Published on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 by Danica Mendes
War is bad. It has been sad that war brings a country together, but it mostly tears it apart. Sure people come together to lift each other up and work toward a common goal, but that’s only after family members have been ravaged by war and countries are suffering economically and safety wise.
My mom was 14, and my father was 17 when the Bosnia i Herzegovina war began. My father stayed in his village, Bijela, eventually enlisting in the war, because the government needed as many soldiers as they could get. My mother lived in the city of Banovici and, during the war, the younger people moved to villages to work and provide for their families. My mother moved in with my father’s uncle and my grandfather hired her. The first time my parents saw each other my father was picking plums and my mother was walking down the road and he fell in love with her in that moment. Three months later they were married, but faced the idea of building a family in a country that was falling to pieces.
I grew up listening to stories my parents told me about Bosnia, the war, their life before the war, and fleeing to America. However, I’ve never really thought about the significance of their stories until I recently when I’ve been able to truly understand that their story, their sacrifices and journey, defines my entire life.
Bosnians were terrified when the war began, and it only became more difficult at it was something that you would wake up to everyday for 6 years. Without living through it, people can’t understand how difficult war is. My parents told me stories about friends that they knew who were randomly shot, how landmines were everywhere, and how people had heart attacks and strokes due to the stress of the war. Not knowing how they’re going to provide for their families, whether they’re going to live through the day, or if their families were going to be okay it was a constant reminders of the war raging outside their doors. My grandfather has a plot of land in Bosnia, but we can’t go there because there’s still active landmines hidden beneath the earth. The war ended more than a decade ago, but the people still experiencing repercussions of the war and the fear that they could lose a child to one of those active landmines.
In May of 1998 my parents came to America under refugee status with my 3 year old sister and my mother 4 months pregnant with me. My parents entered the United States knowing only the English they were taught when they were in school, which was limited because the war had prevented school for the previous six years. They were terrified. They didn’t know what they were going to do. They only hoped for peace and a better place for my sister and me.
They arrived in Houston with many other Bosnian refugees and were given a one bedroom apartment by the YMCA. The Bosnian refugee families were given 3 months to find a job somewhere in Texas. A job opened in Bryan at Alenco, currently Ply Gem. A bus full of people traveled to Bryan to check out the company and apartment that the YMCA would provided there and my dad joined them. He liked the way Bryan was a quiet town, and it reminded him somewhat of home.
My family eventually moved to Bryan and my dad started working at Alenco. My mom had to stay home due to her being pregnant with me and my sister enrolled at Carver preschool because my parents wanted her to start speaking English. With their limited understanding of English my parents knew how important it was for my sister to get started early. My mother started speaking with doctors and other people she saw, and eventually, she started picking up the language. During this time, my parents took the bus or walked everywhere they went because they only had $100 when they came to the US. As soon as my dad started working, they saved every penny and bought a car and saved the rest so that they could eventually buy a house.
Our life began from there. The first two years that my parents were in the U.S. were difficult, but not compared to the 6 years of war. However, if they didn’t come to America they wouldn’t have built the life that they’re still building. My family wouldn’t have the things we do now if my parents decided to stay in Bosnia. They left because they wanted a better life for my sister and me. They wanted to make it as easy as possible for my sister and me to live life and not have to worry and stress like they did their entire lives.
My experience and chance at a better life frames my feelings toward the current Syrian refugee crisis. The Syrian refugees want to get away from the danger and they want a safe environment for their families. Within Syria, healthcare, the education system, and other infrastructures have been destroyed and are now scarce. What people don’t realize is that many of these people are starving, homeless as a result of the war, and many are even being held captive. The violence since the Syrian civil war began is a staggering reminder of the horrors of war. About 320,000 people have been killed, including nearly 12,000 children. Children have been a major concern because of their future, and the lost loved ones, suffering injuries, missing years of school, and the trauma involved by witnessing violence and brutality. People just want a better life and to get away from ISIS and other political problems that they have no control over.
The United States is made up of immigrants, and not letting these refugees that are fleeing from experiences most Americans can’t even imagine are just looking for peace. They want to survive and be able to live their life like they used to without the fear of losing a family member every time they walk out the door. Americans have a human responsibility these people. Americans need to look past race, religious views, and where these people come from and help them because no one should suffer the way they are right now. Times are hard whenever we live in a constant fear of things, but we should be able to live in peace and safety. My parents have been through it and I’m very thankful they were able to come to America, so that I have the opportunities I do now.