Editor’s Note: Ines arrived in the United States in 1997 as a refugee from Bosnia. She is now a U.S. citizen, has mastered the English language, gotten married, found a job that she excels in and really enjoys Zumba. She also loves Marilyn Monroe and has a bit of a shoe obsession. Here is part of her story…
I lived in Bosnia, which is now a part of old Yugoslavia. The war started in the 90’s and I was living with my mother. My father’s wife had family in Germany, so they went to live with them while the war was going on. My mom didn’t let me go with them right away, which she later regretted.
It got really bad. There were bombings, we were in the basement for days – no food and no electricity. When I was 14 I left for Germany, and it took almost three days through the back country on a journey that would usually take 12-14 hours on the interstate.
I spent some of the best years of my life, so far, in Germany. I was a teenager experiencing life in a different country. I didn’t know a word of German, but my half sister and I were only 6 months apart so she helped me a lot.
My dream was to be a hairdresser. In Germany they have a different process – you go through nine years of regular schooling, then hairdressing school was three years. I would go to a hair salon to practice, and then hairdressing school a couple of days a week. I loved it and finished almost two years of it. Then they declared peace in Bosnia and we had to leave, because we were refugees.
The war started because of differences between nationalities. My dad and stepmom were a mixed marriage, as were my mom and stepdad. So, both couples applied to agencies that would take them to the United States. The difference was, if you were in Germany, you could tell the naturalization office where you wanted to go, what state you wanted to live in. If you came from Bosnia you didn’t have a choice. My dad choose Florida and we arrived there in October of 1997. My mom got sent to North Dakota in September of ’97.
Just like moving to Germany, I put my life in a suitcase and left. The weather was different, we were placed with another family, we didn’t know much English, it was hard. Then, my mom asked me to visit her in January of ’98. I was eighteen by then and hadn’t seen her since I was twelve. After I got to Bismarck I decided I wanted to stay here.
Bismarck had very few families from Bosnia and Croatia and old Yugoslovia, so when I arrived everyone wanted to come and meet me. Everyone was so friendly. Then my mom started telling me about this cute guy that went to English class with her. She said, ‘I call him my son-in-law’. I was embarrassed, however we eventually started dating and got engaged a few months later. I didn’t really expect to come all the way here to marry a guy from my country!
I had brought some paperwork from my hairdressing boss so I could continue, but the school here would not honor it. They told me I had to have a high school diploma and start all over in hair school. My dreams were crushed.
I went to work at Dayton’s in the men’s department, but kept waiting for an opening in cosmetics. If I couldn’t do hair, I wanted to do makeup! Finally, there was an opening at the Clinique counter. I was so happy.
I got pregnant, had my daughter and after maternity leave my hours had been cut, so I went to work at Penney’s. Then my husband told me about an opening at Capital Credit Union and encouraged me to try it. I got hired and was a teller for two years. I really loved being a teller, but always wondered if I could do better. In September of 2008 I was hired as a Financial Services Representative.
I just love it here, I love the people, they are really family oriented. I like helping people buy the car they want, or help someone balance their checkbook. And, I feel appreciated. I recently got ‘Financial Services Salesperson of the Year’.
I have always worked. I learned a lot about life when I was young, if I wanted something I had to work for it. I lost everything twice, when I moved to Germany and then to the United States. I knew what I wanted and I had the drive, you just have to put your mind to it.