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First Person: Bosnian Refugee Traces Her Escape From War

For a look at what happens long before refugees arrive on America’s doorstep, we revisit the Bosnian war. Former refugee Senka is a biotech executive now living in San Diego. She left the country with her family in April 1992.

First Person: Bosnian Refugee Traces Her Escape From War


Senka volunteer, San Diego Refugee Tutoring


The new administration is weighing a big decision — how to vet refugees. But for those fleeing their home, the journey to safety begins well ahead of the screening process. For a look at what happens long before refugees arrive on America’s doorstep, we revisit the Bosnian war.

Reports show more than a million were displaced from their homes, including Senka, who asked we only use her first name because of privacy concerns. The biotech executive landed with her family in Tennessee after a lengthy journey from Bosnia. She was 6-years-old when the Siege of Sarajevo started to unfold.

Before she left her hometown in April 1992, she recalled a joyous memory of playing Barbies with her cousin in her grandmother's bathroom. The children were kept there because it didn't have any windows, keeping them hidden from snipers that had begun to surround the city.

From there, she, her parents and brother escaped to a small nearby town to leave the country on a bus. During the journey, they would narrowly escape separation. They then reached Germany, where the family would stay for years hoping each time to be re-approved for a temporary visa. Eventually, they were granted refugee status in the U.S.

"I think, and I say this a lot too, I really do consider myself one of the luckiest people on Earth," Senka said, "because I feel like my story scratches the surface of some of the horrific stories of children that I work with now, and other children from Bosnia as well.

As part of our ongoing First Person series, we hear from the Bosnian War refugee about her travels from Sarajevo to Tennessee. She now tutors refugee kids in City Heights as a volunteer with San Diego Refugee Tutoring.

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