking [about going] to ask somebody, "Can you please buy me cup of coffee?" I start crying [because] I cannot do that, and I didn't. We got in the airplane, and that's good. We have coffee, we have food, and we're asking can we smoke. They said [the last four] rows of seats can smoke and everybody go, 168 people.
HELDIC: The people sit, and who don't sit, we stand and smoke. The flightattendant [says], "Oh, no! Sit down. Sit down." Then, they're looking for a translator, "Please tell them." Of course, they find me, right? [The flight attendant says], "Please tell them to sit down and take turns." (laughs) Oh yeah. Who wants to [take turns]? When I sit down, I want to go back again. 102:00Dzenana wants to go with me, of course. She cannot use the seat because somebody must sit. I have her here and cigarette. We have [for the] first time American coffee. (laughs) One Bosnian lady like, "Oh! What is this?" Like somebody took a shower in the water and [the coffee] is just the dirty water. She called the flight attendant. She's like, "Yes, ma'am." [The Bosnian lady says], "No, no, no, unh-uh." She understands somehow and brings her another one. "Uh! She bring me same one."
Then, we got to New York. Every time we changed the flight, we have a bag[marked] IOM [International Organization for Migration]. They know we are refugee and somebody [will be] waiting for us and take us where we need to go. 103:00When we come to New York, we're going to split, 168 people going to different states. I don't know how many going--not many, maybe ten, going to St. Louis, including me and Dzenana. She wants to go to restroom. I take her to restroom and she got asthma attack. I don't know how I handled that. I'm like, "Hurry, we have to go." She couldn't breathe, but I'm like, "Drink some water." God helped us, you know.
We got in the airplane, but they told me, when you come to St. Louis, you andyour daughter--because we have somebody meet us who speak Bosnian--the two of you are going to Dallas, Texas. Nobody is going to [be] waiting for you in St. Louis. You have to find the flight by your own. That's the third night I don't 104:00sleep. I have Dzenana and she fell asleep. I have to take her, I have two bags, I have our coats, and it's so cold. When we went to St. Louis, I'm thinking, Oh my goodness, it's a big airport. What am I going to do? I see somebody working and I'm like, "Excuse me. Excuse me. Please, please I need help. No speak English. Help. Please help." I give them my tickets, but when I sit in the airplane, I see something--Fort Worth, Texas, where they live, phone number. I asking next to me person, "Where are you going?" [They say,] "St. Louis." That means I'm going to Fort Worth, Texas. I'm supposed to go to Phoenix, Arizona. 105:00Who I going to ask? I'm like, I will ask flight attendant. You know, oh gosh.
Whatever. I am in America. I will go very quick to Arizona to find my son. Nobig deal. I'm going because they told me they know he's in Phoenix. I find someone in St. Louis and she put me in the little cart in the airport--Dzenana [had] fun. They take us to airplane. I just remember that airplane was half empty. I tell Dzenana, "I'm going to lay down here. If you're going to sleep, sleep. If you don't want to sleep, I don't care what you're going to do." It's the third night I don't sleep. I just fell.
RUZNIC: Passed out.
HELDIC: Pass out. I don't even know where I am. I know the next thing the flight106:00attendant is trying to wake me up. When I wake up, nobody in the airplane. Dzenana is asleep. She's five years old. I mean, she's a big girl and I [weigh] ninety pounds. I take Dzenana, take the bags, take the jackets. I come outside, and I don't see nobody waiting for me. What I going to do now? I see the police. I'm like, I'm going to the police, you know. That's the best thing to do. I'm almost there, then the guy comes, "Hey, Baisa! There's Dzenana! Dzenana! I'm Kelly from World Relief." The first thing what I learned about in America, "I'm sorry. I'm late." Even if I see my mom or my father, I wouldn't be happy like I 107:00saw that guy. He come to pick me up. He say he's from World Relief. He's taking me to the place where I can live, so he take me to a Bosnian family. I stayed with them seven days. [First,] they take us to Westcreek Fort Worth apartments, but the property manager doesn't let them have apartment before we sign the lease.
It was December 5, 1995, and at Christmastime. Oh, everything is beautifullights. I'm like, "Oh, I am lucky." I was so happy I'm here, but in the morning I got upset because it's not that nice how it looks at night with the lights, you know. It's apartment, but they give to me only one mattress with no sheets, 108:00no pillows, no blankets, nothing. That's the [all] I take to my new apartment, but I'm happy I'm alive and my kids [are alive]. I start asking the World Relief how I going to find Phoenix, Arizona. I have a son. How will that happen? Oh no.
For my first year, I was calling and calling lawyers. I don't even know how muchmoney I spent on the phone calling Phoenix to find how I can translate, how I can have my right visitation for my son, and nobody can give me answer. I find a lawyer here asking him and he say, "You know what? How much money you need for 109:00that, you can buy a big house." Welcome to the United States of America. That means I have to do that on my own and not even a whole year here. I have a car and I sit in the car, put Dzenana in the car, and I went to Phoenix, my first trip. I buy the big map for the roads. I still have when we travel--
RUZNIC: Road map.
HELDIC: --road map, and when we travel I always have my map. I don't care aboutGPS, anything. I want my map. I find him, but his father don't let me see him. I went to police office. They say that if he [reports] you, you're in trouble. I don't want to go to jail and be in trouble, you know. I go in the school and I saw him, but somebody told me what can happen [to] me. I try one more time. I 110:00didn't see him.
Then, Dzenana was fourteen, and we went over there. He [started] working in agrocery store. I tell Dzenana because I have people in Arizona, too. They tell me everything about him. I went over there and I tell Dzenana.--he was two years older--no, she's fourteen. He was four years older [than Dzenana]. Maybe she's thirteen, fourteen. I know he was little. He was seventeen. I tell Dzenana, "Please help me. You need to understand me. When I see him, it's not going to be easy." She says, "Okay." Then, I come to the parking [lot] and I saw him. He pushed the carts. I parking and I tell Dzenana, "Wait, wait. I need to smoke 111:00cigarette. I need to calm down." We sit on a bench and I see Dzenana's father coming with a little girl. He's married and has a girl his age. I'm like, "Dzenana." She's like, "What?" I say, "Here's the father." I don't want him to see me; he [is not] going to let me see him, [but] because he's seventeen, I can see him. She's like, "Where? Where?" She don't know him. When we came here I find the phone number. Dzenana call him and he say, "Elmir is asleep. You have to sleep, too." [Then], he changed the phone number. I never ever can find that number.
After, my son told me this about his [father's] wife. She don't let him dealwith us. I tell Dzenana and she go after him. I say, "No, Dzenana. Please do not go. Wait." She's like, "Mom, don't worry." She have a phone, I have a phone, but 112:00I keep Dzenana like to distance in a store to see him. She saw him and she's like, "Excuse me." He's like, "Yeah?" She starts speaking Bosnian, "Are you Elmir Heldic?" He's like, "Yeah, I am. Who are you?" She's like, "Nice to meet you. I'm Dzenana Heldic, your daughter, which you don't want to know about." She was a big girl, fourteen years old. He's like, "Where you come from?" She's like, "Oh, you don't want to come see me, so I come to see you and my brother." He's like, "Where's your mother?" He called me bad name. I'm proud of Dzenana because she understands what I go through, but also I'm sorry because she never have a good relationship with father. She never saw him after that. They stand in that store, like a Kroger or something. They have apples and oranges, big 113:00pile. He called me that name, and she grabbed that apples and start hitting on him and yelling, "Shame on you! You never come to see me, and you tell him my mother is bad." He ran.
Elmir was the cashier and he sees something. Who is the girl hitting the applesto the father? He come and she come to him and say, "Hey, I'm your sister." Then I run there. He's like, "No, I don't have a sister." She's like, "Yes." People start coming and I come to Dzenana to calm down and say, "Hey, Elmir, listen. I'm your mother. That's your sister." [He says,] "I don't have a mother. I don't have a sister." Somebody asked me, "That's your child?" How I run to Dzenana, I just run and he starts crying. I lost him--you know. Then, the girl, she's from 114:00Bosnia, she's like, "Where are you from?" She asked me in Bosnian. I'm like, "I don't know." She's like, "Hey, let's go to break room." She buy us drink and help us.
We went back to hotel and Dzenana wants to go back. I say tomorrow, and I tellmyself you have to bring these two kids back to Texas. I was driving. Dzenana went and she start talk to him. He wants to talk with her but not with me because he heard a bad story about me from his father. We don't have a good visit that time. Then, my nephew find him maybe Facebook or somewhere. It was 115:00like five, six years ago. He say, "Why [don't you] call your mother?"
HELDIC: She's looking for you." He give him phone number. My nephew told meabout that, then I have a call and I see Arizona. I'm like, "Dzenana, here you go, I cannot take this phone call." She answer and she talk to him and when she give [the phone] to me, it's so hard. He's apologizing. That time he don't even know. He wants to see us, and you know that story. I say, "Hey, if you want us to come, we will come right now." [He says,] "Oh no, I will come to visit you." Still he will come to visit us every time we talk. He don't let us come, but he say he will come, he will come. He doesn't. Like I say, I lost my son because of war. If it's not the war, we divorce and I will see him. I have the right to 116:00visitation, but the war start. He left and here [everything] is different. That's [and not] seeing Dzenana for three and a half years are the worst [things that ever] happened with me. These days, I can say I'm happy I'm here. Thanks God, I'm here and thanks to America to bring us here. We have a good life.
SLOAN: Yeah. I know it was very hard. You said off the recording that that firstyear was harder than the war.
HELDIC: Yes, it is.
SLOAN: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
HELDIC: Yeah, sure. When we come here, my sponsor is World Relief. After sevendays, they find apartment, pay for three months, but they never find us a job. I 117:00have eight more people who is looking for job, and they say you have to also looking for job. How? I'm the only one who knows some English. Somehow we hear the Lasko Company hiring. I call World Relief and I tell them. I say only what I'm asking, "Can you come and take us? We don't have transportation." They take us over there, so I was able to fill out application for seven people and eight, myself. I remember the supervisor says, "How am I going to hiring these people? They don't know how to talk." Beverly, the case worker, says, "Baisa knows some English, and she learn very quickly." She's says okay, so we have a job which is 118:00$5.15 per hour, almost $400. Because they don't have one-bedroom apartment, they gave me two-bedroom apartment, which I don't need it. It's $400, electricity--I don't have a phone because I cannot afford. Food and everything, you know.
Then the people from mosque come visit Westcreek to help us. They are Muslim.They come to me and ask me for help to translate. They go each family and ask them what they need. They take some people to store, buy some clothes, and buy iron, and vacuum cleaner, and stuff. They come to me, and [they ask,] "What do 119:00you need?" I say, "Job." [They say], "Okay, everybody needs job, but what else." I said, "No, thank you. I don't need anything. If I have a job, job will buy me everything. That's what I need help. If you can help me with job, it's fine. If you cannot, I don't need iron or vacuum cleaner." They left, and they didn't help me. They come next time again to me. [They ask,] "Are you sure you don't need any help?" They have like a storage with the used clothes and stuff like that. [I say,] "No, I don't need it." And [they say,] "Can you go with us to translate?" [I say,] "Yeah, of course, I can." I go and they always come to me [and say,] "Are you sure you don't need this?" [I say,] "I don't need. I need a job. I don't have a car. I need a car. I need a job. That's what I need." They come one day and they say, "We can help you with the car." [I say,] "Really?" [They say,] "Yeah." But, we start to work already. 120:00
The two people from World Relief come to take us with two cars that [first]week. The second week, they say you have to use the bus. I'm like, "How are we going to use the bus?" From Westcreek to downtown, from downtown to somewhere, and how are we going to? It's sixteen miles from the place. There's no way. Then, I come in Lasko. We worked at night and I know the Mexican people are helping each other like Bosnians. I come to them and I say, "What is your address? What is your address?" (laughs) I tried to ask, to find the people. [I ask,] "Is anybody live close to us have a car? We can pay for gasoline."
Then, Maria, she is like a team leader, she's like, "Baisa, why are you asking?"121:00She's the only one who speaks English. I tell her. I say, "Tonight is going to be last night. We cannot work. We don't have transportation." She's like, "You see that lady? Go ask her. She lives close to you." I'm like, "Why? Can you ask?" [She say,] "No, we don't talk." [I say,] "Okay." Her English and my English work, somehow. (laughs) She lives maybe two mile away from us, and she's like, "Yeah." I say, "We will pay ten dollars per hour, because Maria told me ten dollars a week you have to pay for somebody [to drive you]." She's like, "Yeah, sure." I tell the lady I have eight people. I say, "But you know, I have eight, eight." [She says,] "No problem. No problemo. I have a big car." She has that--what's it called? The big, like, similar to van? Anyway-- 122:00
MELISSA SLOAN: Station wagon?
SLOAN: Like a van?
HELDIC: Yeah, but like [what] a church use, the big van.
SLOAN: Oh, okay. Yeah.
HELDIC: Oh, that's good. She take us for two months or so. We paid her eightydollars It's fine. Good for us. We are so happy.
RUZNIC: That's over $300 a month, you know.
HELDIC: Yeah. Then one day, that people come and say, "Baisa, we can help youwith the car." [I say,] "How you can help me with the car?" [They say,] "We can take you to dealer. We give down payment for you and you can pay weekly." I am so happy. I have driver's license already, I guess? Yeah, I did. We went over there, and I tried to pick the car. [They say,] "Oh, not that one, not that one." [I say,] "Which one?" [They say,] "This one or this one." [I say,] "Then 123:00why you tell me to pick one?" They gave the [$]400 anyway. That's some other big guy--the owner. They give like [$]400 down for me, and I have to pay fifty dollars every week. Okay. I buy Buick Skylark. So old. I mean bad, but my Escalade now is not worth it like that car. Bad shape, dirty. I bring it in Westcreek and everybody going to the car wash and ten people cleaning that car. So time to go. Yeah. I buy the car.
The lady tell me that night, "I work tonight, no more." She's with temporaryservice. How am I going to put eight people in a car? How I can tell [the people I take to work], you cannot go, you can go. Everybody needs job. I'm like, Okay, 124:00somehow we can fit. Thanks God no one is big. We only have one little big lady but not big. I take eight people to work. Like I say, I pay fifty dollars, then I pay for Dzenana for food and everything. I smoked a lot in these days, and I go around to apartments and look for cigarette butts. I find them, and I'd smoke them.
One day, I'm like, I'm going to find another job. I drive around and all thatseven people with me. I come to every place. We come to one place, and I ask, "We need a job." She's like, "We don't hiring right now." [I say,] "Do you know who?" (laughs) She's like, "Yeah, people next door. They're hiring all the time. 125:00Go over there." I go over there, and the lady is on the front desk. I tell her, "We need a job." She's like, "Oh yeah. We're hiring. Where are you from? Where is your accent from?" I'm like, "From Bosnia." She called everybody, "Hey, Bob, hey"--whatever names--"come see the Bosnian people! They white! They white!" Yeah, I guess we are white. I don't know. They give us a job, $4.75 per hour. [It pays] less, but we can work overtime. In Lasko we cannot work overtime.
I remember, I work fifteen hours a day with no lunch. I don't have a lunch totake. I have ten dollars left of my paycheck when I pay everything. Five dollars I put gasoline in my car. Five dollars is for food, and I have Dzenana. I buy a bag of candy for Dzenana, I buy one bag of potatoes, and $1.10, $1.19, $1.06 for 126:00the chicken legs and chicken quarters, the five-piece. I bake every day that. The leg for Dzenana, thigh for me, and a few potatoes. That's how we live. She's supposed to start to school, and I remember I was crying all night. I don't have the money to buy her school supplies. That Beverly come one day and she's thirsty. She go to my fridge, and she's like, "Baisa!" I'm like, "What?" "You don't have any food." [I say,] "Oh yeah, I don't have time go to buy." She's like, "Don't lie to me." She go buy me food. I was crying forever. Because I have Dzenana, I cannot work more jobs, and I don't know where to go to work. 127:00
I take one guy to apply for job. He was an engineer, so hard to find job forhim. He never choose something else. I see KFC [Kentucky Fried Chicken] hiring delivery drivers, twelve dollars per hour. Oh, twelve dollars? Let's go and ask what's that for, and they explained to me. The manager say, "I will give him a job if you start work with him." [I say] "Why me?" [He says,] "How am I going to communicate with him?" I say, "Okay." You can have [one] free meal a day, and at the end [of the] night, [if there's] chicken [left], you can take home. I'm like, Oh gosh, that's the best job that I ever have. I have enough food and bring to Dzenana. I sent the sponsors to be a sponsor for my brother and his family. He came from Zenica; it wasn't in war, but the mixed marriages at that 128:00time can come easily to America. They came, and they stayed with me eight months. They take care of Dzenana and I start to work two jobs, three jobs, four jobs, and after that, here I am, now.
SLOAN: And we're here. You just moved into your new house.
SLOAN: It's very beautiful, very beautiful home.
HELDIC: Thank you. Thank you.
SLOAN: Well, what strikes me as you tell your story is you're always taking careof other people.
RUZNIC: Yeah, she is. Even today.
HELDIC: I bring, time to time, people from Bosnia. They stay--I keep them--theystay with me six months. I give them food and everything what they need, buy the gifts, and they work for me, and I pay them. You know I help them that way, family or friends. Senada says, "You know what, Baisa? The gods sent you to make money and help the people." Believe me or not, I help a lot of people here 129:00still, Bosnians and Americans in Bosnia. Every time I send money to Bosnia, I went to Kroger with Western Union and send the money. My family, my neighbors I know who needs, who is very poor. Sometimes, I see the need, and I think about some people. I'm like, "Mesa, what do you think?" He's like, "Okay, I know you will do it anyway." From the Kroger, sometimes I [haven't] left from the parking lot on the way to the house, [before] I have a call, and I have new customers. I'm on Angie's List--you know how that works--and other jobs providers. I have all the time new customers. I don't mean I have somebody giving me money. No. I work hard for my money. I work all my life very hard. If I have enough jobs, I 130:00can help. Now around the Christmastime and New Year, I'm sending money, sending. Mesa is like, "Do not send anymore!" [I say,] "Why?" [He says,] "I cannot handle anymore jobs." Now, I'm doing so good with my company, and I have a lot of customers, and business is so good. It's hard to handle how [many] jobs [we have]. We back from Bosnia when?
RUZNIC: August fifth.
HELDIC: August fifth?
HELDIC: I don't have yet a day off. Even weekends I always work, but that's whatmakes me happy. If I help somebody, I'm so happy. 131:00
RUZNIC: Even if we have here the family from Bosnia that came [to the UnitedStates] even before me, she always helped them. They came to [the house and she would say], "Oh, we are going to have coffee." Then she'd go in the fridge and put in the bags, meat, blah, blah, blah--this is good take home.
HELDIC: What are you going to do if somebody come to your house and open yourfridge for some reason and want a drink? I say, "Okay, help yourself." They say, "Oh, you have a full fridge, but mine is empty." What you going to do? Give them money, or food, or something. I'm that kind of person.
SLOAN: Well, part of that is you know what it's like to have an empty fridge.
HELDIC: Oh yeah. I remember, I have days and days with no food in my life. Then,like I say, I would love to write a book about my life, before war, after war, and these days. I was up and down, up and down, many times. These days I have 132:00enough. I have enough food, and I have a nice life, but I never forgot the days we don't have anything, especially in the war, and that refugee camp, and my first year here. When I see the people [who] don't have, I understand. Some people forgot. We have many Bosnians, many, many Bosnians, and they forgot--and include myself.
We now can [say] thanks to Serbs we are here, believe me or not. Every year, Igo to Bosnia. Every year is worse--our economy, our government, everything. It's like people just going. The young people just try to leave. They don't ask where they going, what they going to do, where they going to work. [They] just go from 133:00Bosnia [to] somewhere [else], because you can work for a year, or for two, for three--never payday. Tomorrow will never end.
RUZNIC: Now, we have lots of problems, and Syrian refugees coming, too.
SLOAN: Yeah. New problems.
RUZNIC: New problems. Yeah.
HELDIC: Like I say, you know, thanks God.
RUZNIC: Thanks to Bill Clinton.
HELDIC: Yes. Thanks, too. If you spoke ever with any Bosnians, and if you askthem which is their favorite president, it's Bill Clinton. He was the president at that time. He come visit us. He stop the war, and he give us opportunity to come. We come as a refugee with the legal. I am American citizen for fifteen years already. My son was born here. He's American citizen, and my husband, and Dzenana. She never have to go pass the test because she was underage--and my 134:00grandsons. When I came here, I say, "I'm going five years, then I'm going back to Bosnia." Don't understand me wrong, but I miss my country so much. I miss my culture. I miss everything, but like I say, thanks God I'm here.
Two thousand, when [Jordan] was born, I went to Bosnia. I buy the land inSarajevo capital, and I build a house. Three stories with the first story is going to be for business. That's how we doing in a house [in Bosnia]. I always want to go back. One year, I take Dzenana and Jordan, and I say, "I'm not coming back." I buy the tickets one way. I stayed only three weeks. After three weeks, 135:00I went to Denmark, visit my sister, and come back here. I never say that I'm not coming back. Then ,when Dzenana have Olan, then Amar, then Jayden, I definitely decide I will never go back to live in Bosnia because number one, I come here for my kids to have a better life. She have a good life. My kids will never live in Bosnia. I don't think so. Never say never, but if I'm in Bosnia when I go to retirement, what I going to do over there? My kids is my life, my grandkids, now. I don't think I will go back. I have two apartments also over there, which 136:00is one for Dzenana and one for Olan. Jordan, it's already his house. It's not my house anymore. Everything is in his name. They can sell, they can buy here, they can go back, they can leave, they can do whatever they want. I'm here. I'm not going back--I decided already maybe five, six years ago, even if they kick me out, but I don't think so.
SLOAN: (laughs) I don't see that happening.
HELDIC: Yeah, yeah.
SLOAN: Well, Nate Roberts and Melissa Sloan are also with us as part of theproject team. I usually give them a chance to ask some questions if they have some questions that they want to ask. Nate, did you have something you wanted to ask?
ROBERTS: I do, so you know the purpose of the project. I was wondering, what doyou want people who watch this to take from your story? The students who are going to watch this video, and hear about your life, and your time in Bosnia, 137:00and your immigration to America, what do you want them to know?
HELDIC: Well, I want them to wish that nobody ever be in a war, and if they,especially students, ever come time they can stop the war, to stop war. There's something worse can happen with the people. You hear me, my English so broken, but believe me or not, I think I know my language. Yeah, I do, but when I go back every year to Bosnia--because I came 1995 and now 2015--trust me, I got lost about the language. We are not good. I cannot say not good, but we are 138:00nowhere [near] perfect. I don't know English perfect. I don't know Bosnian perfect, anymore. Like I say, the war is [the worst thing] what can happen with somebody. Doesn't matter. I have a good life here, thanks to America. We have very good life, but I miss my country. I miss my neighbors, I miss my culture, I miss my family, I miss everything. I miss water, you know what I mean?
SLOAN: Well, is there anything else that we should've asked you about that youwanted to share that I didn't ask you about? 139:00
HELDIC: Maybe after you leave I'll remember (laughs). It's hard. We try to don'ttalk about war. We try to forget and we don't talk. Sometimes, like me and my husband, something come to memory because something reminds, but we don't talk much. Even Jordan ask me sometimes questions, and I'm like, "I'll buy the book. Here you go, read the book."
ROBERTS: You say you don't like to talk about the war. Why did you want to dothis then?
HELDIC: Well, number one, you told me this is about students and about history Iknow someone have to share the story to make history. If nobody share that, how 140:00you make history? You know.
SLOAN: That's right. That's good. That's what you're doing here today, so thank you.
end of interview